Back in 1938, Israel and Rebecca Witzer had a dream.

The Philadelphia couple wanted to build something great – a family business that would thrive and prosper through the years, a legacy for future generations. 

And so they founded the I.R. Witzer Co., focusing on steel fabrication. Thrive and prosper it did, and so did the couple. Their family grew, and each new generation found a hand in the family business, under the guidance of Israel and Rebecca Witzer.

Eight decades later, the business is still thriving, built on the pillars of family commitment and a quality product. Today, the Witzers’ grandson Josh Weinstein is running the company, and the themes of family, loyalty, and quality are still at the company’s core.

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“We are very family-oriented. Two-thirds of our employees have been with us more than 12 years, a good handful for 20+ years, and one employee has been here for 31 years,” Weinstein said. 

“Many family members work side by side in our facility. My parents, my aunt and my cousin, even though they retired, still come by to check up on things – they all live within a few miles away.  My daughters have spent summers working in the office and my wife joined the company 3 years ago undertaking marketing, advertising and handling trade show logistics.

Like others in his family, Weinstein spent his teenage years working for his family’s company, and now he wears many hats. “I grew up working here and I can still weld if I have to. Nobody in the front office is afraid to get dirty,” he said.

No longer in Philadelphia but located in sunny Sarasota, Florida, the company now known as Witzco Trailers Incorporated has 53 employees who come to work every day at the company’s bustling 10-acre site. No longer either is the company a steel fabrication producer, but instead manufactures heavy haul trailers crafted on-site with American steel.

The change came in 1980 when Witzco first began manufacturing its trailers. The process today is one in which Weinstein takes great American pride, evident when he talks about it.

“I buy truckload quantities of American steel from Nucor Mills. Our axles and suspension are from American manufacturers such as: Hendrickson, Cush and Hutchens. Our sealed wired harnesses and ABS brake systems come from Sealco. We use Peterson lighting and our hydraulic components are supplied by SunSource. Our white oak wood comes from the Southeast United States and we use Mobile Paints. Even our mudflaps come from Gorilla Plastic and Rubber Group.  We do everything right here at our headquarters and we’ve never considered outsourcing – that’s very important.”

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The American-made theme is apparent in the red, white and blue paint scheme of one of their trailers, complete with stars.

“We don’t use any outside fabrication services – we make it all in-house,” said Weinstein. “I don’t buy too many foreign items; steel is 75 to 80 percent of the trailer, and we pride ourselves on American componentry, and that’s what keeps us going strong.”

Witzco strategically invested in the production of every trailer they manufacture, by purchasing a CNC Peddinghaus miter band saw for cutting beams, channel and bar and a Torchmate plasma torch and table to cut plate.  Along with a 250 ton press brake, steel cutting shears up to ¾ of an inch and iron worker machines, the precision and consistency of all enable a more accurate fitting of components, which saves both time and resources in the manufacture of every trailer. 

Post-assembly, each trailer is painted with black acrylic undercoat, grey epoxy primer and  acylic enamel top coat color. Then the trailer is given any final customization based on the order request. Witzco then performs a complete analysis of the trailer, examining everything from braking ability and lighting to hydraulic function and engine operation. No Witzco trailer leaves the premises without passing rigorous testing, which is why every Challenger trailer is built to the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations.

 Witzco’s Challenger trailers come in a range of sizes and functionalities. They include a standard removable gooseneck series, a non-ground-bearing gooseneck series, a rigid neck series, a flatbed series, a drop deck series, a rolling tailboard series, Sliding axle series and a tag-a-long series. Their bread-and-butter trailer is the lowboy, followed by the drop deck, Weinstein said.
A customer will be interested in a lowboy trailer but has questions about changes, and Weinstein and his staff are more than eager to talk. “They’ll ask, can you change something? I speak to my design staff and say, ‘Is this something we can do?’ It’s a flexibility that keeps customers coming back again and again”, Weinstein said. “Witzco’s trailers are a staple for a group of Northern California firefighters,” he said. “They like the lowboy that’s short, under a 20 ft load well, as they can maneuver in the brush and trees more efficiently. So, they ask us ‘Can you do this or that?’” Weinstein’s answer, of course, is yes.

While Northern California seems a long way from Florida, Witzco trailers travel a whole lot farther. A worldwide system of more than 40 distributors moves the company’s U.S.-proud products to places as far away as South America, Central America, Guam, the Philippines, Caribbean Islands, Canada, Africa and even Russia and Ukraine, Weinstein said. “We are worldwide, and we do quite a lot of business overseas.”

Typically, Weinstein said, most of their distributors buy trailers three at a time. One trailer will be on the ground, with the other two piggybacked on top. “We have some dealers who buy a big order once a year; others will buy once or twice a month.” Moving the product is easy since Witzco is conveniently located within reach of the major seaports of Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville. Some distributors will bring their own driver down to Witzco to pick up orders, but Witzco will also arrange dispatching services for customers.

Longevity even figures into the distributor network, echoing the family ties that make Witzco so unique.

“We’ve been working with one distributor for 40 years,” he said. “We work with a lot of sons and daughters and grandchildren of long time customers. I even have a steel supplier whose father used to sell to my grandfather.”

Because they feel so fortunate, Witzco makes an effort to give back to the community it calls home. The company is involved in an organization called Operation Second Chance, a group that serves military veterans coming back from war, taking them hunting and fishing.

“We also do outreach with the Sarasota schools’ engineering and robotics teams, helping out our local kids. From time to time we sponsor their programs and we often have some of them coming into our plant and we show them how we design and fabricate our trailers,” explains Weinstein.

Working at Witzco, said Weinstein, is an overwhelmingly positive experience. His zeal for his team, his product and the legacy he’s carrying forward are evident as he enthuses about the company. “I’m excited all the time,” he said. “There’s a lot of magic here – that’s a word I use a lot. It’s hard to get me down. It’s so friendly here because of the great relationships we have with so many people.”

Weinstein and his staff love visitors – “Come visit us,” he encourages – and he suggests stopping by on the last Friday of the month. “That’s free lunch day,” he said. Each month, employees choose what they want for lunch, and Weinstein delivers. “I buy lunch,” he said. “Pizza, sandwiches, barbecue – the employees pick it, my wife orders it, and we’re out there, dishing it out. All of our suppliers know it’s a good day to come to visit – the door is always open. There’s always enough food.” 

Looking ahead, Weinstein sees success. “I hope to continue to grow the family business, bigger and better,” he said. “And to try to make our product the best we can”.

 “I tell people, we’re ready to do business: Give us a call. I say, why don’t you come down and see us, and rarely does someone come here and not order a trailer. We manufacture an excellent lowboy trailer – people love our product, and I think we’re doing the right thing, that’s why we keep building.”


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