In 1899 Walter A. Messer opened a one-man blacksmithing and shipsmithing shop on Union Street in Portland, Maine, and named it W. A. Messer Co.
Originally from Harvey Station, New Brunswick, Canada, Walter was in the blacksmithing business with his brother-in-law in Portland prior to starting his own business that concentrated primarily on the manufacture of wagons, wheels, sleighs, and iron work for ships.
With the advent of motor vehicles in the early 1900s, W. A. Messer Co. switched its emphasis to the manufacture of open-sided delivery truck bodies, furniture vans, and general van body equipment.
“The success of our company can probably be attributed in part to the fact that we have always been progressive enough to diversify services and product lines at the right time,” explained John F. (Jack) Messer, Walter’s son, according to a 1984 trade publication. “Of course, a successful business is also the result of a lot of long hours and hard work.”
Jack Messer joined his father in the truck body business in 1945 after serving in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. Prior to the war, he had studied accounting at Bentley College in Boston and worked as a traveling cashier and auditor trainee for an insurance company in Hartford, Conn.
In the late 1940s, W.A. Messer Co., by now a four-man shop, was incorporated and moved its operations to a custom-built facility in the Bayside area of Portland. At this time the company was primarily involved in manufacturing custom truck bodies. Operations gradually expanded to include trailer maintenance and repairs. Jack Messer became President in 1957 when his father retired at 78 years old. Walter Messer passed away two years later.
In 1960, W.A. Messer Co. was on the move again, this time to a five-acre parcel on the Westbrook end of Warren Avenue. Here the company built a 100-by-100-ft. trailer repair, sales, and service facility with eight truck body bays and an office area.
With the trend for custom-built vans declining, W. A. Messer Co. became more of a multi-line truck equipment distributorship. Galion dump bodies and hoists were the first lines of nationally manufactured products W. A. Messer Co. represented, a manufacturer that the company still represents today.
In 1971, John P. Messer, son of John F. and grandson of Walter, became the third generation to join the family business, by now a 12-person operation. With a combination business and engineering degree from Clarkson University and experience with General Electric Co.’s Manufacturing Management Program, John worked as a mechanic for three years and in various other areas of the business, including the service department, parts department and inside sales. He was eventually named vice president, a position he held until 1982 when he was named president.
When his father retired in 1987, John purchased the business from him and continued to serve as its President until his untimely death in 2008. His father, John F. Messer, passed away in 2009.
Through John’s leadership, the company expanded its outside sales staff and introduced an organized marketing program, gradually extending its customer base from primarily Cumberland County to across Maine and into New Hampshire. During the last several decades of his leadership, the business flourished and grew to become one of the largest truck equipment distributors in Northern New England.
In 2003, Jeffrey W. Messer, son of John P. Messer, grandson of John F. Messer, and great-grandson of Walter A. Messer, joined the company, becoming the fourth generation in the family business. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with a degree in Ocean Engineering, Jeff served in the U. S. Navy for five years as a Surface Warfare Officer and Nuclear Power Engineer before returning to Maine and the family business. He has worked in various areas of the business, including service, parts, and sales, in an effort to learn the business from the ground-up. Following his father’s sudden death, Jeff was named company President, and later purchased the business.
In 2004, the company name was changed to Messer Truck Equipment. Yet, while the name of the company has changed, our mission — to serve the transportation industry with an emphasis on quality products and service — has held steady for more than 119 years.
Today Messer Truck Equipment is still located at 170 Warren Avenue, as is the 100’ x 100’ building built in 1960, although now as part of a larger service complex with nearly 30 employees and a 35,000 sq. ft., 20-bay, state-of-the-art facility.
Messer Truck Equipment now sells and services over 35 major truck equipment product lines and has a customer base of more than 500 accounts throughout Maine and New Hampshire. A leader in the transportation industry since 1899, the fourth-generation family-owned business enjoys a well-deserved reputation for Yankee value and quality workmanship.
Let us put our years of knowledge and experience to work for you. Contact us to help keep your business working efficiently and running strong.