About TrailerCraft, Inc.

TrailerCraft Celebrates 50 Years in Alaska

The Beginning

Sales, parts and service since 1969.

TrailerCraft has been an institution in the trucking and commercial vehicle industry for 50 years in the 49th State.

“I can’t tell you how many times we hear people come in and say ‘you know I used to go in there when I was a kid.’ And, ‘I’ve been buying my trailer parts there for years,’ said Outside Sales Associate Steven Tabor.

TrailerCraft was founded in 1969. The original owner was an engineer from Southeast who built trailers, installed bodies on truck chassis and sold trailer and truck parts out of the original facility at 1950 East Dowling in Anchorage.

Current owner Lee McKenzie said the original owner also built crash-resistant custom bumpers for trucks up on the slope, which quickly became a hot commodity.

“If you hung them on a truck today, it literally would pull the rear end off the ground they were so big.”

While Trailercraft’s founder wasn’t able to get them certified, he still continued to make and sell them.

The original owner eventually sold the business in 1978.

Growth and Expansion

TrailerCraft would transform into a business that focused on much more than trailers. From trucks and vans, to snow plows and busses, it brought on some big-name product lines it still proudly carries today:

  • 1976: Western Snow Plow
  • 1979: Blue Bird School Bus distributor for Alaska
  • 1994: Named the Freightliner truck dealer in Alaska and formed “Freightliner of Alaska,” a separate division of the corporation.
  • 2010: Sprinter Vans
  • 2015: Western Star trucks

To keep up with the state-wide demand for its commercial vehicles and parts, TrailerCraft opened a branch in Fairbanks, to better respond to the needs on the north slope.

“It was at the end of Van Horn road out of a home where the guy who was running it actually lived in,” said McKenzie. “Had a little parts department, small shop. Trailer hitches, snow plows, things like that.” 

The Fairbanks branch would eventually be sold and then reopened in 2013.

TrailerCraft consolidated its Anchorage locations in 1994, moving into a newly remodeled facility on E 64th Avenue.

Twelve years later, the business moved into a brand new, 33-thousand square foot, state-of-the-art facility on West 92nd Avenue.

GM Bob Spelta said they’re already running out of room.

“We outgrew this place the second we moved in.”

New Leadership

TrailerCraft saw multiple owners between 1969 and 2007. But many long-time staff members said business didn’t truly take off until Lee and Paulette McKenzie bought it in 2008.

Lee had been working there for 24 years at the time. He got his humble start back in 1984.

“I was actually a senior in high school and I started sweeping the floors. As a matter of fact, most of the floors were dirt,” said McKenzie.

Lee said he always believed TrailerCraft had the potential to be bigger than it was, even if his own dad and stepmom thought otherwise.

“So my wife and I went to my dad and stepmom and said ‘hey, look at this opportunity we’ve got,’ and presented them with financials and the whole deal. You know, the people that we thought would give us the best advice actually gave us the worst advice because they didn’t see it as a really great opportunity. But what they did not realize was the true potential of what the company was,” McKenzie explained.

One of the first and most important moves Lee said he made was promoting Bob Spelta to General Manager. The two have steered the ship ever since.

Rolling with the Punches

It hasn’t been easy.

“We’ve had some awfully tough times,” said McKenzie. “As we know, the Alaskan economy is a big roller coaster.”

TrailerCraft has been able to thrive over the years thanks to the diversity the business was built on in 1969: Sales, parts and service.

“For instance, with the oil field down the last three years we didn’t sell a whole lot of trucks. Nobody did,” explained McKenzie. “But, one thing that kicked in for us is that tourism is just off the charts and our vans and our busses really came to save the day.”

And when people aren’t buying trucks, they typically spend more on parts and service for the ones they currently have.

With highly qualified and trained technicians, Trailercraft is able to service everything from big rigs, garbage trucks and Denali National Park tour busses, to RV’s, trailers and snow plows. Pretty much any commercial and recreational vehicle you see on Alaska’s roads.

Backbone of the Business

If there is one secret to TrailerCraft’s success, both McKenzie and Spelta agree it is their dedicated staff.

“Our biggest asset has always been our employees,” said McKenzie. “I think our team is unmatched when it comes to our customer service level, overall knowledge of the industry and extreme diversification we’ve got with this company.“

TrailerCraft now employs more than 60 people at its Anchorage and Fairbanks locations.

Outside Sales Associate Steven Tabor said the workplace is more like their home away from home.

“We’re close. A lot of us hang outside of work,” said Tabor, “Even Lee, he’ll get right down into the trenches with you. It means a lot to us.” 

Staff are encouraged above all else to strive for exceptional customer satisfaction. As General Manager Bob Spelta explained it, “If you do that, everything else takes care of itself.”

Steve Critchett, who sells heavy duty truck and trailer parts, has been adhering to this policy since 1993.

“I’ve got customers that I’ve been helping with going on darn near 30 years. And they just keep coming back. Just treat them right, give them a good deal and boy they’re going to come back.”

What’s Next

As TrailerCraft continues to diversify its portfolio, McKenzie said the business is now working with Denali National Park to supply propane powered, eco-friendly busses, while also exploring the possibility of supplying electric trucks.