By Tina Irgang Leaderman
Not many businesses can claim they survived the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. One of the few remaining stalwarts from that era is Wollenweber’s Trucking & Warehousing, now run by the fourth generation of Wollenwebers.
The Wollenweber’s story began in 1888, when a German immigrant started a stable on Granby Street in Little Italy. By the 1920s, the horses and wagons housed at that stable had been replaced by cars, and the stable became a trucking terminal and gas station.
Since then, the Wollenweber’s footprint has expanded significantly. The company’s current home is a 400,000-square-foot warehousing and trucking facility on Carbide Road, near the U.S. Coast Guard facility at Hawkins Point and conveniently adjacent to I-695.
This year, Wollenweber’s current President Chad Wollenweber celebrated his 25th anniversary working for the company. “When I started, I was getting my MBA from the University of Baltimore,” he said. “I thought, ‘Let me just work here in between classes throughout the semester,’ and next thing I know, it’s 25 years later and I’m still here.”
Wollenweber’s first job, he recalled, was unloading goods at the company’s warehouse facility, which was then located near the Baltimore Sun building downtown. “It was 20 degrees at five in the morning,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is crazy, I’m never doing this again.’”
Everything for the Customer
The philosophy that has carried the company through its first century will continue to carry it forward, Wollenweber believes: “I think it’s about the personal connections we have. All the customers have my cell phone number. I still have people call me who remember my grandfather.”
To sustain its satisfied customer base, Wollenweber’s doesn’t take on jobs unless the company is confident it can exceed the customer’s expectations, but “once we have a customer, we don’t say no. If they need more space, we figure it out. We’ll stay here until 8 p.m. tonight, or they can call me on Saturday morning and we’ll get a load over to them.”
To better serve customers, Wollenweber’s centralized its operations just before the pandemic, and it turned out to be a good move during the ensuing disruptions.
“We went from three locations to a single location eight miles from the Port,” said Wollenweber. “We found that our customers wanted one central location that was easy to get to. The timing was good, because we’ve been able to increase productivity and do more trailer loads on a daily basis.”
Before the pandemic, Wollenweber said, customers would try to build inventory, so there was a greater demand for storage space. Now, the priority is getting containers out of the Port and into the hands of customers. “It’s a much different philosophy,” he said. “It’s more of a quick turnaround instead of a buildup. Everything needs to happen a lot more quickly. At the single location, we can allocate personnel better. We’re doing 80, 90 truck loads a day just out of the one facility. Our goal is to make sure the trucks get in and out in under an hour.”
Wollenweber is optimistic about the company’s future, considering its good reputation and the longevity of its employees. “We have drivers that have been here 10, 20, 30 years,” he said. “We have a family environment that we try to maintain.”
Having a good relationship with the Port is helpful as well. “We do good volume out of the Port,” Wollenweber said. “Volumes are starting to increase back to pre-COVID levels.”