Hines discusses past, future

Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski / Hines Equipment President Edward Hines Jr. poses for a photo at the 6257 Admiral Peary Highway location, outside of Cresson, on June 8. The company is marking its 100th anniversary.

CRESSON — Hines Equipment is marking its 100th anniversary in 2019 and company President Edward Hines Jr. has been a part of the family-owned business for 65 of those years.

“I started working for the business in 1954, and my brother Gene started in 1955. We worked at the feed mill until 1965 then moved here,” said Hines, 78.

The business was founded in 1919 at 402 Second St. by Hines’ grandfather, Joseph E. Hines, and his father-in-law, A.A. Noel. They worked together at the business known as Hines and Noel Feed Mill until 1926. It became Cresson Flour and Feed Mill in 1926 and Cresson Feed Mill in 1953.

The ownership of the business changed several times over the years but it has always been in the Hines family.

In 1953, three of Joseph’s sons — Edward Sr., Paul and Bill — bought out their father.

Needing room to grow, the company purchased property along then-Route 22 in nearby Munster Township in 1964. There, they built a new facility, which opened in April 1965.

“The feed mill location was in the borough and there was no room to expand. We needed more space, this was a new base of operations. It was a natural progression for the business,” Hines said.

Then, in 1975, Edward Jr. and Gene bought out Bill. In 1981, Edward Sr. died and Edward Jr. and Gene became owners.

Gene died in 2009 and Ed and two of his sons — Joe and Steve — along with two of Gene’s sons — Dennis and David — became owners of the company and remain the owners today.

In the early days of the business, the feed mill sold flour, fertilizer and seeds.

“In those days we had horse equipment, tacks, collars and harnesses. We also sold farm implements — tractors weren’t big yet,” Hines said. “When I grew up at the feed mill, we sold roofing, tar paper and fencing by the carloads. We sold poultry equipment by the carload. (We sold) all kinds of seeds and grain. We were big buyers of wheat and buckwheat, we would buy the grain and sell it to grain brokers. We used to have people come in with truckloads of buckwheat. We would sell in West Virginia.”

The business sold farm implements, but started selling large farm machinery in 1954 with the International Harvester line of tractors. Numerous other brands have been added over the years.

“We sell about anything as far as farm equipment. The only thing different today is we do not sell combines, we stopped around 1985. They got too big for the farms in our area. We couldn’t have them here without anyone buying them.” Hines said.

Today, the Cresson Feed Mill, at the original location, is the headquarters for sales of feed, seed, grain and fertilizer, as well as farm, pet and garden supplies.

The business has expanded by adding locations in Altoona (actually Bellwood) in 1983, Johnstown (which sells lawn and garden equipment) in 1996, and Somerset and Everett in 2009.

The Everett location moved to Bedford in 2013.

Hines said the business has changed over the years as a result in changes in farming.

“We are losing farms and we’ve had to adapt to that change. Instead of selling 20 tractors a year, we now sell about 10. The bigger farms have been taking over the smaller mom and pop type farms. At the feed mill, it is the same scenario. The big farms who used to order every week aren’t around. The people who come here now have smaller operations,” Hines said. “We used to sell truckloads of fertilizer in the spring. We don’t sell spray chemicals anymore because of legislation.”

Tractors remain a big seller at Hines, which is well known for its large selection of parts and service.

Vale Wood Farms in Loretto and Jim Luther, a Fallentimber farmer, have been longtime customers.

“We have done business with Hines Equipment for generations. Our family farm has bought feed and supplies from their feed mill in Cresson since its beginning in 1919. We rely on Hines Equipment for parts, service and equipment for all our farming needs,” Pat Itle, Vale Wood Farms manager, said.

“Like most farmers, we value local business relationships with neighbors we can trust,” he added. “The Hines family is an integral part of our local farm community, and it’s our pleasure to do business with them.”

“I’ve been buying from them for close to 50 years. I’ve always had good luck with them. They always treated me right and I always got good service from them,” Luther said. “Most of my machinery was purchased from them. I also bought a lot of used machinery from them, it was always what they told me it was.”

Hines Equipment draws customers from about 14 surrounding counties and two counties in Maryland, Hines said.

He attributes the business’s success to hard work and dedication to its customers.

“We do have a dedication to our customers. If we sell you something we want to take care of it. We do service in the shop or on the road,” Hines said.

As far as supporting the community, Hines Equipment participates in several area county fairs and supports 4-H by purchasing animals, Hines said.

Hines, who said he has no plans to retire, remains optimistic about the future of the business.

“We expect to see it continue and grow. The lawn and garden business has grown over the years. My sons and Gene’s sons will make the decision about the future,” said Hines, who has three grandsons — Joseph, Michael and Daniel — who also work at the business.

“We hope the grandchildren take it over some day,” Hines said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.