NILES, Ohio – In March 1987, former Lane Ambulance employees Don Bloom and the late Shawn Bryant decided their next step would be to open Penn Care Inc., a medical supply company.
What started as a small emergency product business based out of Bryant’s Warren home has since grown into a well-known company that is celebrating 35 years in business. After going through several different locations, the business is now based at 1317 North Road SE in Niles – which Bloom says will likely be its permanent home.
Bloom says he spent his time “saving lives and burying people” in his younger years.
“I was a funeral director. But I also was a paramedic and that’s why I was exposed to the emergency medical services world,” he says. “In those days, the funeral homes had ambulance services. That’s where I worked.”
Bloom got experience providing medical help in the aftermath of natural disasters.
“In my other life, I worked for the national disaster medical system,” he says. “[I have been to] just about every disaster since 1997.” The more notable ones include Hurricane Floyd; the 9/11 crash of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa., and the fall of the World Trade Center towers; and Hurricane Katrina.
Of all the disasters, Bloom says 9/11 was the one that had the greatest effect on him.
“We had been in business before that – and we knew that fire, EMS and police were going to change drastically after that,” he says. “One of the things we had to do was adapt and reinvent ourselves. So, the things that we were going to do were going to be different, the products we sold were going to be different – the whole job was going to be different. September 11 was my last day as a paramedic.”
Following the terrorist attacks, Bloom says his company added many products to its line. In the company’s disaster services division, Bloom says they sold trailers and temporary morgues to help states be prepared.
“Our big-ticket items are ambulances,” says Bloom. “We just got into command vehicles – something a fire chief would use or an EMS chief. We sell those types of vehicles.”
His other big-ticket items include cardiac monitors and defibrillators.
The company’s customer base is mainly fire, EMS and police departments, as well as some hospitals, says Bloom. Penn Care covers eight states, with additional sales from the internet.
“Our company is unique because we handle the ambulance and the equipment and disaster stuff,” says Bloom. “There is no one else in the country that does all three.”
Even as the business steadily grew, challenges emerged.
In 1991, Bloom says the company became nearly bankrupt and was forced to lay off its entire staff. It bounced back and now has about 50 employees – including many that started right out of high school and have been there for 25 years.
The company had its best year in 2021, with sales of $46 million. Now, however, a new challenge has arisen.
“We are down this year because of the chip shortage and our inability to get ambulances,” he says. “We are only at about 20% of what we usually get. This will be a down year. The chip shortage is impacting the whole industry.”
Probably the most notable challenge for the business occurred in 2019. After a long battle with cancer, Bloom’s long-time friend and business partner, Bryant, died.
“He was seven years younger,” Bloom says. “I was supposed to go out first and then he suddenly died.”
When Bryant became sick, Bloom said they had to put a plan in place. Taylor Pease, current vice president of Penn Care, came in as part owner of the business.
Pease started in 1999 as a salesman.
“We started with a specific product in the late 1990s-early 2000s and I have taken on different projects since,” Pease says. “We sold software. We sold ambulances. I moved into a management position and as the company has grown, my role has changed and grown with it.”
Pease says he particularly enjoys his customer base and seeing his work making a difference in people’s lives.
“I was having a bathroom remodeled at my house and the local fire department, who was in our truck, had to come rescue one of the workers when he had a heart attack,” Pease says. “So, we saw our ambulance roll into the driveway. We saw our equipment come out of that truck and that patient leave in our vehicle.”
When Bloom retires, Pease says he plans to take over the business and keep it as family oriented as possible.
“We still have plenty of opportunity for growth,” says Pease. “I can see us doing $75 million or $80 million [in sales] in the next 10 years.”
“In the waiting room, on the door you’ll see it says ‘persistence,’” says Bloom. “You have to be persistent if you’re going to run a business because there are lots and lots of challenges. For the first 20 years, I can’t say it was fun because we just had a lot of challenges. If you don’t carefully grow, it can be the detriment of the company. You have to manage all of that.”
Pictured at top: Don Bloom is the president and co-founder of Penn Care Inc. Taylor Pease is vice president of the Niles-based emergency vehicle and medical equipment company.