View all photos and captions for Phenix Truck Bodies & Equipment This recently purchased 50,000-sq-ft building is the now home for the new equipment and accessory division of Phenix Truck Bodies & Equipment. But that’s only half of the story. The new building is a mirror image of the structure where Phenix has been manufacturing custom bodies for years. Across the street from one another, the buildings are the same size. Both are built on five acres.
IT'S no fun to be forced to sit in the corner. For kids, it's a form of punishment. For some companies, sitting in the corner isn't necessarily punishment — sitting in a corner can be the result of filling a niche, of doing one thing very, very well.
That's exactly what Phenix Enterprises of Pomona, California, has been doing in recent months. The company, long a manufacturer of custom fire trucks, work trucks, and service bodies, has moved into distribution, as well as wholesaling, while continuing to offer high-spec truck bodies.
“Our history has been to sell to fleets,” says Rick Albertini, who with his brother Paul now operates the company that their father started 35 years ago. “But some of these fleets operate a variety of trucks. They need the service bodies that we build for them, but they also have a need for vans equipped with interior packages. Now they can come to us for much more of their truck equipment needs than what we previously offered. We decided that we didn't want to be in just our little corner anymore.”
Phenix instead has taken on a new look, new products, larger quarters, and a wider range of customers. The company also has a new name — Phenix Truck Bodies & Equipment — to more accurately reflect what it's all about.
“The concept was to diversify products and services to allow Phenix to provide solutions to any fleet, regardless of size and industry,” says Todd Davis, vice-president. “Phenix can now provide products and solutions for all market segments.
Phenix also has started a separate equipment and accessories division to distinguish its new activities from its traditional manufacturing operations.
“We have always catered to utility companies,” Albertini says. “Now we also can serve the needs of customers who may just own one truck, along with being able to expand what we offer to our existing customers. If our utility customers need service bodies or van upfits, they can get them with just one phone call.”
“We have handled Knapheide for seven or eight years now,” says Todd Davis, vice-president. “The idea is to buy a base body and to accessorize it to make it more in line with what people on the West Coast prefer.”
While still manufacturing bodies (or customizing Knapheide service bodies to meet customer specifications), Phenix now offers other services. They include:
Accessory installation. This includes truck caps and camper shells, tonneau covers, along with a range of other truck and van accessories.
Truck equipment installation. Phenix represents Knapheide service bodies, Load-N-Go removable bodies, the Knaack line of brown toolboxes, the full Weatherguard line of van interiors and accessories, along with multiple brands of cranes, winches, liftgates, inverters, lighting systems, and other lines of truck equipment.
Warehousing and distribution. The company serves as a master warehouse distributor for Buyers Products in Southern California.
New approach, personnel
“Our niche was fixed, and we weren't really able to grow,” Albertini explains. “We knew we needed to expand what we were doing. Even our largest customer said we should diversify.”
The tipping point, Albertini says, came when a van interior upfitter in Southern California went out of business.
All of these changes have required Phenix to hire new talent.
“This is a new approach for us,” Davis says. “We have spent most of our history manufacturing custom truck bodies. In making this change, we have had to deal with a lot of questions such as ‘How do we reach a wider audience?’ and ‘How do we communicate with the guy whose level of business may not require a service body? Fortunately, we have been able to bring in a number of knowledgeable people who know the distribution side of the business.”
The company hired truck equipment specialists, parts and service personnel, and people with warehouse experience.
“We added seven people to make it work,” Albertini says. “But we have room for an additional 10.”
“Speaking of the new division, we really are offering a complete package of products and services,” Davis says. “We are manufacturers, installers, and equipment integrators. Probably 85% of what we are doing involves off-the-shelf components, but 15% involves custom fabrication and finish.”
“We are leveraging our expertise and offering greater value,” Albertini adds. “We can sell truck bodies, lighting, inverters — a complete package — and not just a box.”
Double the space
Another significant development that made the changes possible: Phenix had the opportunity to double its available workspace.
For years, Phenix had operated out of a 50,000-sq-ft facility in Pomona, a suburb of Los Angeles. When a similar space became available, the company was quick to buy it. It was a mirror of the Phenix facility — 50,000 square feet on five acres.
“To have 100,000 square feet of space, along with 10 acres in Southern California, is pretty unusual,” Albertini says.
The new space opened up new opportunities for Phenix, including a new parts showroom, warehousing space, and capacity to handle a steady flow of van interior installations.
The new space, formerly the home of a plastics recycler, required substantial modifications to adapt it for use in truck equipment. Among the improvements: new air and electrical service, upgraded lighting system, overhead doors for improved shop access, and a new 3,000-sq-ft showroom where offices used to be.
Other upgrades to the facility included a ramp to get vehicles into the building, new welding machines, pallet racking system, employee lunchroom. Given the higher number of customer trucks that would be stored on the property, Phenix also built a security fence made of concrete blocks and installed a new security system.
Management seems pleased with the results.
“This model is working in Southern California,” Davis says. “We think it will work in Northern California, too.”
Oh, and one other thing: Phenix is the way the mythical bird was spelled in Medieval Latin. Management jokes that they — not everyone else — are the ones who spell the word correctly.