Little did he know back in 1931
that a chance would lay the groundwork for a family
business whose 75th anniversary was marked in 2006.
Albert E. Stecklein, Sr. took a chance and made
something from practically nothing that year at the
height of The Great Depression.
Mr. Stecklein, who once worked as
an automobile mechanic for a Buick dealership, owned
and operated an auto repair garage located at 1321 L
Street, NW in Washington, DC where he repaired autos
for the German Embassy. Having some available
space at the garage, Mr. Stecklein leased it to a
Pennsylvania contractor to store a pair of Schramm air
compressors. The contractor was working in The District
on a government project nearby. When he was
finished the job and couldn’t pay the storage
fees, the two portable air compressors were left to Mr.
Stecklein in lieu of the rent. Since some people
had inquired about using the compressors, Mr. Stecklein
decided to rent them out and made it a sideline
business to the garage. Mr. Stecklein’s
favorite color was red, so it was only fitting that he
would have the novelty idea of mounting the red
Schramm air compressors on used Coca-Cola trucks.
The truck-mounted air compressor was born
and he would soon relocate to 2105 New York Ave,
By 1940, the company had again
relocated, this time to 65 G Street, NW next to the
Government Printing Office, and was up to nine
compressor trucks with one person in the office, one
person in the shop, nine or ten operators and Mr.
Stecklein collecting the bills and spending time as a
salesman going out and seeing people. A
compressor, jackhammer, rockdrill, tamper, saw or pump
were available by themselves but the price for a
compressor and operator to run them at the time was
$3.00 an hour. During World War II the rate was
frozen at $3.50 an hour.
When Albert E. Stecklein, Jr.
joined the company in 1951, three or four trucks would
have to be parked out on the street as they were out of
space at the G Street location. In 1952,
the company acquired a building at 1800 4th Street, NE,
Washington, DC, where the business operates today.
As business expanded outside the
city of Washington, so did the company. The
Hyattsville, MD location was purchased in 1982 to
handle the excess capacity. In 1989 a Virginia
location was added, followed by the Rockville, MD
location in 1995. 2005 marked the year for the
fifth store located in Frederick, MD.
The business has remained within
the family and the third generation of Steckleins
consisting of Albert III, Steve, Brian and Kevin are
handling the operation and look forward to celebrating
100 years in 2031.