[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank. If you are interested in being our next community partner, contact Mark Eckert at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
NEW MIDDLETOWN — Did you ever wander the Canfield Fair and wonder where those amazing food concession displays came from?
There's a good chance that whether you attend a major fair, concert or any major outdoor event across the country, many of those concession trailers have roots in the Mahoning Valley.
Hitch-Hiker Mfg. is celebrating its first half-century with hopes to continue to evolve the amusement industry with quality concession trailers.
Fred Swartz started Hitch-Hiker Mfg. in 1969. The New Middletown company is now operated by his son, Jeff Swartz, who serves as president and head of sales, and his wife, Holly Swartz, the company's vice president and head of public relations.
“Over time, we've innovated and brought what [Fred Swartz] has done into a national business that elevated way above what originally started as smaller wood and aluminum food trailers,” Holly Swartz said.
"Now they're completely state of the art and in demand nationwide."
Hitch-Hiker Mfg. completes its trailers from top to bottom, and customers come from all over the United States to inspect, hook up and transport each custom product. Once the Hitch-Hiker Mfg. trailer is built, the customer just needs to provide the supplies needed and people inside to work it.
According to Holly Swartz, business stays consistent throughout the year. When some outdoor amusement events slow down for the winter months, Hitch-Hiker Mfg. is prepping for markets on the West Coast in places like California and Texas.
Hitch-Hiker Mfg. began as an economy line of trailers serving a high volume of local consumers for an affordable price, but as the technology advanced and the business grew, it took its product to the next level.
Unlike food trucks built for low volume venues, Hitch-Hiker Mfg. concession trailers are better suited for established amusement vendors who are looking to take their product to the next level in markets like concerts, rodeos and state fairs, Holly Swartz said.
“What happened over the years was the demand became where [customers] wanted something that was more durable, something that was going to last longer, that they could pass down a generation or hold their value. So our trailers evolved to what it is today,” she explained.
One of Hitch-Hiker Mfg.’s goals is to help amusement vendors expand their businesses, creating rewarding customer relationships.
“The equipment that we have and the trailers that we build are actually specifically and intentionally built for high volume,” Holly Swartz said.
“We set benchmarks all the time for what we do to help our customers better their business. So it's a really neat partnership that we have with our customers,” she added.
In the company’s 50th year, Hitch-Hiker Mfg. has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. As its website states: "Hitch-Hiker Mfg. has led the industry by providing quality products and innovations ... and intends to lead the way for the decades to come.”