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Groendyke rebuilds with new facility in Liberal PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 09 February 2018 12:47

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ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times



July 12, 1932, Harold Groendyke hauled his first load of kerosene from Borger, Texas, to Beaver, Okla., driving a two-axle Ford truck equiped with a 3,000-gallon tank mounted on a homemade chassis.

The trip, compared to today’s times, which would take only a matter of hours, consumed an entire day. The trip was somewhat revolutionary since prior to that day, refined fuels were transported by railcar.

Groendyke would see and take advantage of an opportunity to create a tank-truck transporter industry, and in 1935, he moved to Enid, Okla., to be closer to supply sources Champlin Refinery and Eason Oil.

Groendyke Transport was originally headquartered in a service station and had nine tank-trucks and one cattle trailers. Soon after the company started, operations began in the Oklahoma towns of Ponca City and Ardmore and also in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Christmas Eve 1939 would see the company move into its new shop and office in Enid, and the 1940s would see new operations in Amarillo, Texas, and Denver.

The next decade, Groendyke obtained Kansas Intrastate Authority through acquisitions and established operations in the Sunflower State, including one in Liberal, El Dorado, Wichita, Hutchinson, Holton, McPherson and Arkansas City.

More Texas operations came in the 1950s with Dallas and Houston added to the mix, bringing Groendyke’s total to 18 terminals in four states in 1954. By that year, the company’s total had risen to 296 trucks, 259 trailers and 56 lease operators.

Later years would see more expansion into New Mexico and Louisiana, as well as more operations in Texas, and in 1965 the first load hauled into Mexico.

All of this came prior to the construction of Groendyke’s Liberal terminal in the early 1970s. That terminal would sustain significant damage from a fire in early 2016, and terminal manager Doug Hibbs said out of necessity, a new facility was constructed.

With Liberal being close to the Oklahoma border, Hibbs said local company officials were unsure of where the new terminal would be located.

“In our considerations, we didn’t know whether we would be moving to Oklahoma or building here in Kansas on our current property,” he said. “Seward County was kind enough to give us the tax abatement process, so we determined to build in Kansas.”

Hibbs said construction on the new building was scheduled to start around Christmas of 2016, but the weather at that time did not cooperate.

“They got it going,” he said. “We had a lot of weather delays, and we finally moved into this new building the day before Thanksgiving of ‘17. We started having our office in here that day.”

Hibbs said in late January, Groendyke’s local workers were moved into the new shop.

“Not everything is totally functional in the shop, but it is useful. There’s a few minor things that need to be completed before the shop is completely functional.”

The new building has many great features, including lengthened bays, which Hibbs said will better accommodate today’s newer, longer equipment.

“The old building had 70-foot bays, and now, we have 100-foot bays,” he said. “The old building had suspended furnaces in the ceiling, and now we have floor heat in the building. We have drive-through bays instead of one-way bays like the other shop had. We’ve more than doubled our office size, and we’ve built a much nicer break room with more amenities for our employees.”

The terminal likewise features a new break room with a shower room, washer and dryer, ice machine, stove and refrigerator.

“The TVs aren’t in yet, but we’re going to be having a TV room there,” Hibbs said. “That’s really a nice addition. Our old break room had a room with a TV, and it had a mini-kitchen with no stove or anything like that. It’s got a lot nicer facility for us now.”

Hibbs estimated the Liberal terminal has about 30 to 35 trucks in its fleet. He said the new terminal allowed Groendyke to take advantage of additional land near the former terminal.

“We only had about five and a half acres fenced in at the old yard, but we owned another 18 acres that was just farm ground,” he said. “After that, we decided that we would expand our yard to the west, put the new building in over here. We’ll be tearing down the old building this summer.”

While no longer being used as a terminal, Hibbs said the former building has been useful in the creation of the new building.

“It’s been a very nice situation to have the old building,” he said. “The building materials for the new building were stored in there through all the rainy periods that we had and kept the building materials from getting destroyed. That was very nice to have a nice dry place to put stuff.”

Hibbs officially became a driver with Groendyke in 1972, going into the office in 1973. He said he was born into the industry.

“I started washing trucks when I was eight years old with my dad and just grew up in the business,” he said. “It was our family business.”

That family included Hibbs’ father and mother, as well as his wife, his daughter and son-in-law.

“We’ve had some really good people that have worked for us through the years that I think the world of and still do,” he said. “Some have gone on, but we’ve moved on along.”

In fact, Hibbs’ son-in-law, Blaine Beckley, took over the job of terminal manager Feb. 1, with Hibbs now serving as assistant terminal manager. Hibbs credits Beckley with much of the work that went into the building the Liberal Groendyke now resides in.

“It’s been his vision and all that got us into this new building,” Hibbs said. “He’s worked very hard and worked with our contractors and built us a beautiful facility. Very proud of it.”

Hibbs said he has no plans to leave Groendyke anytime soon.

“Blaine has been managing the operations of the terminal for the last four or five years,” he said. “He came to work with me probably 10 years ago, and he’s done exactly what I asked him to do and learn how to run this place and take over managerial roles. He’s able to do that now. He’s been doing it. The timing was right for me to back down and for him to take the major leadership role, and I’m happy to have him do that.”

As for the new terminal manager, Beckley said his vision for Groendyke’s Liberal location is similar to what the company’s has been for its more than 85 years of business.

“Just to keep providing the level of service they’ve been providing for over the past 60 years and provide a good place of employment for our employees,” he said.

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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