Photos by Gina Turner
What do a human-hamster-ball, Bigfoot, and a general tool rental company have in common? LoneStar Outdoor Power Equipment. The dream of Ken Krieger and goat rancher Ryan Stelck, who moved from Ohio and Canada respectively, brought them to Texas to service the needs of owners of major oil pipelines, local general contractors, and the weekend warrior tackling projects around the house. This company spends time building relationships with their consumers, whether serving a small business owner or their larger clients such as the Texas Department of Criminal Justice or Sam Houston State University. After opening their successful location in Onalaska, Texas, in 2014, they decided to bring their wares to Huntsville in September 2017.
This general tool rental company rents out and sells floor sanders, skid steers, excavators, bulldozers, backhoes, and more, including a human-hamster-ball. “We try to have fun with everything that we do. When we see something cool, we just go for it and buy it. If we like it, somebody else is going to like it, too!” Krieger shared with a smile. Stehlk and Krieger complement each other as business partners. “We are ying and yang. He is the business/ human resources/ processing and management side, while I am the sales and marketing side of our company. We have found that, as complete polar opposites, we work amazingly together.”
As a patron entering the storefront at 6024 S State Hwy 75 S, many brand names will automatically be recognized: Yanmar, Gravely, and Toro, just to name a few. Their website boasts that LoneStar has “the right tools for your job!” “Yanmar was a major purchase for us. They have been around for over 100 years, and we were very blessed to get ahold of that brand out here,” Ken highlighted. Although they sell new products, they also rent out equipment and vend used products as well. “We like to keep our rental fresh. When people drive up, they don’t realize how large we are; they only see a couple of skid steers or excavators. We actually have 20 excavators and 18 skid steers. At any given time, there are only three of them at each of our locations. We have a constant rotating fleet we like to keep fresh for folks. We know how we maintain our equipment. We take care of our stuff! That makes it easy to sell! People use it and understand that it works right. We don’t like drama. If something is going to keep breaking down, it goes immediately to auction,” Krieger explained. “We love the fact that it is easy to take care of people when you have good equipment to sell them. We have customers who originally come in to rent from us and then transfer over when they see the products in the store. The people who rent from us know us, such as the lawn and garden businesses. Then, they start telling others about us. The spillover may start on the rental side, move to sales, and also see us servicing equipment or helping people obtain parts that they need to repair their machines. Rental put us on the map in Huntsville, and it has taken off from there.”
Although LoneStar possesses a large inventory, the employee roster is small. Krieger and Stelck don’t simply teach the young employees about heavy pieces of machinery; they pour life lessons into every member of staff. “We love turning kids into somebody. We have zero turnover. We are a fun place to work. We are laid back. A student might come to us in high school, work with us until they graduate, and then go on to become police officers, nurses, highline workers, etc. The young people who work here might wear the hats of loader/unloader, mechanic, technical support, delivery, customer service, and more,” Ken commented. “These young people are not afraid to get their hands dirty. They will strap on their boots to pressure wash products upon return or dig out the mud from equipment.”
LoneStar Outdoor Power Equipment goes beyond offering tools for contractors, etc.; this community-minded institution supports their neighbors in need. After COVID threw the first curveball of 2020, a tornado tore through Onalaska. Although the path of the twister passed about a mile north of the store in this small town, it impacted many friends and family in this close-knit population. LoneStar closed the Huntsville location for a couple of days and turned its focus to serve the needs of this rural community. This institution not only reaches out during disasters but, in varying ways, they also support other community organizations. Ken serves on the board of the Tu-Mile Sportsmen’s Association; they have contributed to Habitat for Humanity, and also sponsor a young local, rising rodeo star, Rhody Niles.
About every other Saturday, Kieger records a Facebook Live Event called Saturday Spotlight. He will share about varying pieces of equipment and services they provide. They also commit to posting to Facebook at least five times each day. “This past Fourth of July, I was recording a video early in the morning. One of our contractors took a freeze frame of part of the recording where I was trying to catch my breath, and my eyes were kind of closed. He produced an entire article about a man who was accosted by Big Foot in the woods. He taped it to the window so I would see it when I came to work the next day. I published it on my Facebook. So, now the metal cutout of Big Foot looks over my shoulder while I am at work every day,” Krieger laughingly relayed.
If you are a contractor looking for quality equipment, an urbanite needing machines to maintain a weekend getaway, a small lawn and garden landscaper, or just an average person tackling projects around the home, LoneStar Outdoor Power Equipment will meet your needs. Whether it is sales, rentals, repairs, or parts–this company will meet your needs, laugh with you, and become a true neighbor.