Big Business in a Small Town

First coined during World War II, the term logistics referred to the branch of military operations dealing with the procurement, movement, supply, and evacuation of equipment and personnel whether by ship, truck, train, or airplane. Organizing a safe and timely logistical operation, especially across the globe, required attention to countless important details, the ability to communicate with anyone, the tenacity to see the operation through, a thorough knowledge of international transportation methods and regulations, and, most importantly, a pragmatic approach to complex problems. Champlain Carton Company, owned and operated by Korean veteran Gerry Carton, specializes in heavy logistics over all of North America (U.S., Canada, and Mexico). If it is massive, ponderous and needs to be moved safely, securely and in a timely manner, Carton can do it.

With offices in Champlain and Plattsburgh, and plans for expansion into the Lexington, Kentucky area, Champlain Carton Company is a non-asset owning common carrier—meaning it does not own its own fleet of trucks, ships or airplanes. Its principles, Gerry, Casey and Kerry Carton, as well as Lorie Wright, use their extensive contacts and expertise to work with strategic carriers to arrange leases and arrange and manage logistical operations. More specifically, they work with Landstar Transportation Logistics, and those who specialize in heavy haul transportation.

“I became involved in logistics while I was in Korea,” Carton explained. When my enlistment was up, I accepted a job offer with a trucking company in Kansas City. It was there I continued to learn the business.” Although he had grown up on a farm in southern Vermont, Carton, who has worked all over the country, had not visited northern Vermont and New York until he came to the area on vacation in 1968. “Route 2 through the Champlain islands is the prettiest road in the world, and I’ve been to a lot of places,” said Carton. “I chose to settle here, raise a family, continue working in the logistics business, and finally, open my own company in 1987.”

The business environment changed over the years and after 9/11 rigorous international shipping regulations were added. As every 21st century business, Carton had to adapt to the constantly changing communications technology. “It’s been a struggle because we’re not a large company, but we are on the cutting edge of technology,” he disclosed. “Truck drivers used to have to stop on route to make a telephone call for instructions. Then we had a fax machine in the truck and later cell phones. Now headsets connected to a computer are installed in the dashboard. We are focused on improving our digital outreach, and we need people who understand the thinking behind these new technological devices, as well as how to use them to their maximum effectiveness for our business.”

Due to the business’ competitive nature, the complexity of client needs and Carton’s commitment to give younger people “an opportunity to try,” his principle employees are his three children: Lorie, Casey and Kerry. Each has a different skills set, work behavior style and techniques and management skills, and that has resulted in an effective team. All agree that communication is key. To that end, they begin each work day with a meeting to discuss opportunities and challenges, and exchange ideas along with Heavy Haul Coordinator Todd Bashaw. The senior Carton writes motivational sayings on the conference room whiteboard, such as, “If you can measure it, you can grow it,” as talking points.

Known for her attention to detail, Lorie is the company’s Operations Manager. A self-described “lover of numbers,” Wright worked summers at Champlain Carton while she earned her degree in accounting. Curiosity led her to leave the family business. She worked as an accountant for a few years, realized her old job was far more interesting and returned to Champlain Carton for good. She handles the business’ books, payroll and vendor payments, formulates quotes and interviews personnel. “This business is dynamic, diverse and always presents new challenges,” she shared. “We deal with people across the country with time-sensitive projects. It’s exciting.” Agreeing that there are pressures associated with the busy operations, Wright admitted that “work sometimes interrupts my personal life, but this happens less with more efficient communications technology.”

Casey, a Transportation and Logistics Specialist, entered the business in 1993 after a stint as a Combat Support Engineer for the Army National Guard. He works primarily with business development and sales, and is known for his ability to formulate innovative strategies. “I like problem solving and evaluating a scenario,” he explained. “I especially welcome the challenge of bringing another person’s problem to a resolution. I’ve always been intrigued by working with people, and I value good interpersonal communication.” Agreeing that there are inherent challenges in team building within the family dynamic, Casey embraces the small business and is building his own family here in the North Country. “This is a lifestyle corridor, in my opinion,” he stated. “We appreciate the four seasons. There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing.”

“It’s almost like it’s in your blood and you can’t get away from it,” said Kerry Carton, Account Development Manager. “I have a passion for diesel trucks. I notice all of them — where they’re from, what they’re hauling. I find it fascinating.” Kerry began her work life in the family business, detoured into early childhood education and then went back to school and completed her Business Management degree. She re-entered the family business in October 2014 and is on the forefront of the expansion by moving to Kentucky to assume the responsibilities of national account development. “This is going to enable the company to reach out to the central and mid-western area. Kentucky and Tennessee have grown economically. We will put our service at their fingertips and focus on their needs.” Kerry will be looking for office space outside the Lexington, Kentucky city limits so she can continue her father’s legacy of doing “big business in a small town.”

As it expands into America’s heartland Champlain Carton Company’s diversified and flexible business model focus on collaboration and team building and ability to apply innovative strategies, coupled with emerging technology is a model of the importance and success of small business in America.

Champlain Carton Company
428 NYS 276
Champlain, NY 12919
(518) 298-2684