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Real and Replica Bobcat Machines Cover Day and Night

A couple’s new Toolcat utility work machine became the inspiration for their biggest challenge: getting their 2-year-old son to sleep in his own bed. The Bobcat-style bed continued a long family tradition of trying to work like dad.

Young Dash Kowalonek developed two strong passions as a toddler: he loved watching his dad operate the family’s Bobcat® UW56 Toolcat™ utility work machine during the day, and he hated going to bed at night. His nighttime routine was the dread of the family’s home in the northeastern Pennsylvania town of Lake Hauto. If Dash didn’t sleep, no one in the house could either. His parents, business owners Luke and Kristy Kowalonek, resigned to let him sleep with them to provide a little peace. But something had to change.

Like Father, Like Son

The desire to work like dad runs deep in the Kowalonek family. Just as 2-year-old Dash loves to sit on a miniature Bobcat loader while he watches the real machine in action, his dad Luke grew up watching his own father work in a family business that is now in its fourth generation. It was through that business that he learned to use skid-steer loaders to unload shipments from the truck. Luke’s dream of buying a machine of his own came true after becoming a father, and that purchase fueled Dash’s passion for Bobcat machines.

“I had always wanted my own Bobcat machine,” says Luke, who was experienced using equipment at work and the family’s home. In 2022, he went to his local dealership, Highway Equipment & Supply Co., to buy the Toolcat machine. “My wife asked me if it was as good as I thought it would be. I said, ‘Yeah! This is the best thing I ever bought!’”

While the benefit to his work projects was obvious, he couldn’t have known his new machine would also inspire a solution to his son’s bedtime struggles.

Family Links

The Kowalonek’s family business goes back to March of 1911, when Joseph “Dziadzi” Kowalonek opened a small grocery store in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, about 20 miles west of Lake Hauto. The groceries themselves were not the big draw. It was the family’s homemade kielbasy, crafted in the kitchen next to the store, that attracted people from all over the area. The pork sausages were so popular, they became the namesake of the business: Kowalonek’s Kielbasy Shop. More than a century later, loyal customers make hours long drives to bring home the nostalgic flavors that remain unchanged since the beginning.

“We have people drive to the store from Maryland, Virginia and other states just to get this kielbasy,” Kristy says. “There’s a line out the store that runs a block or more around the holidays.”The couple’s daughter, Vayda, says she wants to be the fifth generation to work at the shop when she grows up. The family business is in good hands. And the breakthrough to improve the family’s sleep situation at home was about to happen.

He loves his Bobcat bed so much, he even asks to go to bed every night! - Kristy Kowalonek

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Dreams for Dash

Kristy says her idea to help Dash sleep in his own bed was more of a joke than a true suggestion. “I said to my husband, ‘I’m sick of him sleeping in our bed every night. You should build him a replica Bobcat bed since he loves their machines so much.’” Whether he thought the idea would work or was simply desperate for some sleep, Luke went to the hardware store to buy supplies for a unique bed.

The project was a hat tip to his own start as an equipment operator. The first machine Luke ran at the kielbasy operation was a skid-steer loader, and he chose to make his son’s bed a replica of a Bobcat S205 skid-steer loader. He fitted it with lights on top, a cab enclosure, Bobcat logos on the sides and real wheels at the base. Dash suddenly had something at night to match his passion during the day. Bedtime changed forever.

“We weren’t sure if he would actually sleep in it,” Kristy says. “But he has slept in it every night since it was finished, and he loves it so much he even asks to go to bed every night! It really worked wonders.”

Fit to Serve

As every parent knows, a night of rest can make a world of difference, and that is especially helpful with the Kowaloneks’ demanding schedule. For Luke, the purchase of the Toolcat utility work machine was never about creating a side business; owning the kielbasy shop literally and figuratively puts enough on his plate. Rather, the machine was about work projects around the house and helping family and neighbors. His list of attachments includes a bucket, a snowblower and a pallet fork, and he loves putting them to work.

“My parents live about a mile away, my sister lives five houses away and my sister-in-law lives about a half mile away,” Luke says, referencing the importance of proximity during the snowy winter months in Pennsylvania. “I plowed eight driveways the other day for family and friends. It’s just much easier now, and I do it for fun.”

At home, the Kowaloneks burn wood throughout the winter, and the Toolcat machine is ideal for hauling logs in the front and back. Luke has found so many uses for it, he and Kristy are talking about how soon to buy their fourth attachment.

Life Changers

The purchase of the Toolcat utility work machine immediately helped the Kowaloneks carry out projects at home and volunteer in their neighborhood. Indirectly, Dash’s love of the family machine inspired a long-shot idea to teach him to sleep in his own room.

“For me, the Toolcat machine has had the bigger impact on our family, but for everyone else it’s the bed,” Luke says with a laugh.

And it’s hard to argue with the bed’s popularity. A social media post about the custom bed has generated more than 80,000 likes.

Dash’s love for his new bed and his family’s Toolcat machine establish another Kowalonek family tradition to be passed down through generations: a fierce loyalty to Bobcat machines.

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