Ashcraft Inc. president reflects on century of business
Speaking to the Monongahela Area Chamber of Commerce recently, George Ashcraft reflected on the success of his family's business.
“In order for a business to continue for 100 years, a lot of changes have to be made,” said the president of Ashcraft Inc.
“You have to be aware when and how to make changes or you do not succeed.”
The company, located at 101 Gregg St. in Monongahela, includes Ashcraft Self Storage, Ashcraft Records Management and Storage and Ashcraft Truck Rental.
Its history is rooted in humble beginnings.
Harry Ashcraft, father of the current president, was born in a log cabin in Ohio. His family moved to Pennsylvania in 1892 and settled on ground that is currently a part of Kennywood Amusement Park in West Mifflin. The family operated a farm on that property.
As a youth, Harry Ashcraft began hauling coal in the winter by horse and wagon to customers in Homestead.
When Kennywood expanded in 1908, it bought the Ashcraft property and the family moved to Monongahela.
Just 19, Harry Ashcraft used his experience with horses to haul trees and lumber to the planing mill on the river side of the railroad tracks at Fourth Street. It was there that he got experience hauling lumber and building material.
“The city was building pretty quickly at that time,” George Ashcraft said.
In 1913, Harry and Clarence Ashcraft went into the hauling business, fittingly naming the new company Ashcraft Brothers.
“Some of the machinery they hauled for the mining industry would exceed today's weight limits for roads,” Ashcraft said. “They would just hook up more teams of horses, whatever it took to haul the load.”
In 1919, Clarence Ashcraft went back into farming, but his brother continued the business that has since carried their family name.
“When trucks became popular in the 1920s, he bought trucks,” Ashcraft said. “But he kept his last team of horses until 1928 because he was not sure if these trucks were going to work.
“They hauled anything. Size and weight did not mean anything to him.”
The company did concrete work beginning in the 1920s for some of the area's more prominent structures: Mineral Beach in Finleyville, the former Rainbow Gardens in White Oak and Monongahela High School, later Monongahela Elementary Center.
The company also hauled more than 30,000 tons of steel for construction of the Pittsburgh/West Virginia Railroad in the late 1920s. Shortly afterward, the company hauled equipment and machinery during the construction of the Cumberland Dam.
The Ashcrafts hauled pontoons for the Army Corps of Engineers during the construction of the Tygart River Reservoir Dam in the mid-1930s and materials for construction of the western half of the Pennsylvania Turnpike by 1937.
In 1948, George Ashcraft started helping at his father's business and by 1952, he graduated from high school and began working full time. He hauled concrete and helped move houses. The company benefitted from the construction of new housing in the post-war era.
“I moved one house on the Speers side of the river for the right-of-way for construction of the Belle Vernon-Speers Bridge,” Ashcraft said.
The company hauled two railroad cars onto a lot along Route 51 in Rostraver Township for the formation of the Twin Coaches supper club.
In 1961, George Ashcraft took over the business for his father.
“I fell into my dad's tracks,” George Ashcraft said. “By the mid-60s, we started buying heavier equipment. As the 1970s progressed, heavier hauling required even larger vehicles.”
Ashcraft did hauling for construction of various buildings in Pittsburgh, including the U.S. Steel and PPG buildings.
By the mid-1980s, Ashcraft had come full circle, just blocks from its company offices. In 1986, the company hauled away the steel deck from the original Monongahela Bridge while construction was ongoing on the new span.
“My dad, with horses, hauled some of the steel for that bridge in 1910,” Ashcraft said.
In 1983, Ashcraft built its first storage facility. Today, the company has 40,000 square feet of self storage and 9,000 square feet of office records storage on 13 acres of land.
His son, Alan, maintains the yards and his daughter, Nora Muccino, runs the office and does bookkeeping for the business.
The business has moved its location a few times over the years but always remained in the downtown. George Ashcraft bought the current site in 1970.
Ashcraft will turn 80 later this year.
“I've done it my entire life and it's been a part of my life,” said the New Eagle resident.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.