Kerola Family Acquires United Steel Service

BROOKFIELD, Ohio – A family that has long been associated with the trucking and transportation industry is now in the steel business.

Joe Kerola, president of PI&I Motor Express in Masury, confirmed Wednesday that his family is the new owner of United Steel Service LLC at 4500 Parkway Dr.

“I think it is a great opportunity for my group to vertically integrate and provide new services to the customers,” Kerola said.

United Steel Service will be officially renamed Uniserv – the company’s long-standing informal name, Kerola said. “There are a lot of mutual customers between Uniserv and PI&I,” he said. “I think we have the opportunity to revitalize it.”

That could mean future expansion or new investment in the company, Kerola said, but he noted it’s too early to announce any specific plans.

Uniserv operates four precision slitting lines that process steel for customers. Morris Friedman founded the company in 1968, and the Friedman family continued to run the company until last week. Morris Friedman died six years ago, and his son, Steven, served as the company’s vice chairman and CEO.

“We knew the Friedman family,” Kerola said. When they decided to sell, there was some concern of larger, out-of-town buyers coming in that could potentially close the facility, he added. 

Instead, Steven Friedman presented the opportunity to Kerola, whose family has operated its trucking business since 1951. 

“We’ll take our 70 years in trucking and bring this 55-year-old company on board and continue the Friedman family legacy,” Kerola said. “An outside company could have closed it. We haul in and out of there every day.”

Kerola noted Uniserv employs 90 people, and he hopes to build the workforce to 130. “We want to provide longevity and stable jobs,” he said, and hopefully increase volume from the 116,000-square-foot plant. 

Charlie Pitts, who has been with Uniserv for 36 years, will remain the company’s president. “That was critical,” Kerola said.

Terms of the entire transaction were not disclosed.

According to records from the Trumbull County Auditor’s office, the manufacturing complex sold for $2.4 million to 782 Holdings LLC, an affiliate of the Kerola family. The sale was recorded March 17.

Kerola’s company, PI&I, was founded in 1951 in Sharon, Pa., by his grandfather, Joe. His father, John, also ran the company until his death in 1996.

A fourth generation of the Kerola family is now involved in the trucking business, and one will be moving to Uniserv. “We’re very proud of that,” he said.

The Kerola family has long supported Youngstown State University, and in 2022, Joe Kerola was named Penguin of the Year for the family’s contributions. Over the years, the family has endowed two scholarships, supported the Veterans Resource Center, supported several YSU athletics programs and helped bring a YSU Dana School of Music orchestral program to inner city schools.

As for now, Kerola said he’s excited about the potential of the new venture with Uniserv. “We look at all the possibilities,” he said.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.