Upper Burrell pallet supplier thrives making old things new again
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Joe Delo’s father once questioned his decision to rent a muddy farmer’s field in Plum to fix up wooden pallets.
“My God, Joey. What are you doing here? This is ridiculous,” Delo remembers his father saying.
He replied: “Well Dad, you have to do something to make a living.”
And he is.
Delo is the owner of J.C. Delo Co. in Upper Burrell. The business reconditions 40-by-48-inch wooden pallets that are used by companies to move and store merchandise.
The company will tear down pallets and use the wood to fix other pallets that are in good enough shape to be reused, Delo said. Nothing is new.
“If we bought wood, we’d be out of business. We couldn’t afford it,” Delo said.
Delo got into pallet fixing by chance. One day, a man told him he had a problem with junk pallets taking up space in his dumpster, and he was looking to get rid of them. Delo offered to take them, and that interaction eventually spiraled into a full time career.
“It was just one guy saying one thing, and I thought, ‘Well, hey, there must be something to do with that,’ ” Delo said.
Delo works at the company, now located along Myers Drive, with his two employees, Vincent O’Hara and Phillip Graham.
He is 80, but he still plays an active role in the business, which has been around for about 20 years. He loads and unloads pallets onto trucks and takes them to customers.
“I think, physically, I’m capable. I can do it,” he said.
The men use power circular saws, hammers and nail guns to fix the pallets.
It takes about about 60 to 90 seconds to refurbish one pallet. The fixed pallets last about a year and a half, said O’Hara, who manages the pallet yard.
“We try to fix everything, even if they’re really trash,” O’Hara said.
Delo couldn’t say how many pallets the company reconditions per year, though his pallet yard is stacked with seemingly hundreds of them.
“I’ve had other businessmen, other pallet people say, ‘Tell me about your business. What’s your production a week? A day?’ I honestly don’t know that,” Delo said.
The business has between 10 and 15 customers throughout Pittsburgh, the Alle-Kiski Valley and Greensburg. A regular customer of Delo’s is Stagno’s Bakery in Pittsburgh. It gets pallets every 10 days.
A single, refurbished pallet costs from $3 to $6, but Delo sells only multiple ones at a time. Recently, a customer ordered 75 pallets while another got 150.
Delo likes owning his business because he is able to choose who he works with and watch his employees grow.
“You can help somebody and lead them on and, the next thing you know, you’re being helped because they’re good,” he said.
O’Hara has worked for the company for about 10 years and will take over when Delo retires.
He said Delo is a great employer, and he enjoys working for him.
“Joe’s pretty much one of the best guys you’ll ever get to meet. He’s really kind, helps everybody out,” said O’Hara, 34, of New Kensington.
Graham, 22, also of New Kensington, likes that he is able to work outside and make things people wouldn’t generally deem useful viable again.
“I love the aspect of the job. I can’t really be cramped up in a building,” he said.
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, [email protected] or via Twitter .