Janesville32.3°

B.R. Amon & Sons of Elkhorn shutting down after 90 years

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staff, Gazette
May 17, 2013

— The auctioneer’s voice carried to the top of the gravel pit off Potter Road Thursday afternoon.

Below, amid rows of hulking machinery and piles of roof shingles and sand at the B.R. Amon & Sons asphalt plant, a 90-year-old Elkhorn company was selling itself off.

At its peak, B.R. Amon & Sons employed about 130 people.

In the past year, however, the company has been accused of failing to pay its subcontractors, and an employee union filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against it in federal court at the end of March.

The bankruptcy case was dismissed but only because B.R. Amon & Sons went into receivership in April.

As it goes out of business, the company held the first round of a two-day auction liquidating its assets Thursday, selling off crushers, loaders, conveyers and pit machinery.

Cars, trucks, tools and shop equipment are on the auction block today at another outdoor sale near the company’s headquarters on Highway 11.

B.R. Amon & Sons will then have to liquidate the property it holds, including 14 pits it either owns or rents, said the company’s receiver, attorney Ronald M. Carlson.

“I’m in the process of winding down the operations of the company,” Carlson said.

As B.R. Amon & Sons’ former competitors inspected the company’s equipment Thursday, the auctioneer called out bids from a box on the back of a red pickup truck that crept from machine to machine.

Conveyors were going for a few thousand dollars apiece.

Company owner Tom Amon watched the auction from a tan folding chair.

The construction industry has been particularly slow to recover from the recession, and that forced his company under, he said.

“If you talk to any contractor here, they’ll tell you the same thing: Contracting is very tough, right now,” Amon said. “It’s hard on everybody.”

Amon knew the company wasn’t going to last, he said. Neither of his two children got into the construction business, which meant he had no one to pass it on to.

As the industry turned sour, the day his company would fold approached, he said.

“I’ve known that it was going to come for some time,” he said. “The recession kind of forced it a little quicker than I wanted to, but the end result was going to be the same.”

At the other auction site, at N2950 Highway 11, interested buyers got an early view of items from the company’s shop.

They checked out pickup trucks and front loaders, as well as trailers loaded with wrenches, screwdrivers, sledgehammers and just about any other tool you could want.

The two-day auction is expected to bring in $3 million to $4 million, Amon said.

B.R. Amon & Sons was going to be the developer for a controversial gravel pit in the town of Milton, which was approved in March.

Landowner Scott Traynor said he will look for a new developer, but he otherwise declined to comment.

Back in Elkhorn, former shop foreman Dave VanLue wore a B.R. Amon & Sons hat on the gravel pit’s rocky floor.

VanLue started working for the company in 1971, spending time as a mechanic before moving to the shop, he said.

Most of his former co-workers have found new jobs, VanLue said, but he plans to retire.

Although he said a day like Thursday was “inevitable,” VanLue said it wasn’t easy watching the machines he worked with for four decades sold off to the highest bidder.

“It’s a hard thing to see,” he said.



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