New era for the long haul Carrier: The Bond Transfer Co. has left Locust Point, its home for decades, as the family freight hauling company goes to a third generation.

March 25, 1998|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,SUN STAFF

Buddy Constantine caught the eye of young Clementine Grunder back in the late 1940s. Elbows-deep in the guts of a truck, Buddy was working for his old man's freight company, pulling wrenches in the alley behind the Locust Point rowhouse where Clementine lived with her family.

"I thought he was cute but he was shy," remembers Clem. "I finally got his attention by squirting him with the hose."

Married to Buddy for 45 years, Clem thinks some attention ought to be paid now to the business -- the Bond Transfer Co. -- that her husband and his family have built into an $11-million-a-year enterprise.

That's a long way from the alley behind Woodall Street where Buddy made 40 cents an hour and used the trunk of an old car as his tool box; a long-distance haul from Depression days when founder William Elmer Constantine decided to quit humping coal all over Baltimore and start moving freight on 10-wheelers.

"What makes me proud is how my father started with a couple trucks and now we provide a livelihood for 130 families," says Buddy, the founder's 71-year-old namesake. "The name of the game was to do whatever it took to stay in business. Our neighbors didn't need a calendar to know when it was a holiday. That's the only time our doors were closed."

Such dedication has made a company of a hundred trucks moving freight between Virginia and Maine for for clients like Giant Foods and Domino Sugars. Bond recently started a second business brokering deliveries anywhere in the United States.

And in January -- after three locations on the South Baltimore waterfront -- Bond closed its doors in Locust Point for good, moving out of cramped quarters and away from neighbor's complaints of dust clouds, noise and diesel fumes in one of the last city villages where industry and rowhouses have stared across the street at one another for as long as there's been sailing ships.

The Constantines left an acre-and-a-third at 1301 Towson Street for 10 acres at the old Joseph J. Hock property on Belle Grove Road in Anne Arundel County. The Locust Point site is now on the market for about $350,000. The family's real estate agent has been negotiating with a developer who wants to put up townhouses where heavy trucks rattled neighbor's windows for a half-century.

Not everybody is relieved to see the Constantine's take their business off narrow streets near Fort McHenry.

"We grew up with industry down here and now its all leaving -- Coca-Cola, Proctor and Gamble, Southern States and now Bond," says Joyce Bauerle, president of the Locust Point Civic Association. "At one time, this community was self-sufficient. You didn't have to leave it to do anything, but I'm worried about it now."

The Constantine's left Locust Point to drive their business into the next century.

Buddy and his younger brother Robert took over from their father, who died in 1983 and left behind a keepsake wooden desk where he wrote work orders when he launched the firm in 1934 as Liberty Transfer.

Robert, who started out in the office while Buddy worked his way up from the repair shop, died in 1994.

Today, a third generation of Constantines -- five first cousins who defer to Buddy even as the patriarch tries to take it easy after a recent heart attack -- are in charge.

Buddy's two children -- Joyce and Billy -- own half of the business. Robert's three own the other half. There are a bank's worth of vice-presidents among them.

Joyce Pinder, is secretary treasurer. Her brother, William Constantine III is in charge of maintenance. Donald Constantine runs the transportation department while little brother Timothy manages the New Jersey terminal and big brother Douglas Constantine serves as general manager.

Chris Davenport, one of Robert's grandchildren, has not yet made it to vice-president and works in the billing department.

Nearly every one of them started out working in the summertime, doing everything from dispatching to cutting the grass.

"They're all hard workers and most of them have been with us for quite a few years," says Buddy. "I've started monthly meetings to knit them all together."

His voice trailing off, Buddy leaves out saying that he hopes for a tight-knit that will survive him. The Constantine kids are very conscious of jealousies real or imagined and work at keeping hurt feelings to a minimum.

(It helps that each of them knows what the other makes.)

"We grew up here," says Donald. "When we had to come into work with Dad on the weekends he'd give us a rubber stamp and an ink pad, throw a pile of paper in the corner and say: 'Go play.'"

"Mostly we do what our parents taught us, but we're a little more aggressive," says Douglas. "I can pick up a load at 9 p.m. in Baltimore and have it in Boston at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning."

Adds Joyce: "Not one of us could run the business alone. And anyway, we weren't raised that way."

The way they were raised goes back to the 1930s when their grandfather hauled the first load for his first customer -- Merle Smith Sr. of the Chesapeake Paperboard Company in Locust Point.

"Business was different then, you didn't have to go on weekend retreats to learn about collaboration," says Merle Smith Jr., whose company turns out 150 tons of paperboard a day.

"The Constantines would do more than just deliver the freight, they were ambassadors of our company. It wasn't the more you got the less I got -- hooray for me and to hell with the other guy. It was hooray for all of us.

"That's the relationship we still enjoy," says Smith. "They're a third-generation family business and I'm third generation. We've prospered together."

Pub Date: 3/25/98

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