By Beverly Keller
A small business is built of blood, sweat, and tears. A family business takes it up to the next level and adds frustrations, trials, and tribulations that may not stop at the office door. However, for the pain, there is also gain in the joy of serving the community.
This is the story of Eckert Brothers, a staple of the Sugarcreek community that closed on September 1, 2018.
It started on Factory Street. It was known as Miller Implement. At the time, Ron Eckert was working at the facility. He approached his younger brother, Bob, about the idea of purchasing the business.
Bob had just returned from active military service in the Army and had started a job at Joy Manufacturing.
Together, the brothers, sons of Howard (deceased) and Elizabeth Eckert (107) of Ragersville, made the purchase in 1969.
The business changed hands and became known as Eckert Brothers. The tagline many still know by heart as it was part of the radio jingle heard round the dial “on both sides of Factory Street …. innnnnnnnn Sugarcreek” thanks to the voice work of Dick Hanchette and Bob Scanlon at WJER is still tossed around by locals.
In 1991, Eckert Brothers went on a “road trip” to Buckeye Street in Sugarcreek. The building was constructed on a 4.5-acre lot and was 18,000 square feet. It was a one-stop shop with a sales area, showroom and service shop to allow the business to serve its clients.
As children of a farming family in Ragersville, the pair knew what hard work was. They also knew the importance of serving area farmers who worked outside of the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. business timetable. As one farmer shared, “If I needed a part and they had it in stock, they’d meet me there, even if that was Sunday afternoon.”
A strong work ethic exhibited by Ron and Bob made an impact on their employees, some of whom were members of the family and others who were residents of the community. “I learned a lot from Bob and Ron in that shop,” Mike Blauch shared. “We had a lot of good memories, funny stories.”
Friends of the business like Jeri Middaugh noted that the stories are long and may not be fit for print. “Seriously though, Eckert Brothers was a staple of this community,” she said. “You could count on them.”
Business wrapped up with a liquidation auction held on September 5, 2018.
Bob’s daughter Stacy Savage noted that the support of Tuscarawas County over the years has been nothing short of incredible. “I can’t thank Tuscarawas County enough for the support and business they have provided to the Eckert family,” she shared.
She noted though, that there is an unsung hero behind the scenes that needs to be honored for being nothing short of an angel on earth. “Most importantly, I want to thank Edna Harding,” Savage explained. “Honestly, when you think of Eckert brothers, it’s Ron, Bob, and Edna. She was their longest and most-dedicated employee. She provided so much for the business and their families. They could not have done it without her.”
Harding worked at the business for 45 years, starting just out of high school. She was described by many as their “right-hand woman.”
The Eckert brothers served the community well over the past 49.5 years and left impressions and taught lessons, some without knowing it. “One of my favorite memories of Ronnie Eckert was when I was a little munchkin in church,” explained Randy Moomaw. “I always liked that Ronnie would shake my hand with that missing a couple of fingers hand. It kind of taught me at a young age not to let problems get in the way, just face them head on, look someone in the eye and just do it.”
While the business may be closed, the impact continues and the legacy Eckert Brothers started in 1969 is far from over. Now both men can relax a little as they have been working 10-plus hours per day at least six days a week for nearly 50 years.
This story originally appeared in the October 3, 2018 edition of The Budget. For more news, pick up a copy of this week’s edition available Wednesdays at area retailers. Better yet, subscribe and the news will be delivered to you each week. For more information, call us at 330-852-4634.