Plow Man

A full complement of heavy equipment

by Phyl Newbeck

ccr1017Casey Mathieu launched his outdoor power equipment company, now called CCR Sales & Service, in 2006. CCR has locations in Essex and Swanton.

Casey Mathieu goes up the stairs two at a time. Spending his weekdays in charge of operations at CCR Sales and Service, his outdoor power equipment company, at least two evenings each month on the Westford Select Board, and weekends taking his kids to sporting events and practices means he has to maximize his time. Currently serving as CCR’s general manager, he’s in the process of purchasing the LLC from his parents and becoming the sole owner/manager.

Born to Richard and Linda Mathieu in Westford, Casey grew up around machinery and heavy equipment. Richard had a construction company when Casey was young, and that was followed by Mathieu Enterprises, a transportation business specializing in school buses.

Richard sold the business in 2006, but he and Linda continue to drive buses for the Westford School. Before getting behind the wheel, Linda worked for Merchants Bank and then the U.S. Postal Service in Westford.

All that transportation work led Casey to think about a career in diesel engines. After graduating from Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax, he headed out to Wyoming and earned an associate’s degree in diesel technology at the Wyoming Technical Institute, followed by an associate’s degree in business management from the University of Wyoming, which is also located in Laramie next to the Technical Institute.

Diploma in hand, he turned around and came right back home to Westford and never left again. “Westford has a great school system and it’s a tight-knit community,” he says. “People are respectful and they look out for each other.”

Initially, he worked for his father at Mathieu Enterprises, but he started a side business in construction and excavating. When his father sold the transportation business in 2006, Casey opened what was then called CCR Rentals, Sales and Service on Colchester Road in Essex.

The business is named for Casey, his brother, Corey, and his father, Richard. Corey joined the company in 2011 but left this spring to pursue other business opportunities. Richard owns the property where the company is based and helped the business get off the ground.

In 2011, Casey expanded CCR with a new location in Swanton. Although Essex is the main office, this year the Swanton branch surpassed the Essex location in sales and revenue. In 2012, he decided to leave the rental business since sales were growing and there was local competition in the rental field.

CCR’s gross sales amount for its first full year of business in 2007 was $400,000. Last year, the company grossed $10 million. Physically the business has expanded as well, from a 30- by 40-foot shop and 12- by 20-foot showroom in 2006 to its current size: a 5,000-square-foot shop and 6,500-square-foot showroom. “We still need more room,” Casey says. “We’re busting at the seams.” All new products are delivered to the Swanton location, which has eight acres of commercial space, and then sent to Essex, as needed.

CCR has 18 employees, which leaves it overstaffed in the winter, but Casey doesn’t want to lay anyone off. The busiest time for the company is the period that starts when the snow melts, and ends around June 30. “We really gear up for those three months,” he says.

One carryover from his days in construction is a snow-removal business, which he runs on the side. The underutilized employees are sent out on the snow-removal projects, mostly contracts with the federal government. “We only do big projects,” Casey says. “We don’t want to do any work that our clients might bid on, but we’ll provide them with support in large snowstorms if they need a truck with a bucket loader to have snowbanks moved.”

On a typical morning, Casey tends to his email before the rest of his employees arrive, and then answers questions from the five members of the sales staff regarding things such as showroom displays, industry trends, and the 10 calls (either by phone or in person) that the sales staff is required to make every day. From there he touches base with the service staff to see if they need any assistance. The service center is the more profitable part of the business, accounting for 60 percent of the company’s income.

Adam Hergenrother of Shelburne can speak to the service end of the business. “I bought a new machine, and when it was 60 days old it stalled because the gas line had frozen,” he says. “It was a Sunday, but I called Casey and he tried to explain it over the phone; but when I couldn’t make it work, he came out and got it started for me.”

Hergenrother also praises Casey for not trying to upsell his customers. “He gets you something that gets the job done but doesn’t break the bank,” he says. “He’s very good at making sure his clients get what they need within their budget.”

Brian Hoar of South Hero echoes Hergenrother’s statement. “I bought a new property and needed a tractor,” he says, “and Casey was unbelievably helpful. The sales process was easy and smooth, and he delivered the tractor and picked up my old one.” That, however, is not what impressed Hoar the most. “He gave me his cell phone number, which is pretty unusual.”

The tractor had some quirks as well as “self-caused” problems. “He’s so quick to respond,” Hoar says. “One problem needed additional assistance, and he got the company’s service guy to help. He’s been fantastic.”

CCR started out with Massey Ferguson equipment, but Casey found that its business model didn’t fit Vermont. “They are more geared toward tractors 100 horsepower and more,” he says, “more appropriate for western New York, Ohio, Indiana — where there’s a lot of row crop business. Our dealership concentrates on 100 horsepower or less.”

In 2014, he added Mahindra products, which, at the end of the first quarter this year, carried a 50 percent market share in Vermont and 56 percent in Franklin County. “A hundred horsepower or less — that’s Mahindra’s cup of tea. That brand has made us much more profitable.”

Mathieu serves on the Mahindra dealer advisory council and is responsible for forwarding all questions and concerns from dealers across New England and part of New York to the company. Members of the council meet on a quarterly basis in Houston.

Other popular brands carried by CCR are Ferris and Toro, which rank first and second respectively in commercial, zero-turn landscape equipment sales. “Over the years we’ve narrowed down the brands we service and sell,” Casey says. While the company’s sales are centered in Chittenden and Franklin counties, it also serves customers in Addison, Lamoille, and Washington counties. CCR’s customer base is divided equally between individuals and landscaping companies.

The end of the workday isn’t always an opportunity for Casey to kick back and relax. In 2005, he decided his experience working with local land development would be an asset on the Westford Development Review Board, and he was appointed to the board in 2006. He subsequently decided to run for Select Board, believing that his experience with employee issues might make him a good fit. He is serving as chair in the last year of his three-year term and has yet to decide whether he will run for re-election. “I feel like I’m helping my town out and giving back to the community,” he says.

On weekends, Casey can often be found at sporting events, watching 13-year-old Braden and 10-year-old Jillian, his children from a former marriage. Braden plays hockey while Jillian splits her time between soccer and hockey. In November of 2015, he married Melinda Antonucci, the branch manager for Adecco Staffing in South Burlington, and he’s hoping to add more young athletes to the family.

His favorite spare time activity is hunting. Annually, he plans a hunting trip a year in advance, and he’s taken his bow and arrows to Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Illinois, and Saskatchewan in search of white-tailed deer. When his trips take him far afield, Casey sometimes reaches out to local outfitters so he can donate some of the venison to a family in need. Melinda’s family has a house in Florida, which is where the family spends at least part of the kids’ vacation.

His biggest reward, he says, comes from his team of employees. “We’ve been open for 10 years, and the average employee has been here for six of them,” he says. “It’s a great group of people who are very tight-knit and very loyal. It’s so rewarding to have a team where everything flows so smoothly. Everyone is compensated based on how hard they work, so people aren’t just coming here for a paycheck.”

When Casey started the business, he was the only sales representative and he knew all the customers. Some of those customers have been with the company from the beginning, although he notes that it is hard to measure customer retention.

These days, he feels a little guilty that he doesn’t know them all, but recognizes that he can’t do everything. “There are only so many minutes in a day,” he says, as he bounds up the steps, two at a time. •