The Family History and Bright Future of Wayside Radiator
Texas radiator repair service Wayside Radiator’s Mark Loe, company President and owner, tells how his father Miguel Loe, Sr., in his early career as a mechanic, became familiar with the workings of radiators and the business surrounding their cleaning and repair. After gaining enough experience, Miguel opened a shop in western Odessa, Texas which he would later move to Midland, naming it “Loe’s Radiator Shop.”
After establishing the business in its new location, Miguel still did not feel satisfied with what he was doing and, after leaving and ultimately selling the shop to his brother, took a position at Wayside Radiator, working there for years before buying the business outright from the retiring owner in the late 1980s. Miguel ran Wayside until 2004 when he turned the business over to his sons Mark and Mike.
Mark reminisces on how far the company has come from the early days in a “freezing cold” 2000-square-foot brick building to now a 10,000-square-foot building and accompanying acreage. He says that a boom in radiator sales led to a considerable surge in the oil field and fracking industries during the mid-2000s, leading to the success of both Wayside and the radiator industry at large. This boom was only briefly interrupted by the 2008 recession before coming back even stronger in 2009 and staying more-or-less steady since.
Wayside concerns itself mainly with radiator repairs and sales. “Anything with an engine has a radiator so it needs to be serviced and repaired,” Mark says. Many jobs require services like aluminum welding manufacturing, diesel particulate filter cleaning and sales, dry ice blasting, fan assemblies and parts, and even mobile radiator repairs on sites like drill rigs. The company has also added a windshield aspect to the business about three years ago, with rock chip repair and window tinting for industrial vehicles.
Mark believes that the years of experience and family history of the business are what separates Wayside from others in its market sector. Great pride is taken in the quality of its work, the turnaround time for customers, and its general understanding of the oil industry. Everyone involved with the business is determined to make Wayside the best in the industry with a focus on how to add more services and find new solutions.
For example, upon realizing that cube radiators had inherent issues in need of improvement, Wayside teamed up with temperature control product provider Thermal Solutions Manufacturing to create the PRISM cooling package. Mark explains that a typical cube radiator has two coolers, while PRISM splits those two in half to create more cooling, allowing for repairs to be done on a piecemeal basis instead of all at once. This gives easier access to technicians to make these repairs and saves customers money.
Despite its continued success, Wayside has maintained a small family firm feel. Mark stresses that this is due to respect and teamwork, an attitude that comes from the top. He credits his administrative staff and the factory line workers, all of whom enjoy taking good care of customers in whatever way possible. Attention is paid to customer service, as many clients appreciate the atmosphere created by the company.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a tremendous slowdown in operations, but many technicians simply did not want to leave, some even offered to cut hours or even pay to stay on and keep working. Mark proudly says that the company kept all its employees successfully but that the level of commitment and selflessness shown by them is indicative of its larger culture.
The heating and cooling industry is changing a lot, as Mark sees it, but it is also continuing to grow significantly. The global heat exchange industry today is worth around $23 billion (up from $17.6 billion in 2020) and the industry has various new electrical appliances and solutions on the horizon that could boost that figure considerably. He observes that radiator shops like Wayside will need to prepare for a shift toward electrical solutions but there are still many products in need of a generator to back up an engine, so oil coolers are certainly not on the way out.
Like a great many companies in today’s market, Wayside is always seeking new employees. Although the team at Wayside is cohesive and hard-working, it can be hard to replace workers when they decide to leave. Mark feels that radiators are “a bit of a dying trade,” and it can be hard to find a good radiator technician who knows the ins and outs of the profession.
On the other hand, it is also becoming increasingly challenging to accommodate Wayside customers and their projects because workshop space is currently at full capacity. The company needs a bigger facility and more equipment, challenges it is currently working to solve, but it must keep up with the oil industry and monitor growth so that this does not happen too fast. As Mark has seen, a company can find itself in a pinch if growth happens too fast, and sometimes, “It is better to stay a small powerhouse.”
In the new year, Wayside will be looking to work on diversifying its offerings. Although it is primarily a radiator repair shop and a heating and cooling transfer business, it wants to be able to add more services and develop the business into a one-stop shop for oil companies. Newer services like the PRISM cooling system are what the company wants to continue expanding, with the idea to get the system on more frack pumps in the oil industry.
The new company building will coincide with launching a new division with three new services and necessitate acquiring both equipment and employees to effectively enact.
Mark identifies Wayside as a faith-based company in all that it does: “We are thankful and blessed [for] how we have been provided for and allowed to grow,” he says. “We have overcome a lot.” He, his family, and his employees continue to remember the sacrifices made by Miguel Loe, Sr. in the early years of the company to set it up for the success it enjoys today.
In all, it could not have happened without loyal clients. Mark recalls how, during his father’s time, a fire destroyed $100,000 worth of inventory, putting the (then-uninsured) business in dire straits. However, thanks to the help of customers and partners coming to the aid of a loyal and trusted supplier, the damages were paid off. This level of loyalty and respect within the radiator industry is one that Wayside continues to cultivate to this day with its track record of effective service and maximizing the customer-first mentality.