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Brennan family celebrates 40 years in business at Fort Equipment

Longtime employees have played a key role in company’s success

FORT LAWRENCE, N.S. – Family and loyalty are two characteristics Bernie Brennan has held close to his heart since going into business in 1980.

Brennan came to Amherst in February 1980 when he and his wife, Jennifer, purchased Fort Equipment from Gordon and Marion Smith and began to build it into the successful company it has become.

“I was working for Case and they wanted me to move to Ottawa and represent the Ottawa Valley and the Maritimes,” Brennan said. “Jennifer and I had just started a family and didn’t want to leave the Maritimes so I approached Gordon to see if he wanted to sell. That’s where it started.”

Fort Equipment actually got its start in 1970 in a former service station up the road from its existing location.

“It was a service station with a couple of lean-tos with gas pumps and five mechanics working,” he said.

Five years after purchasing Fort Equipment, in 1985, Brennan took a big step by moving to its present location and building a new shop out back. It was also the year John Dickinson joined the business as a partner from Rivers & Dickinson.

Dickinson would work with Brennan for 20 years, growing the business through good times and bad before retiring in 2005. His son, Andrew, now has 20-plus years with the company.

“1985 was a pretty big year for us. We were going to buy the old A&W building and I came down here and told Gordon what I was going do. He said if you’re going to do something as stupid as that you should buy this place, so I did,” he said. “That’s also the year we bought out Rivers & Dickinson and John joined us as a partner. He was a great partner for 20 years.”

Brennan is quick to give credit to his employees for the company’s success. He compared operating a business to being the coach of a sports team, saying it’s only as good as the players.

Ivan Arseneau has been with the business for more than 40 years. Scott McNairn and the now-retired John Vogels are other stand-outs.

“All this doesn’t happen with one or two people, it’s because of the support and dedication of everybody here.”

Another ingredient in Fort Equipment’s success, he added, has been its customers throughout Cumberland and Westmorland counties.

Brennan’s son, Greg, said staff at Fort Equipment have been a great team over the years. He said the 19 full-time employees have a combined 226 years of experience.

“Employee commitment is as big as anything in business,” he said. “When you look at the people we have here, there are a lot of people with double digit years of experience. That’s quite a commitment. We couldn’t have had the success we’ve had without them.”

Brennan said there was a time when none of his children expressed interest in joining the business, but he was happy when Jeff came on board 17 years ago.

Jeff said he learned a lot from his father, traits such as treating customers and staff with respect and fairness and building the company together.

“That’s the reason we’re here today,” he said.

He said Kubota has had a lot to do with the success of Fort Equipment. When his father purchased the business, Kubota was a relatively new product line in the Maritimes, but it soon gained traction with customers.

At the same time, Fort Equipment diversified as the agriculture industry experienced a downturn – one that turned around during the last decade.

“The product offering from Kubota has diversified a lot and along with that the customer base has diversified as well,” he said.

The diversification saw Kubota’s product line expand into personal use, commercial and industrial uses with smaller equipment and expanded product line for things like house and garden.

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