For well over half a century, the Bobcat Company has been the number one choice for construction companies, landscapers, tree removal businesses, and other industries that demand peak performance every day. Atlas Bobcat has been serving the greater Chicago area since 1965 and has grown to six locations that meet the needs of customers from the Wisconsin border to Merrillville, Indiana.
The origins of the Bobcat Company go back to 1947 in North Dakota. The internationally-renowned Bobcat brand name was first used in the early 1960s, and the equipment was soon nicknamed ‘One Tough Animal’ and rightfully so. Its loaders, compact excavators, utility vehicles, telehandlers, and other machinery is used by agricultural, government, utility, mining, grounds maintenance, and other industries worldwide.
Atlas has corporate headquarters in the northeastern Illinois village of Elk Grove and was one of the first Bobcat dealers. The company was recognized a number of years ago for its well-earned industry status. “It is something we are very proud of,” says Sales Manager Matt Sobacki of the plaque presented from the parent company to Atlas Bobcat, one of three division of the Atlas Company. Atlas was instrumental in helping Bobcat develop many of the attachments in use today, as Atlas did its own experiments locally with hydraulic breakers, auger drives, and other equipment.
For Vice President of Operations Bob Loula, Bobcat is more than a brand; it is a passion. He has been with Atlas Bobcat for forty-three years and is known to staff and customers alike by the nickname ‘Bobcat Bob.’ Loula has an encyclopedic knowledge of the company and speaks fondly of Atlas’s early history. “If we sold twenty to thirty machines a year, we were very happy,” he says.
Loula remembers talking to customers about now-common products like the Bobcat Skid-Steer Loader, the world’s leading skid-steer loader. The product was invented in 1958 and comes in a variety of models including the Bobcat S70 Skid-Steer Loader with a tipping load of 1512 pounds and the Bobcat S850 skid-steer loader with an impressive tipping load of 7,900 pounds. The Bobcat Skid-Steer is used on countless construction sites and earth-moving projects today, but Loula says few knew what it was years ago when the company would tow the machine behind a truck to job sites and demonstrate the product to potential customers.
“No one had seen a concept like that, so it was a very pioneering time in the Bobcat product line,” he says. “It wasn’t what it is known as today. We were replacing farm-type tractors and laborers with shovels.”
Customers were impressed with the Bobcat’s ability to scale an eight-foot wall with diamond plate ramps, grade basements and then back out with ease. “In the 1970s, everybody who sold Bobcat was hands-on, because you had to make the machines walk and talk in order to demonstrate them; people didn’t know what they were,” he says. “It wasn’t just us; it was all the dealers in that realm of pioneering the product out on the street.”
Atlas Bobcat continues to expand. The company has locations in Elk Grove Village, Mokena, Wauconda, West Chicago and Yorkville and opened its sixth location at 9209 Grand Boulevard in Merrillville, Indiana last year. This May, Atlas held an open house at the Merrillville location featuring a free lunch, the opportunity to win an autographed Chicago Bears jersey, discounts on genuine Bobcat parts, and more. It hosted another open house in April at its Elk Grove Village site, and both events attracted hundreds of guests and factory representatives.
“We like to do a couple of different locations every year because we have six locations,” says Sobacki. “It is kind of a thank you to our customers.” Until about eight years ago, the company hosted a ‘Bobcat Rodeo’ which featured the machines racing against a timer and a barn dance with Bobcats. The event eventually became the company’s open houses.
Clients range from homeowners working on backyard and basement excavation projects to the largest construction firms in America and well-known rental companies. Atlas Bobcat carries compact excavators, skid-steer loaders, compact track loaders, mini articulating loaders, all-wheel loaders, mini track loaders, telehandlers, utility vehicles, Toolcat products, trailers, and many types of attachments. And to meet the daily job site needs of landscapers and tree companies, Atlas stocks wood chippers and stump grinders from Bandit. Atlas has also been a Cronkhite trailer dealer since 1979.
“The nice thing about Bobcat is they manufacture the majority of all their own attachments,” says Sobacki. “Bobcat is one of the only manufacturers that builds a lot of its own attachments, and most Bobcat products are still made in North Dakota, including soil conditioners, snow blowers, and landscape rakes.”
Last year, Atlas Bobcat welcomed MultiOne machinery to its roster. This well-known Italian brand has a background in making agricultural equipment like irrigators, round balers, and seed drills. Today, award-winning MultiOne is known internationally for its series of ten mini articulated loaders, which allow for nineteen configurations, and over 170 attachments.
MultiOne’s distinctive blue articulated loaders are engineered for clients from weekend do-it-yourself enthusiasts to farmers, landscapers, and property maintenance companies. The many attachments include aerial work platforms, augers, cement mixers, core aerators, hay bale grapples, high-pressure washers, vacuum sweepers, and vineyard sweepers. After working with MultiOne for some time, Atlas Bobcat realized the value bringing over the company’s quality products would bring to the entire organization.
“It seemed like a perfect fit for the compact market that we carry,” says Loula. “The big selling point of the MultiOne is they are very compact – weighing less than 5,000 pounds – and can lift a tremendous amount of weight. They are great for guys who need a light footprint and need to lift a lot of weight, such as landscaping supply. It’s a small articulate loader which doesn’t tear up the turf.”
Atlas Bobcat is known for its outstanding quality, service and rental, and maintains a significant parts inventory as well as a substantial used and wholesale equipment department. In the event the item a customer needs is out of stock, Atlas will receive the part directly from Bobcat, usually the very next day.
And great employees make for great relationships with customers. The company thanks its staff and the direction it has taken since Executive Vice President John Johnson took over in 2008.
To keep up with demand, Atlas moved from its former home since the 1960s in Schiller Park to its Elk Grove Village location two years ago, occupying about 60,000 square feet of a 250,000-square-foot facility. “We want to keep growing, but at the same time we want to grow along with the market,” says Sobacki. “So we can keep servicing our customers the best we can while growing our market share, continue to be a leader, and perhaps add more stores down the line.”