Kennett Square is a small town in Chester County, Pennsylvania, located about 30 miles from Philadelphia. Kennett Square is known as the Mushroom Capital of the World. Mushroom farming in the area around the town produces over 500 million pounds of mushrooms annually, which is half of the total mushroom crop in the entire nation.
Mushroom Transportation Co., Inc. was founded in the early 1920s by William W. Cutaiar as a regional transporter of mushrooms. The company’s original headquarters was located in Kennett Square, and its trucks delivered loads of mushrooms to produce markets along the Eastern seaboard.
By 1934, the company’s fleet of trucks had grown to include some vehicles that were not suited for hauling their namesake commodity, and the company’s management began to diversify the business. In March 1934, Mushroom Transportation began to offer motor freight service between the city of Buffalo, New York and Philadelphia. It first operated out of a small terminal where it rented two doors in Philadelphia. Eventually the company would expand to terminals in Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland and as far south as Washington, D.C. At the height of its operation, Mushroom operated 20 terminals servicing the mid-Atlantic, Northeast and District of Columbia.
Mushroom Transportation continued to expand, and experienced massive growth in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1960, the company reported revenues of $6 million. Five years later, it had grown revenues to $8 million. In 1969, Mushroom Transportation acquired Erie-Pittsburgh Motor Express, a move that grew the business substantially. Following that acquisition, the company added terminals in Oil City and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as well as in Cleveland.
Just one year after the acquisition, revenues skyrocketed again, to $16.5 million. In 1971, Mushroom Transportation acquired another regional carrier, New Jersey-based Reilly’s Auto Transfer, Inc. This widened the company’s service area into New Jersey. By 1974, Mushroom reported record-breaking revenues exceeding $23 million.
Despite these successes, deregulation loomed on the horizon and took effect in 1980. Like many other less-than-truckload carriers, Mushroom Transportation was subject to much greater competition once the industry was deregulated. The increased competition and price discounting that occurred as a result of deregulation eventually killed this iconic brand. In June 1985, Mushroom Transportation filed a petition for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal Bankruptcy Act. At first, Mushroom sought to keep afloat by restructuring the company. Operating terminals were cut from 21 to 12 to lower costs.
Unfortunately, the heated competition of the deregulated industry, in combination with rising operational costs, eventually forced the company to close its doors in 1986 after it was unable to pay past due insurance premiums.