Dan Wirkkala, president/CEO of Smokey Point Distributing (SPD), has known Jack Belmont and his company, Belmont Enterprises, for 20-plus years. During that time, SPD and Belmont have developed a mutual admiration. And each company has continued to operate according to the right philosophy: putting people first, be it their customers or employees.
Not surprisingly, says Dan, “when there was an opportunity for Jack and his company to become part of SPD, there was a shared thought of ‘let’s do it!’” According to Dan, the two companies’ strengths perfectly complement one another. “We felt Belmont could increase our capabilities in regional glass hauling and that they could benefit from our technological resources, such as our TMS (transportation management system) — not to mention the consolidated purchasing power of Daseke. It’s just a great match, one with a lot of synergy.”
Jack agrees. “SPD is the ideal partner to move our company forward. They’ll take what we’ve built and continue our heritage of great customer service and dedication.”
With 30 trucks operating out of its headquarters in Olympia, WA, Belmont Enterprises is dedicated solely to the glass industry, hauling under an agreement with Cardinal Glass. “I started with one truck back in 1996 when the company gave me an opportunity to haul glass on night deliveries,” recalls Jack. “They were a new business in the area, and I knocked on their door to see if they had a need for transportation. They were receptive. They gave me a shot. So I sold my reefer trailer, bought a flatbed trailer with a roll curtain and started my new operation.”
Some might say it was luck that Jack’s knock on the door back in 1997 was answered, but it fits a pattern of perseverance that has defined his career. Like Dan (who started in sales at SPD at the age of 19), trucking has been in Jack’s blood since an early age. When he was still in high school, Jack told his father that he wanted to get into trucking. “It was something that always interested me,” he recalls. “When I turned 18, I found someone to teach me to drive so I could take my driver’s test.”
After getting his license in 1966, Jack went to college at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX, working toward a BS degree in forestland management. He hauled chickens at night and joined the ROTC. Both decisions helped him pay for college. It was at school that Jack also met Mary Jo — his wife-to-be.
After graduation and a two-year stint of active Army duty, Jack was ready for work. “But I never did use my degree,” he says. “I went back to trucking. Mary Jo and I sold all we had, bought a truck and started team driving for International Transport. We lived in that truck for a year before buying our first house, but Mary Jo stayed with me on the road for those first three years. She’s been my partner from the very start and supportive in all that we’ve done. We’ve been married now for 47 years, with three wonderful daughters and son-in-laws, plus seven grandchildren. We’ve been blessed.”
Throughout those early years, Jack and Mary Jo worked primarily on the East Coast, hauling milk, petroleum products and dry freight. His operation grew from one truck to 15 before the recession in 1991 forced his company, Belmont Enterprises, to dissolve the fleet.
“I was back to one truck and starting over again,” he says. “We moved west to Centralia, WA, and I signed on to haul milk – something I did for five years. I then had the itch to grow, so I started knocking on doors. I made the commitment to knock on three doors every day, looking for opportunities. No one ever slammed the door on me. I was persistent. Then, in 1997, I knocked on the right door with Cardinal. That changed everything. They were looking for someone who was dedicated — someone who would work hard for them. It was my calling.”
And the rest, as they say, was history. As Cardinal grew and expanded by opening new manufacturing locations up and down the West Coast, Jack grew along with them, becoming their go-to dedicated carrier. Loads needed to be moved as far south as California and as far north as British Columbia. However, most of Belmont’s routes stayed within a 150-mile radius of Olympia. And that meant Jack could send his drivers home every night.
In fact, if anyone was pulling late hours, it was Jack. “On-time delivery was crucial for Cardinal, and so were last-minute calls for a load — the ASAP load,” says Jack. “It’s why I continue to hold my CDL.” Now nearing the age of 70, Jack still drives on occasion for Belmont Enterprises. It’s the ultimate in customer service and dedication when the man in charge gets behind the wheel to ensure that all calls for delivery are handled.
Over the years, Jack has invested as much in innovation as he has in customer service. Belmont has refined the art of moving “STOCE” — sheets of clear and coated glass, some measuring more than 8 feet tall and 12 feet long. The company’s patented swivel top tie-down system, with its metal racks mounted on roll-top trailers, eliminates the need for ladders in loading. “It’s safer, more secure and more efficient,” says Jack. “We haul up to 53,000 pounds of glass in each load. This securement system has revolutionized our strap-down process, ensuring safe and breakage-free deliveries.”
Jack plans to stay on as general manager of Belmont Enterprises, but retirement and more family time are both on his horizon. “I’ve had a wonderful career, and it’s not over yet. I know we’re in good hands with Dan and Don Daseke at the helm. Before we signed our deal, I had dinner with Don and Dan. They have a passion for people and doing things right. It’s something the three of us share – we’re all very much alike in how we conduct business. I couldn’t be happier with our partnership and the future of Belmont Enterprises. It’s going to be exciting.”