Seventy-five years ago, 24-year old Alden Nussbaum had a dream of creating a company that put faith and family first. So in The Autumn of 1945, he took a leap and bought Si Steidinger’s existing trucking business and the authority to deliver freight between Fairbury and Bloomington, Illinois.
It was only one truck, a simple 1935 Ford straight truck. They didn’t have a huge hub, just a modest three-dock facility in Fairbury and a basement office in their family home. But Alden forged ahead, believing that “if you take care of your customers and employees, everything else will take care of itself.”
People and family first, right from the beginning
Back in those beginning days, Alden’s wife, Tillie, was Nussbaum’s first and only dispatcher. Her life was quite busy answering the phone, recording pick-ups, and taking care of their young family. But they made it work, balancing the stress of a start-up with the demands of everyday life. Within two years, their hard work started to pay off. Alden had added seven tractors, eight trailers, and his brother Bryon as a business partner.
Brent Nussbaum, Nussbaums’ current CEO, recalls how hard his dad worked in those early days. “My father was a visionary. He was very driven and had a lot of passion. I was one of seven kids, and we figured out that if we wanted to see dad, we’d go to work with him. He’d let us drive tow motors. Then, we graduated to trucks in the parking lot. Once in a while, he’d occasionally let us drive a beat-up pickup truck that we could spin some rocks with if we had enough power. I ate, breathed, and slept trucking. I just loved it.”
Alden’s hard work ethic also trickled down to his employees, but they knew it wasn’t without reward. In fact, Don Corkhill, one of Nussbaum’s first drivers once said that “Alden expected dedication and hard work from his employees, but in return, he was always there for us.”
Brent echoes that statement, recalling how Alden handled the company and his employees when the economy was tight. “My dad was the type of person that he never wanted to lay anyone off. He wanted to make sure everybody was taken care of. I can remember an instance when I was younger and times got slow. He sent a couple of his employees over to paint our house. He wanted to make sure they didn’t lose a paycheck. He always felt if you take care of your people everything else will take care of itself.”
Today, Brent and the leadership at Nussbaum continue that tradition in how they run the company. “We talk about that today in the sense that if we take care of our people, they’ll take care of our customers, and our customers will take care of us. If you treat people well, they’ll refer other good people. It helps you build a culture that is unstoppable when it comes to creativity, integrity, and innovation.”
In an industry with really high driver turnover, this philosophy was and continues to be what sets Nussbaum apart.
“We’re always asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to treat our people better and provide for them in a way that we don’t have that kind of turnover?’” shares Brent. “We’ve been told by our drivers, ‘You guys really do take care of us. You give us great equipment to drive. You listen to us. We can give you feedback, and we can talk to you.’ They also know if we say we’re going to get you home every week, we’re going to get you home.”
Story after story shows the legacy that extends for generations
When Alden started Nussbaum seventy-five years ago, we doubt he knew how powerful his philosophy would be in shaping the Nussbaum we know today. His legacy has touched so many lives. Their stories are entwined with ours. Their reach is beyond imaginable. And their impact can and will be felt for generations to come.
“I’ve had numerous people send me emails. We get them almost weekly,” shares Brent. “One lady, in particular, was saying, ‘You know, I got up one morning and I was just totally devastated. My husband had told me the night before that he wanted to leave. I was driving on the interstate and pulled up beside one of your trucks. On it was the phrase, celebrating faith and family. I sensed in that moment that God was telling me it was going to be okay.’”
Here are a few more stories from some of Nussbaum’s current, long-term, and retired employees about the impact Nussbaum has made in their lives and in the lives of the people they’ve met:
“We touch the lives we reach across this county.”
Adrienne Riel, Driver
Nussbaum Driver, 3 years
I was driving up US-30 across rural Indiana one hot afternoon. Just outside the small town of Hanna, I spotted a few women sitting around a table at a campground pool. As I sailed past, one of them noticed my truck, lifted her arm high in the air, and waved it back and forth to me. Maybe she just really likes trucks, but several others had just gone by ahead of me as they do there all day long. She recognized Nussbaum. I didn’t know who she was or how she was connected to us, but I felt her friendly wave. It reminded me that we’re not just another trucking company, we’re a family, and we touch the lives we reach across this country.
“Intentionality runs through its tapestry.”
Lisa Burton, Customer Account Coordinator
Nussbaum Employee for 2 years
I have been with Nussbaum less than two years, and the one thing that stands out to me is the thread of intentionality that runs through the tapestry of this organization. Some examples for me are: how we openly put God first, how we take care of our employees (time off, great benefits, how we handled COVID), how we create work relief and family-building activities, our strong work ethic modeled from the top down, our professional and fun culture, and how we are always looking for challenge and improvement as a company.
I have enjoyed working here and consider myself blessed. I LOVE working with the CAC team. It is an amazing group—supportive, helpful, funny, and all about the food.
“35 years of friendships that remain today.”
Judy Kreiter, Retired
Nussbaum Employee for 35 years
It was a privilege to work at Nussbaum for 35 years. I built friendships with coworkers and customers many that remain today. It’s always fun to run into some, and then our stories begin to flow. There have been so many changes over the years. To name a few – dress codes, changes in dispatching, playing pranks on each other, all the birthday songs, and marching around the office singing. Brian Cannon always thought he was about to die every week – thank goodness for “nurse” Vicky Brown. My family and I were blessed many times from the Nussbaum family. Thank you!
“My wife was able to stay home with our six kids.”
Donnie Bazzell, Retired
Nussbaum Driver 34 years
I drove a truck for 53 years. Thirty-four of those years were at Nussbaum. I remember making 25 to 30 stops on each delivery and making about 15 pickups every day. Though the workday was long, I enjoyed my time at Nussbaum. Alden and Tillie were good Christian people to work for, and Alden was a good man – honest, and he treated you right. So many people respected him. They could see that he was different than normal.
I drove a day cab and often had to navigate Chicago, wiggling into skinny alleys, backing down dead ends in residential areas, and always perfecting my blind-side backing. While I was home most nights, I also had to go where other trucks couldn’t fit. I always tell people that I backed up more than I drove forward.
Brent Nussbaum also rode with me a few times when he was in high school or right out of high school. We were making deliveries in Springfield, and everything had to be unloaded by hand. I’d stop, get out, and turn around, and Brent would be nowhere in sight. But he hadn’t run away; he’d just gone across the way to get a sandwich. He always helped me out, but as a high school boy, he was always hungry and grabbing something to eat when we’d stop.
I enjoyed my time at Nussbaum. It was a good job, and I was able to take care of my family. My wife was able to stay at home with our six kids. I also got to work with three of my brothers!
“They helped me grow my career and family!”
Calvin Foster, Driver
Nussbaum Driver 7 years
Back in July 2014, my wife and I were trying to get pregnant. There were lots of doctor appointments and prayers. At the same time, I was still trying to stay busy at work and balance home time. I decided to run over a weekend, so Brian Cannon went to bat for me for a CAT engine load out of Seguin, TX, to somewhere in South Carolina. I was very excited to get the extra miles. While I was getting loaded, my wife called and said, ‘You’re coming home this weekend, right?’ I explained to her the load I got, and she said, ‘Noooooo! You NEED to come home this weekend.’ Well, I called Garrie in dispatch and explained my dilemma, and he started laughing and said, ‘Hang on.’ A few minutes later, he called me back, laughing, and said, ‘Brian can get you an extra day on the South Carolina load if you promise to name your baby after him!’ That weekend was a success. I got to South Carolina on time, and nine months later, Carter Foster was born March 31, 2015. Sorry, Brian, I didn’t keep my end of the deal!
“I could easily make it home for my kids’ games.”
Dan Keith, Retired Owner-Operator
Nussbaum Driver 30 years
Most of the time I drove for Nussbaum, I only ran 13 states. I enjoyed easily making it home for my kids’ games or swinging by my house to put them down for bedtime when I was nearby.
I still enjoy coming back to Nussbaum. Not for running loads, but to fish the pond with my grandkids.
One of my most memorable stories on the road was a shattered windshield from a turkey that survived the impact. It sat on my spiderwebbed windshield, rested for a while, and then hopped off and went on its merry way. I still have the photos to prove it!
“32 years and still going strong!”
Nussbaum Driver for 32 years
I’ve been driving for Nussbaum for 32 years and am still going strong. Though it seems like nothing has stayed the same since I took my first load for Nussbaum in 1988, I still enjoy life on the road. One thing that hasn’t changed much is skinny, tight docks – especially in Chicago.
In the beginning, I drove regionally and kept to a 400-mile radius of home. It may have only been for 8 or 9 hours of sleep, but it was nice to get home during the week every now and again.
“It was the best decision he and I ever made!”
Sharon Kelson (late driver Bud Kelson’s wife)
Nussbaum Driver for 31 years
If something wasn’t going the way it should, Alden could call you in his office, offer a reprimand, then get up, shake your hand, and act like it was forgotten immediately. He was a good man who treated everyone equally. Alden actually sought out Bud while he was working at a service station. He told Bud, ‘Come work for me.’ Bud refused, saying that he didn’t know how to drive a truck. But Alden pursued. He said ‘Start driving and backing a truck around, and then come work for me.’ Bud did, and it was the best decision he and I ever made.
Bud started at Nussbaum in 1963 and retired in 1994 (31 years) only to continue driving a school bus for ten more years before officially retiring. For 25 years, he ran mostly in the Chicago area – including downtown, and loved it. He made friends with lots of workers that he delivered to downtown. Bud never knew a stranger, and a lot of his new friends came down to fish Lake Bloomington with him, bringing their families along for the weekend.
Nussbaum was a great place for him to work. There were lots of connections there. We all felt like family. Everybody knew everyone else. I also remember Tillie’s delicious cooking at the picnics at Miller Park and enough cinnamon bread to feed an army. She even made all of the ice cream toppings for the ice cream bar at the picnics.
“True positive dedication to its employees!”
Jason Cintron, Driver
Nussbaum Driver 4 years
It is such a great feeling to be part of a group that has overcome the challenges of a regularly and rapidly changing industry for 75 years. More importantly, Nussbaum has done so with high moral standards and true positive dedication to the employees. Here is to another 75 years.
“I loved all the people there!”
Phil Braker, (Former) VP Operations
Nussbaum Employee for many years
Working at Nussbaum was a wonderful experience for me. I was always treated extremely well and loved all the people there. Congratulations on 75 years!
“Their genuine care for people has been a key factor in their success!”
Bill Wettstein, CFO
Nussbaum employee for 22 years
Getting trained by our professional drivers to earn a CDL was a highlight of my time at Nussbaum. The drivers that worked with me were great! After 22 years here, I continue to be amazed at how great of a team we have! We bring in the young ones that were born after I started working here, and they are brilliant and great culture fits! Alden and Brent Nussbaum’s genuine care for people have been a key factor in the success of the company.”
“Dad would be utterly amazed at what has transpired here.”
Tianne (Nussbaum) Overmyer
Nussbaum Employee for 31 years
My journey began here in the winter of 1973 when my dad, Alden, thought I ought to be busy on Christmas vacation. I believe that all four of my sisters worked on their summer vacations also. I continued those short stints – working most of my summers and holidays. I began employment at the wage of $1.65 an hour and worked my way up to $4.39 when I left Nussbaum to move away and get married.
When I first started working at Nussbaum, we were busting at the seams on space, kind of like now. And so, they purchased a house trailer and parked right next to the old white office building that is now Estes. The Claims Department and the HR department were housed in the trailer, so I worked a couple of vacations in that trailer. I remember it being very cold, and if we had to use the copier or the bathroom, we had to go outside the trailer and into the office building. It was very inconvenient, especially in the wintertime. We also had no computers. Everything was done manually.
Fast forward 25 years. I moved back to Illinois in 2004, and came back to work at Nussbaum, where I am today. Technology has advanced – in the trucks and the office. I am so grateful for my father’s provision with this company, not only for his children but for all the current employees and past employees. I think he would be utterly amazed at what has transpired here at Nussbaum since his death 41 years ago. God has continued to see us through, and I am so grateful for the wisdom and blessings that he has given to Brent and the managers. Congratulations, Nussbaum!
“Nussbaum is not just one person… it’s a team effort.”
Nussbaum Employee for 45 years
I’ve been working here for 45 years. My dad worked so hard to get where he was. He was dedicated to God, the company, and his family. But seeing the company grow has been a real joy and blessing. I’ve always agreed with my dad Alden’s philosophy that taking care of people is what being in business is all about. It’s been great seeing the people we’ve been able to give work over the years and to work with them.
My first job with Nussbaum was in 1975 on third shift, fueling and oiling the trucks. After I put my time in on the night shift, I was ready to move on to the next thing. I remember speaking with my dad who told me, ‘If you want to learn a trade, I’ll set you up. Just tell me what you want to do.’ And that’s how I came to work in trailer maintenance in the 1980s.
My dad was loyal and compassionate. He built this company with an 8th-grade education – and that’s amazing to me. I really wish that everyone here could have met him. But Nussbaum is not just one person, it’s a team effort. We can’t do it without you!
Purpose driven for the greater good
Stories like this are why Nussbaum lives by the phase “Purpose Driven.” It’s also a reason people know our reputation and recognize our trucks on the road.
“Purpose driven means we get up every morning with a purpose that’s bigger than ourselves,” shares Brent. “It’s not about us. It’s about a greater good, serving the public, serving our customers, serving our employees, and influencing everyone in the world today that you see around us. It’s so much easier when you get up in the morning and say, “you know, I’m going to make someone’s life better today.”
As Nussbaum celebrates 75 years, it’s easy to reflect back on our journey and see that God has been faithful through industry changes and the great employees he has brought to us to join our team.
“God has seen us through multiple industry changes,” shares Brent. “He’s seen us through economic changes. God has brought great people to Nussbaum. Our team has worked tirelessly to innovate and carry Nussbaum forward. As we look to the future, I’d like to continue my dad’s legacy, ‘If you take care of your people, everything else will take care of itself.’”
Simple. Powerful. Purpose-driven. That’s the philosophy Alden started Nussbaum on, and how we continue to do business today. We look forward to seeing how many lives and generations we can impact in the years to come. Thank you to everyone who has been part of our 75-year history and helping us build the company we are known for today.