An extraordinary life

Feb 05 | 2024

How Dave Graebel built his business from one truck to one of the world’s leading RMCs.

Dave Graebel

David W (Dave) Graebel, Founder and former Chairman of Graebel Companies Inc, died on 29 November. He was 94 years old. The organisation continues under the leadership of son Bill Graebel, current chair and CEO, along with its senior executive team.

“During this difficult time, we are remembering Dave’s larger-than-life presence, enthusiasm and dedication to Graebel, the global mobility industry, friends and family,” said Ron Dunlap, Graebel Companies President. “We proudly carry on his legacy and live the values he exemplified - truth, love and integrity - which are the foundations of the company he built.”

Dave founded his company with his father in 1950. Today, Graebel is a leading worldwide global relocation management company with more than 1,000 employees and offices on three continents.  At a young age he was given some good advice by his mother: “You must let go of the rung below to reach for the rung above.” Dave executed that feat nearly flawlessly at the helm of Graebel.

Dave was born in Wausau, Wisconsin in 1929 to Nina and Ben Graebel. Ben worked in food distribution before affiliating his warehousing business, Wausau Public Storage, with Mayflower Moving. During his teenage years, Dave gladly pitched with the crews.  He later recalled, “I always liked the truck drivers. They seemed to have such interesting lives.”

Aged 21, Dave left the University of Wisconsin and embarked on his business career. He and Ben purchased a Mayflower statewide moving authority, renaming the company Graebel Movers. Dave and Lois were married in September of that same year and Dave was drafted into the Army in December. Lois and Ben ran Graebel Movers in Dave’s absence until Ben passed away in 1953. Dave returned from military service in Korea and ran the company for his mother until he and Lois purchased her share of the business in 1960.

“I never waited for the telephone to ring,” said Dave. “I went to every ‘For Sale’ sign I could find and just knocked on the door.” Graebel Movers was soon the most successful small-market Mayflower agency in the US.

Dave left Mayflower in 1956 and affiliated Graebel Movers with Allied Van Lines Group. At this time he introduced industry breakthroughs such as wardrobe boxes and cell-packs. Dave expanded the company regionally to Appleton, Milwaukee and Chicago. As a military-trained pilot, he flew his own plane throughout the Midwest for meetings and appointments. Soon he had hubs in New York, Florida, Georgia and Texas. By the 1970s, Graebel Movers handled nearly 10% of Allied’s national volume.

The moving industry was deregulated in 1980 and, seeing tremendous opportunities, Dave pulled Graebel Movers out of the franchise agent networks in 1982, establishing Graebel Van Lines, an independent interstate carrier providing coast-to-coast services, competing with the large franchise interstate van lines ...

Photo: Dave Graebel.

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