It was in the year 1887 and the frontier town of Fort Smith, Arkansas, that Armbruster/Stageway, one of the largest custom limousine manufacturers in the country, was born.
The company first opened its doors as a business devoted to building and repairing horse-drawn vehicles under the name of Armbruster & Co. The founders, Tom Armbruster, Charles Kaiser and Walter Walkford, successfully negotiated the change to motor vehicles and were asked in 1921 if they could stretch an automobile for a local bus line. Their first stretch was a small bus for Jordan Bus Lines that could be used in shuttle service.
Armbruster remained active in the company until 1950, when he sold the business to Ed Robben. His son-in-law, Milt Earnhart helped run the business. Today, Earnhart’s son, Tom, serves as president.
An Ohio corporation named Stageway Coaches, Inc., operating out of Queen City Chevrolet Company, in Cincinnati, handled a large percentage of Armbruster’s sales. In 1966, following Robben’s death, the two corporations were combined as Armbruster/Stageway.
The firm now employs approximately 140 people at its Fort Smith plant. It was purchased in 1981 by Camartex, Inc. and the present officers are as follows: James Mankowski, chairman of the board; Tom Earnhart, president; Ross Barrows, executive vice president; and Milt Earnhart, vice president.