Hooked on Stellar Hooklifts for More Than 30 Years


When it comes to a piece of equipment’s lifespan, many business owners are happy if they can get a few good seasons out of it. But when a truck withstands more than 30 years of year-round work and still runs as well as it did on day one — that’s virtually unheard of.

Just ask Calvin Douglas, owner of Douglas Small Engine Repair, and Don Ventling, president and founder of Landform. Both Douglas and Ventling bought Stellar® Hooklifts back in the 1990s, and they’re both still using those same hooklifts in their daily operations.

Best-in-class versatility, efficiency — and longevity

In business since 1983, Douglas Small Engine Repair is a lawnmower and landscaping equipment repair company in Rutherford County, Tennessee. In the late 1980s, Douglas noticed that lawnmowers were getting bigger and heavier, and he needed a solution to make picking up, hauling and delivering his customers’ mowers and equipment easier. After all, some of the equipment he transports can tip the scales at 1,000 to 1,500 lbs. Plus, most times when he picks up the mowers, they are disabled and not running, so he needed a solution that could be maneuvered through crowded city streets and in tight spaces like backyards. Hauling a trailer behind a truck simply wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Douglas first became acquainted with Stellar at the International Lawn and Garden Show (now called Equip Expo) in 1989. It was there that he met Stellar President David Zrostlik and put the wheels in motion to acquire a hooklift. After Stellar helped him find the perfect hooklift for his needs, Douglas purchased his Stellar Hooklift in 1990 — which means it’s now 32 years old.

1990 Stellar Hooklift still in use today.
1990 Stellar Hooklift. Flatbed on the ground.

Douglas appreciates that his hooklift allows one person to do the job that otherwise would require two or three employees. His favorite benefit is the ease of use of the hooklift, which allows him to pick up and drop off equipment effortlessly and efficiently.

“Picking up the mowers and equipment that are disabled makes my job so much easier,” says Douglas. “All while staying in the cab, one person can simply drag the broken-down equipment onto the bed by letting it down, where it would otherwise take two or three of us to push it onto a trailer.

“Every time I let that bed down, I wish I had a dollar for everyone who says, ‘Wow, I really like that,’” continues Douglas. “It gets a lot of great comments from people.”

To this day, Douglas uses the hooklift three to four times a week and more during the busy season. Of course, he knows proper maintenance is key to helping his hooklift run as efficiently as it can and making it last as long as possible.

“I grease and lubricate my hooklift on a regular basis, but there’s not a lot of maintenance to it,” says Douglas. “I’ve replaced one cylinder in the last 20 years and that was it. There was also a product upgrade in the ‘90s on the control switch that Stellar improved from the original switch system. In both instances, the parts were readily available, and the service and support were exceptional. This has been a trouble-free experience for me.

“It’s a good piece of equipment and I’ve been satisfied with it,” continues Douglas. “If anyone ever asks me, I always tell them about Stellar.”

Four seasons. One hooklift. Endless versatility.

Founded in 1988 by Don Ventling, Landform of Fairfield, Ohio, stays busy all year long. In spring and summer, their 12-person crew is busy with mulching, mowing, pruning, weed control and more. In fall, they do leaf cleanup and landscaping, and in winter, they focus on snow and ice relief services. They primarily serve commercial clients, institutions and government agencies.  

Ventling bought his first Stellar Shuttle Hooklift in 1993 after seeing his brother’s Shuttle Hooklift. He knew right away he wanted a Stellar Hooklift, too.

1990 Stellar Hooklift close-up of it raising.

“At that time, I needed a truck that would handle a lot of different jobs and serve a lot of different purposes since I was a one-man show,” says Ventling. “The Stellar Shuttle looked like a good option for one truck that could tackle many things.

“I didn’t even consider other hooklifts outside of Stellar’s,” continues Ventling. “My brother bought one from an auction that had a Chevy truck with a Stellar Shuttle on it, and I fell in love with the concept. I knew the Stellar Shuttle was what I wanted because that’s what I was used to seeing.”

Ventling’s hooklift has exceeded his expectations. “It’s like having another person on our team,” he says. “It has basically replaced several trucks due to its versatility and functionality. One guy can go out with just a truck bed loaded with material and equipment and drop the bed off, do his work, load everything back up, put the bed back up on the truck and go. The functionality of this one truck is equivalent to several trucks — it reduces labor and increases productivity.”

Much like Douglas’s hooklift, Ventling’s hooklift has required minimal upgrades and repairs over the years. “We’ve put it on a different chassis and replaced pumps and one tilt cylinder, but those were the only parts in 30 years that I’ve had to deal with,” says Ventling. “Then we repainted it as well. We still use the hooklift daily, and we couldn’t be happier with it.”

The importance of choosing wisely

Without a doubt, the quality of a company’s equipment is crucial to its success. It takes on the toughest jobs and speeds up processes that would otherwise take much longer to finish manually or with inferior equipment. Given the equipment’s importance to a company’s operations, it’s essential for business owners to choose a manufacturer known for rugged and reliable equipment that stands the test of time and is backed by exceptional service and support. The stories above are just two examples of how Stellar fits that bill.

Want to learn more about hooklifts? Check out our 100+ Different Uses for a Hooklift article, get in touch or find a distributor.