published Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Jasper business, built in highway median, ready to hit the road for the last time

JASPER, Tenn. — While hundreds of cars and trucks speed along I-24 on either side of his 25-acre parcel, Edd Crabtree slowly manuevers his Jeep along the gravel roads he erected over the past decade in the interstate median.

Crabtree, 58, proudly points out the variety of used tractors, bulldozers and other earth-moving equipment he has bought, refurbished and put on the auction block today on his land between the northbound and southbound lanes of the interstate highway. His collection even boasts a 5-foot metal bull that doubles as a barbecue grill and historic plows that date back to the 1930s.

Combined with equipment other vendors have brought to today's sale, a fleet of more than 400 pieces of used farm and construction equipment will be sold during an all-day bidding contest expected to attract hundreds of buyers to Crabtree's CCR Farms. Crabtree hopes the sale will fetch more than $4 million -- enough for him to slow down and try yet another business.

The sale caps a half century career for Crabtree, who has worked with his father and now his son in everything from coal and gold mining to apparel manufacturing and cattle farming.

"I've worked hard all my life, but God has always been good to me," Crabtree said Wednesday.

The Pamer, Tenn., life-long resident recalls first buying and trading wares from his wagon at age 8. Other jobs Crabtree did during his youth for his father and in the coal mines at an early age helped him buy his first home -- a 1,500-square-foot brick, one-story house -- in an all cash purchase when he was only 21 years old.

"I did have to borrow $3,000 from my Dad for furniture because I was still too young to have a credit rating," he recalled.

Crabtree went on to explore for coal in Tennessee and gold in Colorado while operating a garment plant in his native Palmer with 60 female workers during the 1980s. Crabtree has traveled the world making deals and gathering used equipment for resale or delivering what he sells.

He started his own business in Palmer in 1974 along with his father. The generational business ties have continued for Crabtree who taught his son Drew about trucks and repairing equipment at a young age.

"He's only 21, but he's a great mechanic and knows his stuff," the elder Crabtree boasts.

Crabtree bought his unique business site in Marion County in 2002 when his mother-in-law, Stella Dodson, was listing the site for sale by former Marion County Commissioner Jack Wagner. Over the years, he has added cattle fences, gravel roads and parking lots and a couple of sheet metal warehouses where a staff of about 10 employees work on equipment in engine, paint and body shops.

"It's an unsual site and occasionally we get tires flying on the property from the cars and trucks on I-24," Crabtree said. "But the site has tremendous visibility and has helped us sell equipment around the entire United States. It's been a great way to advertise our business."

Crabtree still keeps about 50 cattle on the interstate median site -- one of three cattle farms he operates.

"I'm not sure what's next for me, but I do want to slow down some," he said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfree press.com or at 757-6340.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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