By Bob Miller, NTEA Director of Outreach
This article was published in the December 2016 edition of NTEA News.
Hews Body Company was founded in 1927 when Roland Hews, a wagon builder, moved his family to Portland, Maine. He planned to use his wagon-building skills, but quickly realized modern motor cars were the future in Maine’s largest city. He set up shop in the basement of a three-story building, stripping early Ford trucks to the chassis and adding oak frames clad with wood or rolled steel.
World War II brought change to the business when Roland began building Liberty ships for the U.S. Maritime Commission at a shipyard in South Portland. His son Claude served with the U.S. Marines in the South Pacific. After the war, Claude joined the company, which moved to a barn in Portland and subsequently built a 40-foot by 120-foot Quonset hut to house operations. The name was changed to Hews Truck Bodies and Equipment to reflect an evolving business model.
At the time, the country did not have an interstate highway system. There weren’t many companies mass-producing truck bodies and selling them through distributors because there were no supporting transportation logistics. However, small businesses needed a way to deliver homegrown products to customers. Hews recognized the need for local body fabricators that could develop different types and styles of bodies to transport a variety of products.
The necessity for enclosed van bodies to protect cargo from the elements took center stage at Hews, which not only built the bodies, but furnished custom features enabling customers to increase efficiency. It was the first company in Maine to build refrigerated van bodies as well as an all-aluminum-frame truck body popular with food and beverage distributors.
Due to rapid growth, in 1966, Claude purchased land in the company’s current South Portland location. In the early 1970s, brothers Bob and Charlie Hews, representing the third generation of the family, joined the business.
Bob has been president since 1985, and Charlie is executive vice president. Under their leadership, Hews expanded its products and geographic footprint to become one of the largest builders of truck bodies and distributors of truck equipment in northern New England. The business is known for its custom designed and built Taskmaster Body.
Today, the full-line truck equipment company has two locations employing 45 staff. The headquarters in South Portland is a 12-bay, 28,000-square foot facility with paint shop and parts warehouse. The Bow, New Hampshire, site has a 10,000-square foot shop.
Hews products include dump, platform, van, service, lube and custom bodies; truck-mounted cranes; refuse and recycling bodies; liftgates; and suspensions. It also sells and services PTOs, hydraulic systems and components, van interiors, ladder racks, safety and strobe lighting systems, toolboxes, load covers, winches, auxiliary fuel tanks and trailer accessories.
Platform body with a hydraulic crane.
The business is family owned and operated. Charlie’s wife Ingrid is in purchasing, and Bob’s wife Katy is marketing manager. The fourth generation of Hews is also on board. Charlie’s sons Jim and Drew serve as vice president of operations and vice president of branch operations, respectively. Bob’s daughter, Elizabeth Cotsifas, is administrative manager.
The creativity that served the business so well is still evident today. During its 89 years in operation, the Hews family built a legacy using strong business values to serve customers and employees, and cultivate relationships with suppliers. Each succeeding generation brings its own contributions to help lead the company into the future.
Hews has been an NTEA member since 1969 and is part of the Association’s Member Verification Program, which recognizes distributors and manufacturers for successfully implementing specified business standards and processes. Learn more at ntea.com/mvp.
For more information on Hews, visit hewsco.com, call 800-234-4397, or stop by 190 Rumery St. in South Portland, Maine, or 4 Ryan Road in Bow, New Hampshire.