The accidental Delphi resident then became part owner of the young wagon manufacturing business by accident, but passed the business on down through the family.
Through the years, the company — whose name has gone from Delphi Wagon Works in the early days, to Delphi Body Works now — went from making wagons for personal use to making school wagons and school buses, then transitioned to making vehicles for rural electric cooperatives, which needed specialized trucks to haul utility building and maintenance equipment.
“That was really a burgeoning business ... because everybody in the country wanted lights,” said Bradshaw. The company got into distributing equipment made by other manufacturers in the electric boom.
It pushed the company to start manufacturing trucks with ladders built onto the back, too. “We were in all of that because REMCs [rural electric membership cooperatives] wanted that,” Bradshaw said.
Distributing utility equipment worked well for the company — until many of its suppliers began moving toward a direct business model, bypassing the “middle man,” companies like Delphi Body Works that bought from a manufacturer and sold to customers.
That’s when the Delphi company refocused on manufacturing, bought one of its suppliers and became a direct seller itself. “You have to find a way to figure how to survive,” said Bradshaw. “It’s not an unusual story.”
Since the 1990s, the company’s primary product has been aerial towers — platforms mounted on hydraulic lifts, to bring workers up to the height of a street light, urban train wire or other elevated piece of equipment. Its workers don’t make the trucks themselves, but manufacture truck bodies, and the lifts they hold, each according to its own specifications.
“We’ve survived for 23 years building our own product, marketing, servicing ... what we’ll be doing 10 years from now, I’m not sure,” commented Bradshaw.