When Paul Schuyler and his wife, Hertha, founded T&S Sales in 1960, it was housed in a small office in the old Stockyards building on East Boone Avenue, a block from the current location at 3905 East Boone in Spokane, Wash.
They would be proud to see what their business venture has grown into over the ensuing six decades.
Starting mostly with steel buildings, the company soon changed their focus over to grain bins. Harvey, Paul’s son, joined the company full time in 1968 after earning a degree in hotel and restaurant management from Washington State University (WSU). He took over management from his father in 1971.
Harvey decided that since they were selling and installing grain bins, they should sell the augers that go with them. They started out with Westgo/Cheyenne, and when that company went out of business, they switched over to Westfield augers, still one of their main lines. They operated an additional outlet in Othello for 30 years until unforeseen medical issues required the company to close Othello and expand the Spokane operation. Harvey’s son, Robert Schuyler, worked at the business as a youth and joined full time after earning a degree in geographic information systems from the University of Washington. He is now sole owner/manager after Harvey passed away last year.
“Originally, I was studying computer science, with dreams of a career like Paul Allen or Bill Gates,” said Schuyler. “Then, I switched over to urban planning and design. Finally, I realized I didn’t want to spend most of my time working in a cubicle. Coming back to Spokane to work in the family business was the answer.
“Of course, when you are fresh out of college, you have all these grand ideas, and I thought I would be able to come in here and just take over,” he recalled. “I am so glad I had the opportunity to work with my father for 15 years. He taught me so much about the business and customer service. It was really an amazing thing to be able to work for my mentor who also happened to be my dad.”
The grain storage business has evolved over the years, along with the size of the farms and the harvesting equipment. A single combine bulk tank is large enough to fill multiple, outdated, two-ton trucks. Grain carts and semitrucks are the new norm. Older six and eight-inch grain augers are also now obsolete for most applications.
“We sold and built a tremendous number of grain bins in the 1970s and 1980s,” Schuyler said. “Virtually all of those were built for 2-ton or tandem-axle trucks. Those bins and augers simply don’t work for modern-day harvesting. Many of the smaller bins built in the past are now used for seed or feed storage or for specific, identity-preserved products.”
On-farm storage can help farmers avoid lines waiting at the elevator, and it can be useful for segregating or mixing grain for quality purposes.
Farmers are now installing larger bins with 10- or 13-inch augers that move the grain much faster. Some bins are being retrofitted with larger auger systems. A 13-inch auger can unload a semitruck in about half the time it takes a 10-inch unit.
“Farmers can’t afford to have combines sitting in the field waiting for a grain cart or truck to come unload. The newest combines can harvest a quarter section of grain in a day, and they need to be running nonstop,” Schuyler said.
T&S mostly does business with farmers, but they have completed some larger projects for grain cooperatives. They have built bins up to 50,000 bushels. When they sell the materials for 500,000 bushel bins, they contract those jobs out. They cover Washington, Northern Idaho, Oregon and Montana. Schuyler has expanded their business using the internet.
Along with Scafco Grain Systems and Sioux Steel Company, T&S Sales carries Westfield augers, Batco belt conveyors and Walinga grain vacuum product lines. Sioux Steel Company recently bought out Scafco, but will continue to maintain the same product lines for their farm clients.
T&S employs four, full-time employees, plus a bin construction foreman who works as a private contractor. Schuyler has a positive view of the future of the grain industry in the Pacific Northwest (PNW).
“Our region has forward-looking and intelligent farmers. Their choices in crop rotations and in finding premium niche markets for their products are effective. Their promotion and marketing efforts domestically and worldwide are successful. I believe the wheat and other grains we grow here in the PNW rank right up there with anywhere else in the world. The success of our growers backs that up.
“Our farmers are not only innovative, they grow a diverse, high quality selection of crops, and they use effective conservation practices to protect the precious soil resource. The world population continues to grow, and people need good quality food products that we can provide,” he explained.
Schuyler is tied to the office more closely now without his father in the business.
“I’ve hinted to my wife that she could help out here in the office, but she hasn’t taken me up on it yet,” he said.
Schuyler and his wife, Michelle, have three children. Stella is 3, Lincoln is 7 and Rylan is 19 and in his second year at WSU, following in his grandfather’s footsteps as a Cougar. This provided the opportunity to resurrect a special family sports wager between father and son, carrying on an annual bet that Robert used to have with Harvey. Both were avid sports fans, and there was a lot of trash talk about the Apple Cup. They would bet on the outcome every football season.
Rylan has started off 1-0, with the Cougars defeating the Huskies in Seattle this past year after several years of losses. Don’t worry, Robert, there is always next year.
For more information about T&S Sales, visit their website at nwgrainaugers.com.