Bamberger’s Inc. preparing for new ownership
Running a family business isn’t easy—especially one that has been around for 96 years.
Bamberger’s Inc., in Lebanon, has stood the true test of time, adapting and changing throughout the course of the years to better serve the community and customers. The little business that started out as a place to store cars during the winter months has morphed into a car repair, towing, automotive service, home heating oil service and repair, propane business and crane operation.
“As time goes on, we just seem to get into more things, different things,” Dave Bamberger, owner of Bamberger’s Inc., said. “You see an opportunity where you can make some money, and then it takes off and grows.”
Though the business is now under one roof, at one point it was an operation of gas stations and wholesale auto parts and delivery. It wasn’t anything special to do about $10,000 worth of business on a Saturday morning either. But over the years, with the introduction of Auto Zones and other discount auto parts places Bamberger's had to find other ways to make money.
The auto repair shop expanded into the home heating oil business in the early 80’s. Today it serves thousands of home owners in the Lebanon area, competing with other local businesses.
“You’re constantly on call, which is sometimes a pain and sometimes okay,” Ceal Bamberger, Dave’s wife, said. “But you adjust and adapt.”
Ceal started at Bamberger’s after the birth of their first daughter, Christine. When it came time to put Christine into day care, Ceal said she couldn’t do it, and decided to become a stay-at-home mom. But she would come in and help her husband by running errands, which she said then turned into a delivery route.
After the Bamberger’s daughters, Christine and Becky, were in school fulltime, Ceal decided to work fulltime at Bamberger’s, becoming the head secretary in the office, making sure things were done properly and everything ran smoothly. But work doesn't just stay in the office for the family.
“Running a business is more than a full-time job,” Ceal said.
As Bamberger’s approches its centennial, both Dave and Ceal are trying to transition the company to their daughter Christine, and her husband, Mark Thomas. Dave said he hopes Mark is able to fill in the slot of being the head of the company.
Mark said he hopes he can bring what he has learned in other companies to Bamberger’s in the coming years to make the business last, until it gets to his children. While Dave likes to be hand-on, Mark prefers to be a more traditional manager.
Christine said running the business isn't what she would prefer. Mark has expereince in running a business, she said, and her expertise isn't in that area.
“I enjoy working with people and running things,” he said. “So we’ll see how that works out.”
Mark has been in training for the majority of this year, and has been helping to build the propane side of the home heating service. But, as Dave has pointed out, there is a lot to be done.
The family question
Christine Thomas, who has grown up with the business and has been involved with it since a very early age, has mixed feelings on taking over the company and getting her children involved.
“I would feel very sad to have someone other than from our family be a part of the business,” she said. “I think I would like my children to be involved in the business, but I don’t want them to think that they have to be in the business.”
Passing the company on is an on-going process, delayed today because the weather is growing colder and the business is gearing up for the busy season of oil deliveries and furnace fixes.
Dave said he hopes to work more with Mark and Christine when the weather becomes warmer. The transfer could happen by spring, although Dave doesn't plan on retiring.
“As much as I enjoy working, even though I’m getting older, I don’t look forward to just quitting, stopping the work,” he said.
Dave and Ceal say they'll stay close by to help the process. Growing always produces some challenges, Ceal said.
“And we are going through some pains, but with patience, we’ll make it,” Ceal said.