Have foam, will travel (Article)

Image by Hugh Waters

Article Courtesy of Daytona Beach News Journal

August 4, 2008; Page

Correction: *A story on Page 1 of The Volusia/Flagler Review on Aug. 4 incorrectly stated the name of the company now marketing foam-filled tires for lawn mowers, golf carts and wheelbarrows. It is Edgewater Mower & Small Engine Service.

A new twist to a family-owned, lawnmower-parts distribution business is propelling Edgewater Power & Small Engine Service through hard economic times into a busy future.
In addition to selling 35,000 different blades, motor and garden tool parts worldwide, the local company is providing a new product on the premises at its 301 Mango Tree Drive plant.

The site is one of only a few worldwide offering “flat-free” foam injection in tires for everything from lawn mowers, wheelbarrows and golf carts, to airport shuttles, mobility scooters and other small vehicles.

The ultra-lightweight polyurethane foam injection is good for slow-speed use up to 50 mph in 36 inches and smaller tires.

“Between lack of rain and the economy, it has been bumpy for the past 2 1/2 years, so we were looking at adding new products,” said Jim Poland, 66, who heads the Edgewater company. “One problem lawn equipment has is tires breaking down, and this product maintains tires to last four times as long as regular tires.”

Poland said doing the foam injecting seemed like a good idea.

“The initial investment in the machine and chemicals was $40,000,” said Jim’s son, Chad Poland, the third generation to work in the family company.

The foam injection operation is a sort of science-fiction looking machine that spews dangerously hot, expanding white foam that hardens as it cools. The lightweight foam gives tires the feel of being filled with air without the worry of flat tires, a technology usually reserved for rugged industrial use.

Arnco, a California company, developed and patented several flat-proofing products used by manufacturers like Ingersoll-Rand, Bobcat, Caterpillar and others. They are working on technology for military Humvee tires.

But as for their newest foam injection product for smaller wheels, Arnco operates production sites in California and Ohio, and provides the product through a certified dealer network.

For 15 years, Edgwater Power & Small Engine carried molded-type flat-free tires from an Arnco subsidiary, Carefree Tire. Those tires are made in limited sizes and for specific uses.

But Bill Horay, a spokesman for Arnco in California, said less than 2 million molded-type tires exist. But, “there are tens of millions of possible applications” for the new product. Injected foam has a lot more flexibility without investment in new molds, so smaller quantities are justifiable. Plus the foam is lightweight for inexpensive shipping.

“The company (Arnco) made products we sold, but then they said, ‘Why don’t you go the next step?’ ” said Poland, so he took a trip to the Ohio plant to look into the injection technology and bought the machinery.

Then he sent a longtime employee, Damon Baldecchi, 36, to California for training.

Chris Daum, general manager of the Carefree Tire arm of Arnco, said Poland has a lock on the after-market products for lawn and garden industry.

For that reason Daum said he is “hoping (Poland) will branch outside of Florida and take over everything east of the Mississippi and supply that entire industry” with the flat-free foam tires.

Daum, based at Arnco’s California office, said sales representatives in the East have been told, “If you want this process done, we hope you go through Edgwater Power & Small Engine.”

The Edgewater company started nearly 50 years ago in a van, with the late Bob Poland bumping along U.S. 1 selling lawnmower blades, motor parts and wheels.

“My father ran a garage in Staten Island, but he met and married my mother. She was from here and they eventually moved here, bringing me and my older sister along,” said Jim Poland. “They ran a garage and gas station in Edgewater but after a few years started working on lawnmowers.”

That was before delivery companies like United Parcel Service and FedEx shipped products, so parts were delivered by the railroad line or by truck, Jim Poland explained.

“Dad had a hard time getting parts for the mowers, and he found a source where he could get them in bulk,” Poland said. “Other lawnmower shops in the area asked if he would sell them wheels and blades.”

That’s when Bob Poland set out in his van selling his stock, but after a while he tired of the road and sold that part of the business to a partner.

At that point Bob’s son, Jim Poland, had been out of the country working with his wife, Pat, for Saudi Arabian Airlines for four years.

“When we came back, the partner was ready to retire, so he sold us the (distribution side of the) business,” Jim Poland said.

Bob Poland died at age 91 about a month ago.

The Edgewater company – now operated by Jim and his sons, Chad and Kent Yancey “Kyp” Poland and Kent’s wife, Maryann Poland – has grown to fill a 20,000-square-foot warehouse, with clients in North and South America, Spain, Italy and South Africa.

Hugh Waters, 49, of New Smyrna Beach, who runs an online catalogue selling molded airless tires, now has added the injected tires from Edgwater Power & Small Engine to his line.

Waters said sales are doing well.

“(Molded) airless tires are trending down, while the foam injected is trending up,” Waters said. “There is more demand than there is product and I am currently backlogged.”

Back in the Edgewater Power & Small Engine Service injection room, Baldecchi already has one new helper. He said there is “a growing awareness that flat free has become available to the end user.” He is servicing walk-ins, as well as larger orders, and the company expects to expand with the need.



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