On September 25th, 2019 at 10:15am, to mark the 50th anniversary of the company, an award was given by Westrac Ltd’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Peter Thiessen, to an exceptionally important guest; Mr. Daniel Plett, considered the the original founder of Westrac Ltd.
As Mr. Plett sat down with Mr. Peter Thiessen, and his wife Mrs. Irene, along with fellow directors Mr. Allan Reimer, and Mr. Erwin Thiessen; he began to reminisce on how it all started in 1968. This was the year Mr. Plett decided to buy the parts section of a multiple-section operation owned by Mr. Martin C Penner, who also held another local business called Koop Sheet Metal. Mr. Plett remembered the details clearly and even noted the fact that repair of alternators and batteries was not included in this sale, since Mr. Penner’s son was educated in fixing alternators. In the year of 1969 Mr. Plett officially opened his business to sell tractor parts. His business was located in the humble corner of a wooden garage, right across the street from the current headquarters of Westrac today. He sold filters, transmission bearings, fuel bars, pistons, sleeves and some more items. Mr. Plett named the business Western Tractor Supply, a small company that would become Westrac Ltd someday.
A few years later Mr. Plett bought a Shell Oil business from Johan Barkman. Furthermore, he added the sale of fuel, mainly diesel. Actually, this fuel side of the business relied on such a small amount that he simply bought it in drums from a gentleman named Klass Reimer.
However, an inspiration was to soon come to Mr. Plett. In the year of 1973, while on a trip to Canada, in Winnipeg, Manitoba he saw a flyer with and advertisement on Vapormatic tractor parts. He saw an opportunity to import parts into Belize himself. He sent a handwritten letter by the post office to this company. Despite the relatively small size of his business, the company was willing to sell parts to him. This would make Vapormatic the first international vendor to sell directly to Western Tractor Supply. In this time, the ordering was all done by letter and the paying had to be done by money draft at the bank. A process that altogether took a month to complete.
By around 1978 Mr. Plett was also buying parts from Guatemala, including the once very well-known Vogue bearings. These items were transported into the Spanish Lookout by trucks that brought feed for the Feed Mills.
After a few years Mr. Plett saw he needed a bigger place for business, than simply the corner of a garage. This was especially true for proper parking space.
He made a land deal with Mr. George Dueck, who lived across the road at the time. The terms of the deal were actually to simply trade places. Once the deal was completed, Mr. Plett built a new concrete building at the location where the main branch still stands today.
To keep the expansion reasonable, Mr Plett recollects that the construction costs were kept to a minimum by borrowing the forms used to build the walls, from Mr. Abram P Dyck. The cost of the new building is estimated to be around $4,500.00. In 1980 the business was officially moved out of the garage to the new building.
A monumental change for Western Tractor Supply happened in March of 1985. Several young and ambitious investors made a deal to purchase 90% of the business. These investors were Mr. Elmer Kornelsen, Mr. Peter Thiessen, Mr. Eldon Plett and Mr. Henry Dueck. At this time Mr Plett kept 10% and the rest was handed over to these young men. At that time the land was already divided from Mr. Plett’s personal yard where he lived and the business location. Mr. Plett remembers his thoughts as he sold his business “I hope they will make it.”
At the time the business was bought from Mr. Plett, the company sold tractor and electrical wiring parts for houses. The new owners kept the tractor parts section but soon sold the electrical wiring section of the business to Mr. Levi Kornelsen, a relative to several of the investors and current owner of Reimer’s Service Center.
Most Tractor parts for Western Tractor Supply were still primarily bought in Belize City. Every week someone went with a pickup truck to Belize City to shop for parts. Some of their preferred supplies were from Hofius, Santos Diaz, United Service (they had bearings and seals) owned by Percy Dyer close to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital, and the Mick Miller brothers. The latter being where they primarily bought gaskets from.
Around 1986, when telegrams were made from Belize City as form of communication, Western Tractor Supply’s young new owners decided to order parts from an international company, Bepco. The reason for this move was that they preferred Bepco's better numbering system. All correspondence with his international vendor in those days, though unimaginable in today’s fast pace communication, was handwritten letters. Through this connection and small beginnings, a strong business tie was formed as both companies shared similar goals. The company Bepco, though they themselves went through high and lows, is still loyally held as a supplier for tractor parts by Westrac Ltd to this day.
Though they were more established in tractor parts the investors say the need to add automotive into the business. Mr. Peter Thiessen vividly recollects the first trip made to Corozal. Mr. Thiessen recalled how he and his wife along with Elmer and his wife traveled in Mr Kornelsen's car and purchased three thousand and eight hundred dollars worth of automotive parts from Vildo Marins and Maya Auto. This type of desire to grab opportunity would lead to them continuing to expand product lines, and eventually take on the bold task of adding locations.
By 1988, the company had eight investors - Mr. Daniel Plett, Mr. Henry Dueck, Mr. Peter Thiessen, Mr. Eldon Plett, Mr. Erwin Thiessen, Mr. Elmer Kornelsen, and Mr. Leo Barkman.
In March of 1989, Mr. Otto Reimer, one of the few persons who owned a good camera back then, was hired to take a picture of the Shareholders. With Mr. Daniel Plett being unable to attend the photoshoot at the time, seven of the eight shareholders were photographed.
Proudly Serving Belize Since 1969!