Kramer Tree Specialists—Turning Leaves into Profit

July 2012—In the fall of 2007 Joe Kramer, founder and owner of Kramer Tree Specialists in West Chicago, IL, had an idea. He noticed that one of the western suburbs where he had a long-term relationship, was struggling to get the leaves collected in a timely fashion. He knew that this was a job that the community really disliked because they were not really equipped to handle this once a year chore. Joe thought he could offer a solution and relieve the community of the burden. So, in 2008 he proposed that he be awarded a contract to perform the leaf collection and, not surprisingly, he won the contract.

The question was, where was he going to get the equipment he needed to fulfill his new obligation? The first call he made went to Joe Bonnell of Bonnell Industries, Inc. in Dixon, IL. At the time, Bonnell was a dealer for a well-known line of leaf collection equipment so an order was placed for four units to be delivered prior to the 2008 leaf collection season. “The manufacturer over committed and under-delivered,” states Joe Bonnell who was making daily calls to the manufacturer.

“Joe really stepped up and made sure we were not left holding the bag,” said Joe Kramer. “If Joe had not been proactive on our behalf it might have been the end of our leaf collection experiment.” The equipment was delivered with no time to spare and other communities took notice of how well Kramer performed this thankless task and several new customers were added to the roster. It was at this point that Joe Bonnell decided that he could build a product superior to what was currently being offered by his supplier. So, he set about designing and building a product that incorporated some specific design features that he and Joe Kramer recognized would make the machines more functional, productive, and in one instance, more safe for the operator.

“Joe Bonnell is a man of his word because he said he would build the machines and he did. He was also very open to input on how the machines could be improved and we worked closely with Joe and his engineers to get it right the first time,” stated Joe Kramer. “While I was very impressed with the first Titan Leaf machines, as is almost always the case with newly developed equipment, we had some issues that required sorting out. If we had an issue someone from Bonnell would be on the spot to see that we had a minimum of downtime,” he continued.

Bonnell and Kramer worked on areas such as ergonomics, which addressed how the operator sits relative to the controls and to the leaves on the ground. “We found we could make a small adjustment in the positioning of the seat and it really improved the strain-level operators were experiencing by minimizing the amount of head travel necessary,” said Kramer. “The big safety step we took is that we noticed that when we were collecting leaves on a busy street the operator was exposed to oncoming traffic which was very dangerous. Bonnell ‘reversed’ the sides of the machine so now we pull the machine facing traffic which is a much safer situation.”

“If my experience is the norm I can understand why the Titan Leaf products from Bonnell are really gaining acceptance in the market,” added Joe Kramer. “We’ve had very few issues and when we have had an issue it is resolved quickly. We’ve never missed a deadline on our contracts.”

For more information on Bonnell’s Titan Leaf Solutions line you can visit Many different models are available to suit your organization’s needs such as fully self-contained units, pull-behind units, and models with rear-collection hoses.

Story by Chris Kuecker and Rich Collins