At a glance

Charleston Trailer

LOCATION: 4754 Franchise St., North Charleston

OWNERS: Rod and Maggie Nielsen

SPECIALTY: Trailer building, parts and repairs

EMPLOYEES: Six, with plans to grow

WEBSITE: www.charlestontrailer.com

A few years back, Rod Nielsen owned a furniture store in Mount Pleasant where he used enclosed trailers to make deliveries to customers’ homes and businesses.

As the business grew, he and wife Maggie invested in other trailers but, in time, maintenance became an issue.

“We couldn’t find anyone reliable to service the trailers,” Rod said.

His wife added, “We wanted them serviced in a timely manner at a fair price.”

Seeing an unfilled need, they decided to sell the furniture store and open a trailer repair business in 2012 called Charleston Trailer.

In addition to selling parts, the North Charleston company repairs all kinds of trailers for boaters, landscapers, contractors and anyone else who tows items behind a vehicle.

“We service anything but horse trailers,” Rod Nielsen said, adding they didn’t care for the smell.

In 2013, the 3,000-square-foot Franchise Street firm started selling trailers made by other companies. Last year alone, the company sold 95 pieces of hauling equipment and serviced an untold number of others.

After working for nearly three years — sometimes practically rebuilding a trailer for a customer — the couple decided to begin manufacturing the company’s own trailers out of aluminum — not steel with galvanized coating, which tends to corrode. They also stopped selling trailers made by other vendors.

Growth afloat

Since April 1, when they started making trailers in a 7,200-square-foot warehouse near the service shop, they’ve sold 40 of their own and added another employee to keep up with demand. Another one or two workers could be added over the next 12 months and a third might be hired in the service and retail department.

“We’ve grown 100 percent every year since we started,” said Rod Nielsen, a New Zealand native who has boated his entire life.

While the rising economy probably played a role in some of the firm’s growth, he said he believes it’s the service that makes a difference.

“People ask, and we do it. When we tell people their trailer will be ready, it’s ready,” he said.

Possibly helping trailer sales as well are more buoyant boat sales in improving economic conditions. The National Marine Manufacturers Association projects boat sales could rise 5-7 percent this year after climbing 6.4 percent in 2014, when 171,500 new powerboats sold nationwide.

Serving the market

Charleston Trailer does not sell its hand-made trailers to dealers, and it doesn’t ship them either. Trailers custom made on site must be paid for in advance and picked up on site. And for the next couple of years, they will be made only for boats.

The price can run from $1,650 to $10,000, depending on the size of the boat. It can take from one to 14 days to construct a trailer.

The company also will go to customers’ homes to measure boats if they can’t bring boat trailers to the business.

“People can have really nice boats, but their trailers are sometimes falling apart,” Nielsen said. “People will spend money on boats but not trailers until a wheel comes off.”

Sometimes trailers need so much work done, it costs more to repair than the trailer’s purchase price. “So why not just buy another trailer?” he quipped.

When making trailers, the firm buys parts from different suppliers, including aluminum beams, axles, tires, lights, nuts and bolts. The beams then can be shaped with a special hydraulic machine to the boat’s design.

Trailers are made upside down, and generally one at a time.

Dave Fissell, who worked for a similar company in Florida, is on the front line at Charleston Trailer.

He came on board in March to help the Nielsens set up for their trailer-building business. “We got the kinks worked out and have been moving pretty well since then,” Fissell said.

In the not-too-distant future, at the rate the business is growing, the Nielsens hope to combine the retail, service and manufacturing operations on one site.

“We want to stay in this area,” Maggie said. “It’s central to everything.”

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.