A personal account of the Airoldi Brothers story.
Family-owned and operated since 1938, Airoldi Brothers has grown from humble beginnings to be the largest independent truck leasing company in Wisconsin. Co-owner Cheri Airoldi shares her memories.
In 1938, Angelo Airoldi and his two brothers, James II and Vay, started a trucking company called Airoldi Cartage. My grandfather (James II), initially a silent partner, developed real estate for a living. He became actively involved when Angelo went off to war. Grandpa filled in as bookkeeper, while Uncle Vay ran the operations. Because Airoldi Cartage had a valuable LC license giving us the authority to run any type of freight, the company became successful and a target for unions. The brothers made the decision to dedicate the drivers to their customers and turn the trucks into full service leases.
At this time, the Airoldi’s weren’t sure if they wanted out of the trucking business completely. The brothers worked out a deal with one of their customers to run under Airoldi’s authority, so they would not lose their license. As a kid, I remember calls at 3:00 a.m., and my Dad had to get out of bed to start their trucks in the middle of winter when the weather was 20 below. It wasn’t until Robert Airoldi (son of Vay) had to get out of bed to start trucks that we opened up a third shift. We never did get back into trucking, and no one really knows why. With the deregulation of trucking, the LC number became worthless.
In 1970, our dad signed our biggest deal for 11 tractors with Warner Continental Transportation. Apparently the Airoldi’s could not sleep for months, because they were worried about being able to make the payments. With our fleet at 70, 11 tractors was a huge account. By 1972, Airoldi passed 100 vehicles and Badger Truck Center gave us our first fleet discount.
We joined then Nationalese system in 19 which is the oldest truck leasing system in the country. Our affiliation allowed us access to over 600 locations in US, Canada and Mexico
By 1982, Airoldi’s fleet grew to 300. Along came the third generation, working our way through high school and college. Jim Jr., Mike and I all made the business our lives. In 1999, Robert retired and our family took Airoldi Brothers to the next level.
In January 2001, we opened a shop on Milwaukee’s north side to take the pressure off our southside facility. Originally built to service 300 vehicles, that location was servicing 575. Three months after we opened our second location, one of our customers asked us to maintain its refrigerated trailer fleet of 400. Six months after, we added five more service bays.
We did not anticipate the north shop to grow as quickly as it did. Because we still had to take the pressure off the southside, we put a mobile truck on the road. It quickly grew to a fleet of four. In October 2006, we sold the south location and moved into a state-of-the-art, mega facility on eight acres in Oak Creek. In 2010 one of our vendors told us that they were opening in Madison and asked us if we would like to rent a few of their bays. We have a few customers in Madison so we decided to take them up on it. We did not anticipate our Madison customer base grow, forcing us to purchase a building of our own…we will be moving to our new facility soon. In January 2012 customer asked us to open in Appleton We opened our Appleton door November 2012. Today we maintain approximately 1,600 pieces of equipment and continue to invest in better ways to serve our customers.
- We put their customer service to the test and Airoldi Brothers came up with a grade of A+++ for effort. — Earl R. Kelley, Director of Transportation, Patrick Cudahy
- Airoldi’s service department is great and when a vehicle needs repairs, it gets done correctly. — Elizabeth Stevens, President, Custom Express
- Airoldi Brothers has completely transformed our thoughts and expectations regarding fleet services and has proven to be superior to the competition time and time again. — Michael D. Reynolds, Material Management Supervisor, Conley Media
- In the 30 years that I have been in this industry I have tried every vendor in Southeastern Wisconsin and nobody can hold a candle to Airoldi Brothers. — Tom A Martino, Executive V.P., Performance Freight Systems.