Some might think they're in the middle of nowhere, in a rural area close to a tiny town. Trenton Wray prefers to think The Wrays LLC is right in the middle of somewhere — halfway between the east and west coasts, and they buy and sell trucks and equipment on both. Plus, they're on U.S. 281, considered as a major north-south artery, and people are willing to drive many miles for what they sell.
The Wrays LLC is Charles and sons Trenton and Brendon, and they're located just outside of Sawyer, recognizable by a lot with rows and rows of trucks, trailers, loaders, other equipment and the occasional motorhome.
Charles Wray is a farmer, Trent said, but he always bought and sold some machinery as a sideline. The business started with two or three pieces of equipment at the end of the lane.
At the age of 19, Trent moved to Ohio for a summer, and when he returned, father and son went into business together, carving out a lot from the corner of a cornfield north of town. Brendon joined the business later.
In 2009, they put up a 100 x 96-foot metal building with a shop, reception area and offices. The maintain a large inventory — a check on the computer last week revealed about 200 units on the lot.
Wray said that most of their customers come from out of state. They find the Wrays via the company's website and from advertisements in print publications that also maintain an online presence.
Some of their customers never come to Sawyer, never meet the Wrays and only see what they're buying in pictures. The business doesn't do the exporting themselves, but they have sold equipment out of the country. They might buy a truck or piece of equipment on one coast and sell it on the other, Wray noted.
"Definitely, the Internet has changed the way we do business," he said.
He spends a good portion of his time every Thursday monitoring online auctions. During the last week, Brendon was in Florida, attending a week-long auction, his third this winter. Of everything available there — one sale brought in over $200 million last year — he might buy three or four units.
Right now, agricultural and energy — wind and oil — industries make up most of their customer base. That could change with the economy; they also serve construction trades and freight companies.
"We hit every niche," Wray said.
He doesn't have a ready answer for why the business works, providing a comfortable living for the three partners and their families, and employment for 12 full-time and two part-time workers.
"I take that back, I do know why it works so well," he said. "For some reason, God makes it happen. We don't have any particular insight. We see a piece that looks like it's worth the money. Sometimes it sells quickly, sometimes it doesn't."
He also gave credit to a good crew, a favorable location, and the oilfield market that is currently strong.
The family never planned that three or four pieces of equipment would grow to hundreds.
"We did not dream it would turn into something like this," Wray said. "Some people have business goals, dreams and ambitions. I'm not saying we don't have ideas, but we just move when it feels good to move.
"Our plans would not be to stop growing at this point," he continued. "If the economy reverses, absolutely, we could stop growing pretty fast."
More likely, however, they would shift their focus to remain a strong business in the middle of everywhere.