Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bruce Witte farms, drives buses, fixes trucks and more

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Bruce Witte is a jack of all trades.

Witte, who has lived in Mount Airy since 1955, has a trucking company, a mulch business, a school bus contract, a repair shop, a truck modification business, and he buys and sells trucks and farm equipment.

“I don’t really get bored,“ Witte said. “[There are] so many things to do.“

He is also a farmer and an auctioneer, and usually does between six and eight auctions each year, many of which, he said, are equipment sales.

He recalled one auction where he grossed more than $450,000.

“We were taking bids over the telephone,“ he said. “It was an interesting sale.“

Growing up, he would go with his parents to auctions and thought it was something he wanted to try. When an auctioneer school opened in Frederick in 1980, Witte enrolled, and received his certificate in six weeks. He learned the values of items as well as practiced chanting — the singsong way auctioneers communicate bids — and regularly did drills to improve his speed.

In addition to performing auctions for pay, Witte does some charity auctions. He recently donated his time to one during the annual “A Taste of Mount Airy“ event, which raises money for the Mount Airy Youth Athletic Association.

“I go slow when I do charity auctions so people can hear,“ he said.

Green and yellow John Deere tractors line the shelves of his office as well as a farm mural created by one of his sons with a John Deere tractor front and center.

He recently restored one of the tractors after its owner sold it to him in about 200 pieces. It took four months to rebuild and paint, and only two additional parts had to be purchased, he said.

Witte began modifying and repairing machinery when he was 12. An uncle taught him how to weld and use a cutting torch; after he graduated from high school, he bought a truck and a dumping mechanism, which he combined to assist with the farming he was doing.

Others saw his work and commissioned him to do the same for them, and he continues to do truck modification and repairs.

One of his regular customers is Mount Airy’s Stone Cellar Farmhouse and Nursery, owned by Bob and Jean Lee.

Bob Wimer, who runs the store, which sells patio and retaining wall materials, said Witte’s company maintains Stone Cellar’s vehicles as well as makes product deliveries to the store as and customers.

“When I call him, he goes out of his way to accommodate my request,“ Wimer said. “Somehow, he manages to figure out a way to make it happen.“

Witte also spends 180 days each year contracting drivers who drive six buses for Carroll County Public Schools, adding he likes driving the buses when he gets the chance.

Despite his numerous businesses, Witte said he is looking to expand into several others, perhaps using his corn binder and hay baler to create seasonal decorations for sale. He would also like to get into the business of selling storage containers.

He enjoys staying busy, he said. Because a number of his businesses are seasonal, they allow him to rotate and always have something to do, he added.

Witte said that if he has to give something up, it would probably be the farming aspect.

“[My farming is] a lot like people’s golf games,“ he said. “I enjoy doing it, but I couldn’t figure out how to make a living off it.“