Effingham — Odd as it sounds, the origin of Broadway Express becoming a major company in Effingham started at a music festival in Sedalia, Missouri.
Tony Griffith, owner of Broadway Express, had been working at Exxon in the oil business before he was laid off, and went to the Ozark Music Festival in Sedalia, MO in 1974. He met a young truck driver mover, Bob Klaudt, who had a moving truck leased to Bekins Van Lines in Hillside, IL at the event. Klaudt offered him a job as a driver's helper, and he took it.
"That was my first encounter with trucking at $75 per week and all I could eat," Griffith said. As days went by I told Klaudt, "one of these days this truck is going to be mine." Klaudt laughed and said, "Go for it!!!!"
Griffith accompanied Klaudt to California and other states and destinations for the summer as part of Bekins Van Lines Company. On the first trip to California, Tony did Klaudt's paperwork and on the trip back to Texas, he had Tony drive — TONY WAS HOOKED!! Griffith bought the truck three months later.
Griffith then contracted with Bekins Van Lines and through time became one of the top drivers in the entire company. His experience, along with some local friends he hired and contracted to Bekins to drive his truck, ended up starting Broadway Express.
In 1988, Tony purchased the Yellow Freight Terminal on Evergreen Avenue in Effingham, IL and established a regional hub for Bekins specializing in LTL loads (less than a truck load). Bekins operated this hub with dozens of trucks a day — 7 days a week from 1988-1996.
In 40 years, Griffith has moved items for well-known Hollywood celebrities such as Bob Hope and Elizabeth Taylor, Generals in the Air Force including the Chief of Staff, Broadway musicals such as "Showboat" plus the sets for "American Idol" and "X-Factor" with plenty in between.
Broadway Express also moves hospital equipment, gun safes, animatronic dinosaurs and even helicopters.
"The good thing about Broadway Express is we had all of these connections still in place from all of our contacts in the Bekins family that were accustomed to seeing our trucks," Griffith said.
However, "It all goes back to that day in Missouri — thank God for the Ozark Music Festival and Bob Klaudt!" That set the foundation for the company that today specializes in the movement of all sizes of projects, big or small, many in the Effingham area and nationwide. The New York City-esque name and logo came from their constant hauling of shows, displays, art, and musicals into the NYC entertainment arena.
Broadway Express does heavy-duty moves locally as well, such as moving MRI machines for HSHS St. Anthony Hospital or very heavy gun safes from Rural King Supply. Even with some of the more odd items they've moved, it is the ability to move any and everything for a customer.
"We will come out for two pieces or two hundred pieces. We have a broad spectrum. We just don't specialize in one thing," said James Craig of the Local Move Division. "Locally, we may be loading furniture one day and something spectacular the next — like a rare automobile… that is a daily event at Broadway Express."
Broadway Express currently has about 40 trucks out on the road and available from coast to coast. Locally, Broadway Express focuses on moving household goods — from a big house to a small house or vice versa — along with their many other services.
"There is no job too big or too small that we can't do," Craig stated. "We like them all, especially the challenging ones. We want the public to know there is a company right here in Effingham that can and will provide these services."
With this mindset, Broadway Express' business model is they can do it all to accommodate their customer. That is made possible from the experience the staff has accumulated — starting with Tony Griffith sitting in a truck in Sedalia, MO to the present day office staff to Operations Manager, Alan Beard in those 24/7 days, to Gary Beam for his tireless dispatching to James Craig, Vickey Cowger, Angie Byers, Todd Daily, Diana Nuxoll, James Royse, and Rich Stoddard for their enduring support for the company and to our drivers.
"If you take experience and concern for your customers to heart, and always try to do a good job, then you can't fail." Griffith said. "When you provide a service for a customer they can depend on, they know they have the right people coming to do the job."