Frank Esposito Enjoys Kendon Gig

by

These Are Happy Times After Pain of Global/Custom Chrome

Frank Esposito, perhaps best known for playing top roles at two of this industry’s largest distribution companies, today is relaxed and having fun as president of Kendon Industries, a small California trailer manufacturer that produces a line of motorcycle lifts and unique folding trailers.

He joined the Anaheim company in January after having been dropped by Global Motorsports Group (GMG) last summer as the company reorganized under new ownership after stumbling out of messy bankruptcy proceedings.

Frank Esposito

Frank Esposito

GMG had been owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP, the cutthroat New York-based international investment group and had struggled with inventory and cash shortages for many years under GMG management.

Esposito had joined Global as president in August 2002 and spent six tough, grinding years trying to balance the needs of suppliers and dealers under Cerberus’s tight-fisted management. His sudden termination last summer came as a surprise to many in the industry, who thought he would play a leading rule for the Global companies as they limped ahead under new ownership.

“I want to recognize the vendors who supported me at Global,” says Esposito. “Kendon was at the top of the heap; they carried receivables that were immense, and we about killed them and many other vendors.”

Despite his pain at Global, Esposito says he has no regrets about the experience. “It was an incredible education,” he says. “It was a first-hand look at evil and corruption, and I’m very proud that I was instrumental in getting vendors paid.”

One of the first calls Esposito received following news of his departure, was from long-time friends Ken and Tina Thurm, who offered him a job in their small, family-owned company. The small trailer business was a long step from the much larger international GMG operation, and the Thurms were somewhat hesitant to offer Esposito a job.

The Thurms, who had been making successful trailer products for two decades, knew they needed strategic leadership and they trusted Esposito, an old friend and long-time customer.
Esposito had taken on the Kendon line when he was a sales rep at Tucker Rocky Distributing at the advice of co-worker Bob Kay, and he later took the business to Global when he moved over there.

“I had been looking for a trailer,” recalls Esposito, “and everything out there was pretty trashy. Bob said: ‘I know a guy who makes the best trailer in the industry.’ We finally got hooked up— I never saw anything engineered at that level.” Esposito grabbed the line for Tucker Rocky.

While he was flattered by Kendon’s offer, Esposito wasn’t ready to make a decision; he didn’t want to take a job on the rebound, and he wanted to clear his mind after the Global turmoil. So, he signed up for career counseling where he took a hard look at his strengths and weaknesses.

His strengths? He’s a pioneer and a missionary. That’s not a surprise to anyone who’s heard Frank talk about racing or the motorcycle industry. “I loved my time racing and developing Tucker Rocky in its growth stages,” he says.

During his months on the street, Esposito fielded several offers—inside the industry and outside as well— besides the one pitched by Kendon. None was right for him. “Quite frankly,” he says in that way that he has, “they all smelled like Cerberus.”

After his period of personal reflection, Esposito went back to Ken and Tina and signed on as president. “Kendon is a fit,” Esposito says. “It’s been around, but it hasn’t had the nourishment, the foundation, it needs. I know the people; I know the policies; there’s no hidden agenda. I believe it has upside potential.”

Kendon Industries is run by the husband-wife team of Ken and Tina Thurm. Tina runs the business side of the operation, and Ken provides the creative spark. He’s an auto design and development engineer by training and experience specializing in chassis design and auto drag racing.

The Kendon story is a familiar one in the powersports industry. Ken built his first product by accident, at the urging of a friend who couldn’t find a place to store his motorcycle trailer.

Thurm designed a unique folding unit that the fellow could store in his garage. Soon, others wanted a trailer like the first one, and Kendon Industries was born. Today, Thurm holds several patents on his products, essentially 10 trailers and four lifts.

Kendon is housed in a small 20,000 sq. ft. office/warehouse/manufacturing facility run by 20 people. “It’s essentially a giant pipe,” says Esposito.  “Metal comes in one end and trailers come out the other end. It’s a fairly efficient process.” Esposito is tight-lipped about production counts and annual revenues for the closely held company.

The meat and potatoes of the business is four trailers: a single rail, a double rail, a combo, and a utility model. They sell primarily through Tucker Rocky for about $2,000. Custom Chrome also carries the line.

Esposito sees his biggest challenge as marketing the production-oriented company by adding distribution points and by showing dealers that trailers can be a profitable add-on business. “We do everything to develop innovative products, but we’re not conditioned to sell it,” says Esposito. “That’s another whole piece of the puzzle that I can help with.”

Dealers are missing an opportunity when they ignore trailer sales, says Esposito. “There are a lot of dealers who think trailers don’t sell or that they don’t suit them,” he says. “Our job is to convince them and educate them.”

Now Esposito is warming up. “Every time a guy rolls into your dealership with a trailer he didn’t buy from you, you may as well open your cash drawer and give him $500. An incredible number of dealers can add incremental business.”

So, how does Esposito fit into a small manufacturing business after being at the top of the wholesale distribution food chain for so many years? “I was in big box distribution for 30 years, and I have no regrets. This is so focused and I can make decisions, right now. It’s fun again.” JD


Contact me with news tips and story ideas
at 952/893-6876 or joe@powersportsupdate.com.

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One Response to “Frank Esposito Enjoys Kendon Gig”

  1. Chromeman Says:

    Kendon was just another vendor in the FOF(Freinds of Frank) program. Just like D&D, why promote an outside vendor for exhaust at a margin of 22% when you had your own exhaust line with over 50% margins?? Why were receivables so high with Kendon? One word: OVERSTOCK of trailers in the warehouses. First of all Cerberus was only involved for a short period of time I would say 12-18 months, before that GMG was owned by Stonington Partners. Cerberus was just the final straw on the camels back and was purchased by it’s former owner Nace (with the help of Deail) and thats when Frank was let go. It’s a shame that some people view thier time at GMG as “pained” when they were part of the problem as well.

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