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Battery distributorship powering up

Interstate Batteries of the Potomac Valley is moving to Interstate Industrial Park

Interstate Batteries of the Potomac Valley is moving to Interstate Industrial Park

November 18, 2007|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

Like the batteries he sells, Brandon Shank's business has shown plenty of power the past few years.

Sales volume at Interstate Batteries of the Potomac Valley east of Hagerstown has shot up about 50 percent in the past four years, Shank said.

As a result, Shank said, he bought 12 acres of land near Williamsport, where he plans to double the size of his operation by next spring.

The site, off Interstate 81 in the Interstate Industrial Park, has "got great interstate access, which is great for us," Shank said.

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His business, which sells a wide range of batteries to automotive stores and the like on a wholesale basis, owns the rights to sell the Interstate brand in the area from Franklin and Adams counties in Pennsylvania, to Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland, to Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia, to roughly half of Loudoun County in Virginia, he said.

The new location, which is much larger than the company's existing site, will make it more efficient, he said. As a consequence, he said, its employment - now at 9, including Shank and his parents, Wilmer and Shirley - probably will rise initially by just one full-timer and, possibly, a part-timer.

The local distributorship was begun by Wilmer and Shirley Shank in 1984. Brandon said his father had been a route manager for an Interstate distributor in Harrisonburg, Va., when he learned the territory around Hagerstown was open.

So the Shanks moved north and set up business off Showalter Road.

Two years later, they moved the business to its current location at 19941 Beaver Creek Road.

"This was a horse farm back in the day," said Brandon Shank, 30. "So they bought the house and tore the barns down and built the warehouse.

In about 2000, Wilmer Shank added a second business, Beaver Creek Mini-Storage, to the property. It offers about 350 self-storage units as rentals, mostly to residential customers, Brandon Shank said.

In early 2003, Brandon Shank bought the battery business from his parents. At the time, he said, it was selling roughly 30,000 batteries a year and that has grown a lot.

"This year, we should surpass the 45,000 mark," Brandon Shank said. "So we have had significant growth ... and, most of that is this year. In the past 12 months, we've had 22 percent growth."

Why has the business increased so swiftly even during the nation's ongoing economic downturn?

"We're fairly insulated against those kinds of things because people still need to drive their cars," Shank said. Plus, he said, his four-state sales territory "is a great growth area, so even though the housing market has slowed, it hasn't affected our business."

The surge in business has become a "challenge to manage" as the demand has forced it to increase inventory to as many as 5,000 batteries, Shank said.

"We've been stumbling over things," he said, with a laugh.

So the company's new home in the Interstate Industrial Park will have 10,460 square feet of warehouse and office space, he said. That's nearly double the 5,400 square feet he has now off Beaver Creek Road.

At the new site, "we are operating on about a $1.7 million budget for land, sitework and building," he said.

Shank said his father intends to continue his storage business at Beaver Creek, but someday, it could move to the industrial park.

At the industrial park, the 12-acre site and the new building will be owned by a new company, called Antietam Storage Solutions LLC, which Brandon Shank has formed with his wife, Kelly, and long-time employee Jeff Schnurr.

The Interstate distributorship, which Brandon himself owns, will then lease the building, he said.

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