MANSFIELD — For 50 years, AJs Outdoor Power Equipment has been serving the needs of area residents.
Owner Chris Ensminger, who turns 50 this Saturday, said his father opened the business in 1969, the same year he was born. The focus now, as it was then, is serving the local residents.
“Dad had a saying: What we sell is reliability,” said Ensminger. “We try to stick with that. It costs a little bit more, but it’s worth it.”
He had concerns when a big box store opened a few miles down the road. Ensminger would watch pick-up trucks drive past AJ’s, then make the return trip with a new lawnmower in the back. Then, those same lawnmowers were being brought into AJ’s for repairs. The repairs were more frequent and parts more expensive than that of the equipment lines at AJ’s.
“Within five years of opening, (the other store) got out of the lawnmower business,” said Ensminger.
Typically, Kubota likes its dealers to have a 30% share of the market. AJ’s maintains 50-60% of the market share in Tioga County, he said.
Employees are another important factor in the business longevity. Initially, it was his father and a mechanic. Chris Ensminger tried to do it all, But as the business grew, he added people. They’ve stayed, adding depth to the service, sales and parts areas of the business.
That same philosophy served Alfred Jacob Ensminger, the AJ of the business name, well for several years.
He began by selling Polaris snowmobiles from a one-room store front in Covington as a sideline to the family dairy farm in Mainesburg. A few years later, AJ’s moved to a former furniture store a few doors south of that location.
The business continued to sell Polaris snowmobiles until the early 1980s, and added lawn and garden equipment, outboard motors and fiberglass boats. Some lines went away, like the boats and motors, and others, like chain saws, were added.
The younger Ensminger joined the U.S. Air Force after graduation and served for several years. In the summer of 1991, his parents and family went to see his discharge.
On July 1, while they were at the ceremony, a fire started in a shed behind the business, spread to a barn and then the store, destroying everything.
Undaunted, AJ’s into the NAPA store garage in Mansfield and continued.
It took a few years to regain the momentum. During that time, Chris Ensminger attended the police academy and helped his father. In 1993, A.J.’s added the Kubota line.
By 1994, A.J. Ensminger retired.
“He handed me a bill for the inventory and left,” said Chris Ensminger.
In 2003, the Ensminger purchased the current store at 1699 South Main St., Mansfield.
“It grew a lot after that,” he added. “We were doing $100,000 in gross sales when I took over. Now we’re at $13 to $15 million.”
AJ’s is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 570-662-1700 or visit www.ajsoutdoorpower.com.