EXETER — For nearly a century, Barber Ford of Exeter has been a fixture of the Pittston-area business community.
Closing in on the 100-year mark, the dealership is making a new name for itself as one of the premier commercial truck centers in a large area of the state, a move designed to take advantage of a strong economy in which there is growing need for heavy equipment.
“Ford’s motto is we own work, and we’re trying to do the same thing,” Sales Manager Dustin Iacovazzi said during an interview at the Wyoming Avenue business last week.
Barber Ford began ramping up its commercial vehicle business about three years ago, Iacovazzi said, and now has one of the largest inventories between Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia region.
Formally designated a Ford Commercial Vehicle Center, Barber added a truck facility in 2017, together with more technicians and specialized equipment, to service the new lines they are now carrying.
These moves have paid off.
“Our economy is good, people are building again, people are working on their houses, people are doing yardwork, landscaping, people are spending money again,” Iacovazzi said. “All these contractors who are coming in are guys who haven’t bought a truck in 10 years, five years, they’ve been making due.”
“But the past year was good for them, this year is good for them,” he added. “They’re able to upgrade their equipment.”
Customers range from small contractors and handymen to large fleet operators, including municipalities, government agencies and schools, Iacovazzi said, and Barber is a supplier for COSTARS, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s cooperative purchasing program.
While its roots are firmly planted in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Barber is finding sales sales success well beyond the region and the state.
As Iacovazzi explained, the average consumer will search in a 50-mile radius of their home when buying a vehicle, but the average commercial customer will search in a 500-mile radius — or sometimes beyond.
“We’re shipping trucks to Texas, we’re working on a deal right now with a guy in Wyoming,” he said.
A century of service
What is now Barber Ford began in Pittston in 1920 as a dealership for Willys and Dort vehicles, General Manager Matt DePrimo said.
Many may remember the Willys name for its later assocation with Jeep production during World War II. Dort Motor Cars, on the other hand, enjoyed a brief heyday around World War I before the company faded from the scene in the 1920s.
Barber became a Ford dealership in 1932, DePrimo said, and has remained so ever since. The company relocated to its current location in Exeter in 1950.
It also remains a family business, now in its third generation.
DePrimo, who is one of the owners, said he has been with the company, founded by his wife’s uncle, for 36 years.
“The fourth generation, my daughter, is with us part-time right now,” he added.
Between its Exeter and Hazleton locations — the latter opened in 1999 — Barber employs about 80 people, DePrimo said.
“The commercial trucks are a whole new business direction that we’ve taken,” DePrimo said. “It’s been very successful for us.”
A large variety
While the average motorist might not notice the difference, commercial trucks come in a wide variety of types, sizes and designs, and Barber prides itself on carrying the spectrum.
“We’re stocking a little bit of everything so that the customer can come in and buy a vehicle right now. They don’t have to wait four months, six months,” Iacovazzi said. “We have the truck in stock, ready to go. And if we don’t have it, we have the vehicles that we are able to upfit them and get them on the road in a short period of time.”
What does that include?
Barber’s offerings cover trucks with plows, dump trucks, hook lifts, trucks with interchangeable bodies, even a selection of used trucks.
They have over 120 chassis cab and super duty trucks in stock, Iacovazzi said, as well as medium-duty trucks, 650s/750s, transit vans and cargo vans.
“We deal with probably over a dozen different vendors to supply us with bodies, and like I said, we have a lot of bodies and different trucks in stock. There’s probably 15 different dump trucks you can choose from. We’re your one-stop shop,” he added.
For this story, Iacovazzi posed with a flashy black and chrome dump truck outside the dealership. The shiny vehicle helps illustrate just how specialized — and different — commercial trucks can be, he explained.
“That is an F650, a medium-duty truck. It would be something a township, municipality, or construction excavator would have. That’s a highly optioned one,” Iacovazzi said.
“Everybody thinks of a dump truck just being a dump truck, but it’s so much more,” he added. “We are able to customize the truck and build exactly what you want. And there is a truck that was built exactly to what that person’s specs were.”
‘I’m a truck guy’
As Barber prepares to mark its 100th anniversary in 2020, Iacovazzi is himself closing in on 20 years in the car business.
He has been with Iacovazzi since 2009, and previously worked as sales manager.
“This started to roll, and as it started to get going, we transitioned me into this position,” he said. “I’m a truck guy. So it was just a natural transition.”
Iacovazzi started as the sole commercial truck person, with Melinda Christison added to the team and a third person possibly coming in the near future.
“We’re just going after a market that is underdeveloped,” he said.
Dustin Iacovazzi, sales manager of Barber Ford in Exeter, is seen with a Ford F650 medium-duty dump truck outside the Wyoming Avenue dealership last week. ‘Everybody thinks of a dump truck just being a dump truck, but it’s so much more,” he said. “We are able to customize the truck and build exactly what you want.’