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A Brainerd Dispatch Publication

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FIRST SIXTH STREET HOME – This is an exterior view of The Dispatch building in the early 1920’s.


ewspapers in Brainerd in the city’s formative years were as robust and active as the frontier itself. During its history, at least six newspapers at one time or another told the story of this developing community. The Brainerd Dispatch had its origin in 1881 and was established by J. W. Riggs and A. E. Pennell. The paper was actually to have been established by Frank Meyst, publisher of the Osakis Observer, who had decided to move his

COMPOSING ROOM – This is an old photo of the composing room in the original Brainerd Daily Dispatch building. the patronage of the people of Brainerd and vicinity. We hope to be able to issue our first number next Thursday, Dec. 22, 1881, and all matter to insure publication in No. 1 should reach us not

B. Sleeper, in whose building the paper was housed. This was short-lived and a little later, Sleeper sold his interest to Fred Puhier of Ada. Puhler at the time was managing the political

Is A T For plant to Brainerd. One of the owners was Pennell and Riggs bought out Meyst’s interest. Plans had called for calling the paper the Brainerd Observer. However, in December of 1881, this announcement was distributed in Brainerd: “The undersigned having perfected arrangements and entered into a co-partnership under the firm name of Riggs and Pennell, have decided to change the name of the Brainerd Observer to the Brainerd Dispatch and respectfully ask 2

later than Wednesday noon.” It was signed by Riggs and Pennell. They made good their promise and the first Dispatch was published on Dec. 22. The paper was housed in “Sleeper’s New Brick Block, Front Street.” However, things were rather rocky going for the Dispatch with a number of personality conflicts arising and in 1882 Joe Riggs, a son of A. P. Riggs who had handed his interest over to his son, sold that interest to attorney C.

campaign for C. F. Kindred who was opposing Knute Nelson for a Congressional seat. When the campaign ended so did Puhier’s interest in owning the Dispatch and he offered his share for sale. On June 6, 1883, N. H. Ingersoll and F. W. Wieland purchased the entire ownership. It was in 1883 that the paper became a daily instead of a weekly. Because the paper was a daily, the City Council voted on June 16, 1883, to make it the city’s official newspaper.

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Staff PUBLISHER Tim Bogenschutz EDITOR Meg Douglas ART DIRECTOR Cindy Spilman PHOTOGRAPHER Joey Halvorson



I would like to welcome you inside the Brainerd Dispatch’s newest publication……. Generations in Business. It is a magazine about our local communities, and the people who helped establish the foundation of our past, present and future. The stories you are about to read are real life accounts of families that came to this area to build their American dream. You will learn about the successes and challenges that business owners often face during good times and bad. Leaving a business to the next generation is a very rewarding experience, and you will better understand exactly what that feels like. I first started selling advertising in the Brainerd Lakes area in 1980. Over the past 31 years, I have had the honor of working with two, sometimes three generations of business owners. Although technology and products have changed over the years, one thing remains exactly the same. If you work hard, treat your customers with respect, are true to your family, with a little luck, you too can survive generations in business. So put another log on the fire, sit back in your favorite reading chair and go back in time to a place that many of us have called home for generations.

Best Regards, Sam Swanson Vice President of Advertising Sales

Is A Yearly Publication Of The Brainerd Dispatch

• For advertising opportunities 218.829-4705 or 1.800.432.3703 find our publication on the web at E-mail your comments, suggestions or topics to

copyright© 2012 VOLUME ONE, EDITION ONE 2012

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Keeping it (Mostly) in the Family . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Six generations of the Mills’ family business share a rich history with the Brainerd lakes area. by Jenny Holmes

In Tune to Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 A careful approach has kept this family selling appliances. By Cynthia Bachman

Dancing for Decades . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Dancing is big business for this lakes area family. by Mary Aalgaard

Doing What’s Best for Customers. . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


Putting customers first has been a guiding principle in this Crosby organization. by Joan Hasskamp

The Business of Vacationing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 The Brainerd lakes area is home to some of the premier resorts in the Midwest. These three founding families still oversee the business. By Carolyn Corbett

Keeping Clothes Clean for 90 Years . . . . . . . . . . 20 Brainerd-based for 90 years, Andersons continue to clean our clothes. By Karen Ogdahl


A Chip Off The Old Block . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 When Thompson brothers arrived in Brainerd, it was a rough and tumble lumber town. By Suz Anne Wipperling

Building a Family Business . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 It was a vacation visit to Paul Bunyanland that prompted Tom Bercher to move north and open his construction business. By Jenny Gunsbury

Customers on a First Name Basis . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Pine River’s Gardiner’s Hardware has changed names, but kept ownership in the family. By Theresa Jarvela

What’s in a Name? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30


Opened as a downtown Brainerd meat market in1914, Schaefers is now the gateway to Nisswa. By Arlene Jones

On the cover: (left to right) Schaefers, WW Thompson, The Mills’ family and Cragun’s: businesses that share a history with the Brainerd lakes area.

30 4

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by Jenny Holmes photo by Joey Halvorson


Keeping it (Mostly) in the Family



Following in family footsteps: Stewart Mills III, CEO of the Mills Companies (left) with son Stewart IV, wife Heather and daughter Jade.

At the age of 4, the biggest decisions life throws at Stewart Mills IV typically range from crayons or markers to juice or milk. Little does Stewart, aka I.V., know that someday he stands to become a successor of a Brainerd lakes area business, six generations old and rich with family tradition. 2012 | generations in business

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MILLS In the late 1800s, one of the first Mills’ businesses in the area was a boat delivery service for visitors in the Nisswa area. Stewart C. Mills (right) was an Army Captain in World War I.

The earliest beginnings of the Mills family business have been traced back to the 1850s and 1860s when the family operated a carriage company in St Paul. In their archives, the Mills’, today, have one of the authentic brass plates from a carriage produced with the words “Mills Carriage Company.” In the 1870s, Henry Casper Mills moved to the Brainerd lakes area where he worked as manager of the Gull River Lumber Company, as well as the postmaster. Over 160 years later, Mills’ great-greatgrandson Stewart Mills III, sits in an office at the Mills Companies headquarters in the historic Lively Building in Downtown Brainerd, a place the family has called“home” for 91 years.“Our family has been on the Gull chain ever since (Henry) moved up here,” Stewart III noted.“That was really the start of our business.” Henry Casper had a son, Casper Henry, who, like his father was also an enterprising young man. He started three meat markets in the area and still remained active in his former business as manager of the company’s northern territory. In the late 1800s, Casper Henry started a boat delivery service. As visitors arrived by train to Smiley, now known as Nisswa, Casper Henry’s captain would pick them up by boat and deliver them to the various resorts on the Gull chain. Over time, Casper Henry had two sons of his own, Henry Casper and Stewart Charles. Stewart Charles eventually took over the boat delivery business from his father until he went to the University of Minnesota to study law. While his education was interrupted by the call of duty and service in World War I, Stewart returned home and worked for Mahlum Lumber. 6

It was in the 1920s that Stewart went to work for, and earned the respect of, Ernest Lively, original owner and namesake of the Mills Companies headquarters. When Lively grew ill and was forced to relocate, Stewart purchased Lively’s Hupmobile-Chevrolet dealership, later Studebaker Oldsmobile. The beginning of a lineage of Mills automobile dealerships had been born. In 1928, shortly before the Great Depression, Stewart and wife Helen welcomed twin boys into the world, Henry (Hank) and Stewart (Stew) Junior. As young boys, the twins were thrust into the family business, doing anything and everything from patching roofs and cleaning, to filling the coal fire furnace. As they grew older, the Mills boys took on mechanical work and sold cars for their father. Following college and active duty in the Army, the brothers suspected they’d go back to work at the dealership.

However, Stewart C. Mills Senior had other plans brewing. By 1954, the Mills owned the local Ford, Oldsmobile, Studebaker and used car dealerships, in addition to a series of gas stations, parts stores and a parts delivery service. During a time where Fair Trade Laws made it difficult for farmers to buy supplies and equipment at wholesale pricing, Stewart C. Mills Senior had a vision of retooling his auto parts stores and selling to these farmers as legitimate business owners. In 1955, Hank and Stewart Junior established and opened the first Fleet Wholesale Supply Company store in Wadena, selling farm products at wholesale prices to eligible farmers. The Wadena store was later conceded to their Uncle Henry who went on to operate a separate chain of farm supply stores. Recognizing the need and wanting to establish their territory further east, the Mills brothers packed up and, soon after, opened a store in Marshfield, Wis. Mills Fleet Farm, as it was later renamed, now has 18 stores in Wisconsin, one in Fargo, one in Iowa and 11 in Minnesota with a 12th currently being built in Carver, and plans further expansion into Iowa and other parts of the Midwest. “People assume that our family is from Wisconsin,” Stewart III pointed out. “But the only reason we wound up spending so much time there was that’s where my grandfather sent my dad and my uncle. And they were pretty busy over there. But 512 Laurel Street is still home base for all Mills operations.” Over time, the Mills Companies continIn 1955, Stewart Junior (Stew) (left) and Henry ued to grow, as did the branches of the family (Hank) opened the first Fleet Wholesale Supply Company Store in Wadena; a precursor of Mills tree. In 1972, Stewart III was born to Stew Fleet Farm stores. Junior and Sandra Mills. In 1975, sister Marisa

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was born. While Stewart III’s parents commuted to and from the bustle of business in Wisconsin, Stewart III stayed with his grandmother, Helen, at the family’s home on the Gull chain during the summer. But when he turned 14, Stewart III was, like others before him, thrust into the inner workings of the family business. “It was something that was a given. My dad growing up during the Great Depression went to work at an early age. That was just the culture in our family where you have to work. That’s what’s expected of you.You contribute. Nobody gets a free ride.” For the first three years, Stewart III worked at the auto dealerships, doing minor body repair and minor engine work and assisting wherever directed. For two summers, he worked in the parts department until starting college when he also began selling cars until graduation. Despite what many would think, following his college graduation, Stewart III went to work at Fleet Farm. But rather than being handed a job in administration, behind a desk; Stewart III was handed an orange shirt, name tag and pointed to the sporting goods and automotive departments, where he was responsible for tasks including pushing carts and emptying trash. Later, he served as assistant manager at various Fleet Farm stores.

Stewart III said, while there was no time- of 83, shows no signs of stepping down from table or formal training plan, his father made involvement in daily operations of the busihim go through the paces like any other ness that has driven his family for six generaemployee would be expected to do and tions. “My dad knows what is happening in noted that he never once resented that.“The every store. He’s on top of his game. In the only way you can understand a job or job last two to three years I’ve just tried to stay function is to actually do it. To know what out of my dad’s way,”Stewart III laughs. they do, who they are. I will tell you it’s quite Now a father and husband himself, helpful. Until you understand how a store Stewart III recognizes the importance of works, you don’t understand anything.” family, heritage, community and doing busiIn addition to Mills Fleet Farm stores, the ness the way his great-great-grandfather Mills Family Companies also include the would have expected. “This is where our Mills Resolute Bank, a small bank started heritage and our roots are. We came in the three-and-a-half years ago in southwestern 1870s and we have certainly had business Minnesota; as well as the Mills Automotive take us to other parts of the Upper Midwest, Group consisting of four automobile dealer- but we keep getting pulled back here. This is ships, a body shop facility and a wholesale home.” parts supply business. Marisa, who has also worked her way through the ranks, is CEO of Mills Automotive Group. “She has pulled together the dealerships which were being run independently and has forged them into a cohesive group that have been highly successful since she’s taken over,”Stewart III said of his sister. While Stewart III and Marisa have taken on leadership posiJenny Holmes tions with the Mills Jenny Holmes is a former reporter for the Brainerd Dispatch and Family Companies, currently is a freelance writer, contributing to several area publicaStewart III said his tions. She lives in Nisswa with husband, Tim and her two children. father, even at the age


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by Cynthia Bachman photo by Joey Halvorson



The Schroeder family has owned and operated Schroeder’s Appliances for more than 50 years in Brainerd. Marlen and Ken Schroeder arrived in Brainerd in 1957 as newlyweds after they completed their education, Ken from Northwest TV and Electronics in Minneapolis where he trained as a TV repairman and Marlen as an X-ray technician. Ken Schroeder originally worked at Norbert’s TV then took a position at Melin’s TV and Communications when George Melin needed a repairman. On Oct. 1, 1960 Ken purchased the TV business from Melin. Years later Melin sold the communication business to Kurt Martin. At that time the store was located at 109 2nd Ave. NE, Brainerd. Ken Schroeder originally continued with the sales and the repair of radios, phonographs, as well as, black and white TV’s and later color RCA TV’s. As technology and times changed Schroeder’s slowly added appliances to their enterprise and appliances became Schroeder’s specialty. Soon after appliances were added the store moved to 702 West Washington. As the appliance business expanded more space was required and the store expanded two doors down to 710 West Washington; the former McDonald Lumber Co. On Labor Day weekend of 2006 Schroeder’s moved to their present location in Baxter on Highway 371. This location allows them three times the space and has incredible built-in displays with working models so customers can see and actually use microwaves, stoves, washers/dryers, etc. Included in the new location is a complete modern kitchen where professional Chef Marty prepares food for special events such as“girls’ night out.” As Marlen and Ken grew their business they also were busy raising their family. All four of their children, three daughters and a son, were born in Brainerd. Of the daughters, only Karen continues to live in the area. She works as a first-grade teacher and as Schroeder’s bookkeeper: a task she took over when her mother “retired.” Their only son, Charles, assumed ownership of Schroeder’s Appliances on June 30, 1998. Charles’ immediate family refers to him as“Charles;”all others know him as“Chuck.”


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Chuck has worked at the business since childhood. When he was old enough he was in charge of sweeping the floors and dusting TVs. In his early teens he did deliveries, by high school he was in sales. He is self-taught in the repair of radio, stereo and microwaves; under the tutorage of his father and Ed Becker. After high school Chuck attended Brainerd Community College then graduated with a degree from North Dakota State, majoring in chemistry with engineering electives. He then took business classes in St. Cloud. Throughout his education he would return to Brainerd to work weekends and summers in the family appliance store. Of the employees, his father Ken and sister Karen are part-time staff. There are six full-time employees, which includes Chuck. Employees’ tasks include sales, repair, delivery and customer satisfaction. Chuck is proud to say,“We have good employees that do a good job.”As an example ,Ed Becker retired last December after 45 years with Schroeder’s. When asked how a small family business can survive in the“Big Box world” Chuck answered,“Schroeder’s is part of a buying group that allows us to be competitive. We provide service that is timely and reliable. It is about customer satisfaction.” He is right about that. My husband and I purchased our appliances from Schroeder’s when we built our house in 2006.


Cynthia Bachman

Cynthia Bachman lives in Pillager with her husband, Brian and commutes to Minneapolis to work at the University of Minnesota Hospital as an RN. Liking to write, she has joined a writer’s group at the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center.

Ken Schroeder (left) turned over Schroeder Appliances to his son, Chuck in 1998 and in 2006, the store relocated to Baxter. 2012 | generations in business

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CELEBRATING 60 YEARS — Consolidated Telephone Company —

Although it only lasted an hour, the meeting held at 823 Maple Street in Brainerd changed the lives of thousands. It was May 19, 1950 when seven men joined for the first official meeting of the Crow Wing Cooperative Rural Telephone Company, which was later to become Consolidated Telephone Company. Prior to this first organizational meeting, the residents of rural Minnesota, and throughout rural America, did not have an option when it came to telephone service. Although the telephone had been invented decades earlier, for millions of U.S. residents getting service was only possible for those that lived in the city. The seven founding directors had the dream, and initiative, to create a telephone company to serve the rural areas in the Brained area, but now they had to share-and sell-that dream to the residents in those areas. Knocking on doors throughout the region, the directors worked to sell memberships in a company that at the time had no product, no service and no employees. Their work was obviously challenging.


With the company established and offering service in some areas of their desired service territories, the directors made the decision to purchase smaller, existing telephone companies. The Motley Telephone Company, the Randall Telephone Company, Northland Rural Telephone Company, Rushbrook Rural Telephone Company, Midway Farmer’s Rural Telephone, Crooked Lake Township Telephone and many more companies scattered around the area. It was for this reason – the addition of so many telephone companies that it was decided to change the name of the company. A contest was initiated among the membership to rename the cooperative, the winner of which received one year of telephone service at no charge. The contest resulted in the selection of the name Consolidated Telephone Company – chosen to reflect the consolidation of the many small rural companies that made up the cooperative. When Consolidated Telephone Company (CTC) was formed nearly fifty years ago there was no way that the founding board of direc-

tors had any idea of the vast changes that would take place in the telecommunications industry. Fortunately, they laid the groundwork for a company that continued to look forward, being able to take advantage of opportunities as they arose. The new millennium saw those technologies that just years earlier were merely luxury items, become everyday necessities. It is with the past 50 years of growth and change in mind that CTC looks to the future and celebrates the past. The success of the company would never have been possible without loyal customers, dedicated employees and forward-thinking board members. They are all elements behind the success of CTC and are what will make the company be a success in the decades to come.

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by Mary Aalgaard


photo by Joey Halvorson

Dancing for Decades To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak. ~Hopi Indian Saying


Steve and Cindy Clough are dancing through life as founders of Just for Kix. Was this a well-choreographed life plan or improvisation as one request and opportunity lead to another? The football game is on and little Cindy is off playing until she hears her dad say, “It’s halftime!” As she comes running into the living room to watch the dancers during the half-time entertainment, the seed is planted. She was part of the first dance team at the Brainerd High School in 1976. After she graduated, she came back to coach. She also taught baton twirling at the YMCA. When she had her team perform for a local Girl Scout troop, mothers rushed up to her and asked if she’d offer dance classes for their daughters. Dance fever quickly spread, and Just for Kix was established in 1981. Steve and Cindy became partners in life in 1978 when they got married, and he joined her in the dance business in 1983. It is a wonderful marriage of business and creativity and a couple who brings music to life through dance classes for girls and boys in the Brainerd lakes area and beyond. The art of dancing is so much more than technical skills. While precision and skill build up the body and train the muscles, the beauty of dance comes from the soul. The music reaches in, plucking your deep emotional chords and your body sings in response. You become the song with each pirouette, plié, kick and pose. The audience watches the dancers experience the music. There is a calling in the universe that pulls us in the direction we

are meant to go. As a careful observer of life, Cindy followed her heart’s desire to be a dancer. She found a way to share that gift and enthusiasm with others by making herself available to teach. As the dance studio grew, Cindy hired more instructors and invited in guest choreographers. The need for costumes, props, shoes and accessories motivated the Cloughs to hire costume designers, sewers and staff. Soon, they were renting and selling dance attire and accessories to other groups. They started a catalogue order company. They were able to fill their own need for immediate demand, especially when a dancer was new to a program and needed a costume on short notice. Cindy didn’t want anyone to feel left out. Students of Just for Kix grew up, graduated and moved to new communities where they saw a need for dance classes. They wrote letters to Cindy telling her what a positive influence she had in their lives. She’s been the subject of numerous college essays on who is your mentor. Her former students wanted to offer dance classes where they live. Soon Just for Kix studios were formed in other towns and states. Just for Kix is now in 10 states with more than 20,000 participants. The Brainerd lakes area hosts a number of summer dance camps, bringing in dancers and their families from all over the country. They have been known to fill up local hotels during camp weeks. Another option for dance studios of some distance away is to fly in an instructor for private camps. Steve and Cindy’s daughter, Alexandra, is one of the numerous instructors to fly into those communities. The Cloughs have three children who are all in the business. Their oldest son, Joel, is the numbers guy who works on the financial end. His wife, Dana, is a graphic designer. Their second son, Jerad, runs their newest business, The Tee Hive, located in downtown Brainerd, a building which was once their studios. Jerad also uses his marketing and business degrees and creativity to enhance their business. His wife, Jamie, a former student of Just for Kix, is the director of the Wadena program and an instructor in the Brainerd studio. Both couples have daughters, who are now 3 years old and newborn sons born just eight days apart. The girls have already started dancing, carrying on the legacy. The Cloughs’ daughter, Alexandra, who is in her early 20s, is very involved in the business. When she was a baby, she traveled with her mom when she taught in Spokane, Wash. Now, she has returned as an instructor. She has also gone to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and worked with Wendy Anderson Inman, one of Cindy’s first students. She is a costume designer and patterner, as well as an instructor. She brings to life new styles and movement. She 2012 | generations in business

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showed her mom the emotional impact of lyrical dance. They have plans for a powerful show this winter using songs such as“Goodnight Saigon” by Billy Joel, which they have been planning since Alexandra was in the eighth grade. In the spring, they’ll have an angel theme show. Cindy believes they are turning out well-rounded dancers in their studio. From a place that started out with precision and kick, popular in the ‘80s, they now offer every form of dance from classical ballet, tap and jazz to lyrical and hip-hop, which appeals to young men. The number of boys in the studio has also increased with 18 boys participating this fall. The men in the Clough family aren’t likely to don a leotard, but they have participated in father-daughter dances. They see the importance of dance in the lives of young people and how it builds esteem in young women. For some, dance is a creative outlet, something to try and enjoy in the moment. For others, it becomes their life blood, that thing that gets them excited and makes them feel whole. At Just for Kix you can experience dance the way that is right for you. They teach through encouragement and respect. They assess by asking, “How have you improved today?” From the tiniest of dancers who move free and easy

in class, but clam up when watched too closely by parents, to the most experienced performers, there are rewards for everyone. Now, Cindy, who once marveled at the halftime dancers on TV, takes a dream team of girls to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., as an annual event. The dancers come from Just for Kix studios throughout the country. Teams bond. Mothers and daughters or fathers and daughters travel together. Generations of dancers share an experience and pass it on.


Mary Aalgaard

Mary is a freelance writer who contributes regularly to Her Voice. She lives with her four sons in the Brainerd area and teaches piano and writing for kids.

Involved in the Clough family business on many levels: (Back left to right: Jerad and Jamie Clough, Alexandra Clough and Brady Schellin, Dana and Joel Clough. Front left to right: Eva , Steve and baby Cato, Cindy and baby Carver, Cora. 12

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Part of the first dance team at BHS, Cindy established Just for Kix in 1981.

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Story & photo by Joan Hasskamp




Wally Christensen was the founder of Christenson Agency, now with insurance offices in Crosby and Deerwood.


The Christenson family knows insurance. John, the owner, and his two sons, Erik and Mikael, work together in the Christenson Agency offices in Crosby and Deerwood. They are all following in the footsteps of John’s dad, Wally Chrestenson, who worked for the First Insurance Agency in Deerwood for almost 30 years. When Wally retired in 1982, John joined the agency. John described his dad, who died in 1988, as a charismatic person with a strong work ethic. “He was a product of the Depression and World War II and those experiences helped shape his character,” John said. One of the major factors that made his father successful in the insurance business, according to John, was his daily commitment to do


what was best for his customers. That same desire to assist others led John into the business. In 1990, John decided to take a risk and start his own business, the Christenson Agency, in Crosby. “My dad paved the way for me,” John said. He explained that Wally had built up such strong relationships with a myriad insurance company people that they were willing to work with him on his new venture. In particular, John attributes his success to the fact that Auto Owners took a chance on him. As an independent agent, John said, it was imperative to have quality companies with competitive rates on board and Auto Owners was one of the big players in the insurance industry. Roger Looyenga, who

later became chairman and CEO of the company, gambled on the startup company which was practically unheard of. “I probably never would have made it if they hadn’t put their trust in me,”John said. While it was a struggle initially, over time John built up a thriving business. In fact, in 2002 John purchased the First Insurance Agency from the Deerwood Bank and absorbed it into the Christensen Agency. It was especially satisfying to John because his dad had always encouraged him to start his own company. With two offices to operate, John was very excited when his two sons expressed an interest in joining their father in the business.

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Erik joined the agency in 2005 while Mikael came on board four years later. After graduating from Gustavus Adolphus, Erik accepted a position as an underwriter with Auto Owners in the Twin Cities. After a couple of years he decided to return to the Cuyuna Range. “I wanted to work with a variety of people. I’m more of a people person and I missed that aspect when I was an underwriter,” Erik said. Besides looking for a more fulfilling professional life, he also missed all of the recreational opportunities the area had to offer. Mikael attended the University of North Dakota where he took business management classes. After graduation he sought out a career in law enforcement. Several years later he realized that he wanted to interact with people on a different level. “I wanted to work in insurance because it provided an opportunity to help people plus I could work with

people who actually wanted to work with me.” Both Erik and Mikael savor the opportunity to work with each other and their father. Erik said that it works because they communicate well and they have such a good relationship with each other. “We each have different strengths so we complement each other very well,”Erik added. Mikael echoed those sentiments. “We’re very tight knit,” he said. I’m very close to my dad and brother. It’s good to have different perspectives and be able to share them.” Mikael spends the majority of his time in the Deerwood office but, like his dad and brother, he moves between offices regularly. As the newest family member in the office, he said he looks to his dad for advice and wisdom. He enjoys being able to discuss business and share the workload with his dad and brother. John is thrilled to be working with his two

sons. He said the greatest compliment he receives is when his customers tell him how terrific his sons are to work with and how knowledgeable they are. “Our slogan at the Christenson Agency is, “We’re Working for You,”and we all really believe in that.” John attributes the success of his business not only to his sons but also to his very qualified and capable staff. “We’re extremely proud of our staff, their professional knowledge and their desire to serve our clients. They are instrumental to any success we enjoy.” John said the insurance business has never been more competitive. He credits their success in the Christenson Agency to always looking out for the best interests of their customers. What worked for his dad in 1953 still works today, John explained. “‘Working for You’ is not just a slogan, it’s what we do every day.”


Joan Hasskamp

Christensen Agency staff include: (left to right) Bev Kunz, Deb Sundsvold, Erik Christenson, John Christenson, Mikael Christenson, Tanya Jacobs and Stephanie Trotter.

Joan Hasskamp is a financial assistance supervisor for Crow Wing County Community Services. She lives in Crosby.

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R U T T G E R ’ S B AY L A K E L O D G E

osephine Joe and J



Historic Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge


Jim and Alice Madden

Madden’s Lodge

With an abundance of lakes in the Brainerd lakes area, the tourist industry began about 1915. People traveled here by railroad, horse-drawn carriage and motor cars for the “lake entertainment.”The railroad builders, loggers, miners


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Historic Madden’s Postcard

by Carolyn Corbett


fore electric

ning hall be

Ruttger ’s di

mily croquet gun’s photo: fa An historic Cra

Cragun’s historic photo of Gull Lake.

and farmers all contributed to the development of Brainerd, but by the 1920s the “vacationists” had become a main emphasis. Even in its earliest growth, tourism ranked with iron ore mining and farming in dollar volume. 2012 | generations in business

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Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge

Madden’s on Gull Lake

Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge is the oldest resort in Minnesota still operated by its founding family. The resort came into being in 1898 when Joe Ruttger, who had emigrated from Germany in the late 19th century, built a few cottages on the farmland he had homesteaded at Bay Lake. Over the years the resort, originally serving fishermen, passed from Joe and Josie Ruttger to their son, Alec, who invested in expansion. Next, grandson Jack grew the conference facilities and doubled the number of rooms. Now great-grandson Chris is the general manager. The Ruttgers’ home, built in 1901, was eventually transformed into the lodge. The original portion of the building remains. The boys’ bedrooms became guest accommodations and then offices. The log dining hall built in 1922 from local poplar logs, was the center of resort activity and is used to this day. The lobby was added to connect the house with the dining room and all were sided with logs in about 1935. It is a tradition that a fire always burns in the fireplace in what was originally Joe and Josie’s living room. Golf began in 1921 when a friend brought the idea of golf to Ruttger’s after a trip to California. In those days guests golfed in the pasture with the cattle. Other attractions of that time were the water slide and water wheel, and the tennis courts. When the Green Lantern was built a few years later, the big bands played and lots of people kicked up their heels. Many guests enjoyed horseback riding through the years till in 1982 horse riding ended to make way for The Lakes golf course. Across from the Country Store, purchased by Max Ruttger in 1914, is Auntie M’s. It is named for Mae Ruttger Heglund, who at one time ran the gift shop. Built in 1954, it has served as the Paul Bunyan Trading Post, Putt & Putter Shop, Corner Sportswear and now Auntie M’s Kaffeehaus. Many of the present day cottages have history dating back to the early days of the resort. Constant updating has kept them up to date with all the modern conveniences while retaining the classic cottage charm from nearly a hundred years ago.

The Maddens we know today is the result of merging a number of different properties. In 1906, entrepreneur T.H. Harrison began planning the development of his Gull Lake property, property that would become the Madden’s resort complex. Jack Madden first visited the Pine Beach area, a stunningly beautiful peninsula jutting far into the south end of Gull Lake, in 1931. Jack discovered the Pine Beach Golf Course and the Pine Beach Hotel built by Harrison and Chester Start. It was golf that started the Madden brothers on the road to the resort business. In an era when caddies were paid 25 cents per round, and many workers earned as little as $20 per month, golf vacations became an unaffordable luxury for most. As the Depression deepened, Harrison and Start were struggling financially and offered Jack and his Uncle Tom a no-money-down deal to buy the golf course and clubhouse property. The purchase of the Pine Beach Golf course was followed in 1936 by the building of a small three-cabin resort named Mission Point. By 1941, Jack and his brother Jim were sole partners of Mission Point and the Pine Beach Club, consolidating ownership exclusively in Madden hands.



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new facility named Madden Voyageur was constructed on the west shore of the Pine Beach Peninsula, adding an additional 40 accommodations. A fire destroyed the golf complex in 1964 and Madden’s response to the fire has become a point of resort pride. Jim Madden considers one of the highlights of his hospitality career the fact that Madden’s was open for business the next day! Madden’s not only redesigned and rebuilt its golf club, but shortly thereafter purchased the adjacent and historic Pine Beach Hotel and Pine Beach Lodge on the peninsula’s west shore. Now Madden’s had full ownership of all resort properties on the tip of the Pine Beach Peninsula. When Jack Madden died in 1978, C. Brian Thuringer, who had served eight years as manager of the Madden-owned Pine Edge Inn in Little Falls joined the resort’s management staff, becoming the newest partner in 1989. Today, Brian and his wife, Deb, Jim and Alice’s daughter, own the resort where Madden’s offers everything from the basics to an excellent tennis club, art gallery and the first international-style croquet lawns in Minnesota. Their 33-year-old son Ben is vice president of the company. Daughter Abbey was sales manager until September when she returned to school to get her MBA. She’ll be rejoining the resort in about two years.

Cragun’s Resort & Hotel on Gull Lake Merrill K. Cragun, and his wife, Louise, also saw possibilities in the Pine Beach area. Having copyrighted the name Paul Bunyan and traveled the state selling the Paul Bunyan Vacationland concept, in 1940 they bought seven acres of property from Jack Madden. There were no contractors at that time, so eight different families were hired to build eight different cabins in the Pine Beach area of Gull Lake. Wanting to make some improvements, Merrill went to the bank and signed a mortgage on Dec. 6, 1941, the day before Pearl Harbor. The war years were tough, but they hung on. Louise ran the resort, 9-year-old Dutch sold minnows and worms, and Merrill worked in Minneapolis during the week, making Skippy Peanut Butter labels for the war effort. Still, by 1947 they had 12 cabins and a lodge. The resort expanded throughout the 1940s, adding 12 cabins, a 20-seat dining room and motel units. The tourist season ran from Memorial Day to Labor Day. In 1957, Dutch. took over as resort manager and continued building onto the resort each year.

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Wi t h t h e advent of World War II, Jim was called to active duty, Jack and his wife Peg’s efforts kept Madden Lodge and The Pine Beach Golf Course running through shortages in materials, labor and cash. Following the war, Madden Lodge and the golf complex continued to expand. In 1956 a

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Dutch devel that in pool c and a ties. them ing th In Irma golf Cours dren way to ing v Sanct Legac wildli water To offers and m line. S mated

Dutch and his wife, Irma, oversaw further development throughout the several decades that included adding outdoor and indoor pool complexes, winterizing the resort and acquiring two adjacent properties. At first they did everything themselves, from painting to sewing the curtains. In the late 1990s, Dutch and Irma built the 45-hole world class golf course at Cragun’s Legacy Courses. The Craguns have no children and the Legacy Courses are a way to leave behind something of lasting value. The Audubon Signature Sanctuary Course designation of the Legacy Courses certifies high standards in wildlife-habitat management, erosion control, water testing, wetland protection and more. Today, in addition to the 61 cabins, Cragun’s offers a 185-room hotel, complete conference and meeting facilities and 4500 feet of shoreline. Since Cragun’s opened in 1940, an estimated 3 million people have been guests.



area today are golf groups, wedding parties and guests, family reunions, those looking for eco-friendly experiences, scrapbookers, snowmobilers, people on holiday packages and more. It is not only the resorts that are passed down through the generations. It is also the vacations themselves. Families spanning generations, some for over 40 years, continue to return to the resorts where they vacationed with their family years ago, even if now they make reservations on smartphones. Multi-generational family vacations at multi-generational family resorts!



Trends & The Future


One important advance over the years has been the extension of the resort season to accommodate both conference groups and winter vacationers. Vacationers in the lakes

photo by Joey Halvorson

Carolyn Corbett

Prior to playing with words for a living, Carolyn Corbett taught elementary school for 14 years. At 35, she resigned and sailed off into the sunset. Literally. Along the way she became a contributing writer for a number of sailing magazines. Today, as a freelance writer/editor, she has over 200 articles published in cruising, parenting and general interest magazines. Her web site is at

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by Karen Ogdahl

photo by Joey Halvorson

Keeping Clothes Clean for

92 years


Over 90 years ago, Fred Anderson and his brothers opened a dry today most of the houses have been replaced by commercial propercleaning business on Laurel Street in Brainerd. Today Fred’s grand- ties. Although the equipment has been updated several times, vesdaughter, Rose Feriancek and her husband, Jerry, are proud to be the tiges of the early days still exist. A coal bin in the basement brings back third generation of Andersons to own Anderson Cleaners. memories of times when the business needed coal to heat the buildThe original business began on 614 Laurel Street in 1920. The store i n g and generate steam for the cleaning prosold diamonds, jewelry and made-to-order clothing. Catering to cess. The original Anderson family the fashions of the times, they specialized in hat refurkitchen sink is still in use today. bishing — and, of course, dry cleaning. Although Rose is very proud of her “We still have some of the hat forms career now, she never intended to go and irons from the original buildinto the family business. “In high ing,” Rose said. “A few of the irons school I wanted to be a home ecoweighed 15 pounds!” nomics teacher,” she said, but after When the brothers went their college she changed her mind and separate ways, Fred moved the dry returned to the cleaners. Rose’s knowlcleaning business into his home at edge of sewing helped her with the 416 S. Eighth Street, and the cleaners alterations service and with clothing have been there ever since, with a care. “I loved chemistry, which is so few changes. “In the early days the important to what we do. We are a dry cleaning was done in the baseleader in stain removal, and it’s ment and pressing and cusbecause we know what we’re doing. tomer service was on the It’s not by-guess-by-gosh.” The main level,” Rose said.“The Ferianceks keep up with new techback of the house and the When Fred became the sole owner, Anderson Cleaners moved to their niques and environmental standards. upstairs were the living quar- present location on 8th Street. They have been active in the ters for my grandparents and Minnesota Dry Cleaners Association, their four children including my dad, Everett. As the business expand- and Rose has held several offices including state president. ed, the family moved to a new home, freeing up more space for the dry The name on the door may be the same, but many of the services cleaning.” reflect modern needs. Surprisingly, people still bring their everyday The neighborhood was primarily residential in those days, but clothes to the cleaners. “People are so busy,” Rose said. “They want 20

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Fred Anderson (left) and his brother opened a dry cleaning business on Brainerd’s Laurel Street in 1920. After college, Fred’s granddaughter, Rose, used her sewing skills to help with the business.

their clothes to look good, but they don’t have time to do the washing and ironing. Also, we clean a lot of down comforters and pillows. We can make down pillows from old comforters and can make pillows from a down substitute that doesn’t flatten with use.” Rose’s grandfather could never have imagined that Anderson Cleaners would be doing business all over the world, but the Internet has created a wide customer base, especially for family treasures.“One of our specialties is heirloom cleaning,” she said. “We do everything from tablecloths and quilts to dresses. Many other cleaners won’t do heir-

loom work because it’s so time consuming. You have to know the fabric, the embellishments on the fabric and the types of stains. Once an item is cleaned, we package it in an acid-free storage box to preserve it.” Rose and Jerry have cleaned items from Europe and England as well as all over the United States.“We have a

customer from Hawaii who has sent us her pillows three times to be restored,” she said. “We’ve connected with so many interesting people. Mostly they email us, but other times they call and chat for awhile.” Just as her grandfather and father did, Rose still treasures her customers close to home. “The best part of the business is the people, and that doesn’t change,” she said. “We love owning a business that’s been in the family so long, and Jerry has a special talent for remembering everyone’s names. Some of our customers have been with us for years. We know their families and they know ours. They are more to us than just business, we have become friends. We’ve also had outstanding employees. They put pride in what they do and have stayed with us a long time.” What would Grandpa Fred think about the present-day Anderson Cleaners? Rose said, “My grandfather would probably be amazed at how similar the procedures are to those he used, yet how rigid the safety and hazardous standards have become. I feel he would be proud that we have carried on the dry cleaning business that he started in 1920.”

G Karen Ogdahl

Karen Ogdahl is a retired teacher living in Baxter.

Rose Feriancek and her husband Jerry are third generation owners of Anderson Cleaners. 2012 | generations in business

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A Chip Off th

For W.W. Thompson Concrete, the original “blocks” were two it’s changed over the years.” brothers, R.B. (Burt) Thompson, and D.C. Thompson. The brothTodd agrees, “Pretty neat dream to have that reality coming ers started the company with I.C. Clausen in downtown Brainerd true, to be able to offer my children the same thing I had. I’ve in 1909. As they built their business they helped Brainerd never worked for someone else and I can give my children that. become the town it is today. I could have been the worst employee in the world. This business In 1931 the Thompson brothers bought out Clausen, and has treated our family well. It’s been a lot of hard work, and called it Thompson Brothers Concrete Works. In 1946, Burt’s son we’ve been fortunate. Hopefully we have treated our employees Bill came home from World War II and bought out his uncle and well, as they’ve been a large part of our success over the years.” it became a father and son enterprise. “Brett and I don’t always see eye to eye, but to work side by Burt loved to recount his family history. His father, George side with my son is pretty special.” Todd says, as Brett nods. “We Thompson, was born in Nova Scotia in the mid-1800s. When can yell and scream at each other, and blow off steam, but at the George heard of a big boom happening in a town called Brainerd, end of the day we were still father and son and move on.” he moved here and had his family follow later. At the time Todd is so grateful to all of their customers, large and small. Brainerd was a rough lumber town, where“every other door was Todd says they also try to buy local as much as they can. It is a saloon, a red light (district) or a gambling den.” The young town needed homes built to accommodate the influx of loggers. George took up mason-tending and working in the brickyard during the summer, logging in the winter. When Burt died in 1954, Bill bought out his mother’s share of the business. In 1959 Bill moved the business to its present location on the corner of Business 371 and Industrial Park Road and improved and expanded it, calling it W.W. Thompson after himself (William Walter). Todd, Bill’s son, began working at the plant in 1971 when he was 14. He has always known he would follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps. He began full time in the company when he graduated from high school. Early W.W.Thompson owners, left to right, In 1980 Todd, who was 25, bought out his dad when W.W. Thompson (Bill) with his parents, he retired. Although Bill took to retirement with gusto, Hester and R.B. (Burt) Thompson. he was always ready to help with moral support and to help make major decisions. In 1991 and 1996, Todd upgraded the block plant and rebuilt it in 2000, constructing the plant you see today. Todd expanded into the construction supply business while raising his family, two children, Brett and Sara, with his wife of 31 years, Roxanne. Brett says, “I worked there summers when I was 14 or 15, when I wasn’t playing baseball.” He graduated from NDSU in civil engineering because he always had an interest in building. In 2004 he decided to come back to the family business because he loves the industry and the people in it. In 2009 Brett signed a purchase agreement with his father and became part owner in the corporation. Brett says,“We have good days and bad days, but it is very neat to be part of a family business, to know the history and see how


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Story & photo by Suz Anne Wipperling

the Old Block

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important to them to see this region prosper. He would never think of going somewhere else to buy a new car. In August of 2008 they bought a company in Park Rapids, and so expansion into that area is developing. Brett says“I see our company getting into more of an architectural block, colored rockface block exteriors, burnished block, the ground face you see in schools,

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government buildings and expanding into more commercial line products. Todd adds,“WW Thompson is upgrading, purchasing a new concrete products manufacturing machine, which is state of the art and versatile. It gives us the ability to make block one hour, and retaining wall the next. Before this machine we would have to take time to retool. It will be much easier with new innovations in the industry, this machine will allow us to adapt.” About the industry Todd says,“The big guys have gotten bigger, but there is still room for the smaller company. We can offer a lot more personal service than the big guys.” As the saying goes, he’s a chip off the old block. And proud of it.

G Suz Anne Whipperling

Suz Anne Wipperling is a regular contributor to Her Voice, a member of Brainerd Writer’s Alliance and Heartland Poets and has both poetry and photography included in a Bemidji State University “Dust and Fire” collection.

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by Jenny Gunsbury photo by Joey Halvorson



It all started with a trip to Paul Bunyan Land in July, 1976. “Well there’s Jenny and Tim, all the way from New Hope, Minnesota. Good to see you!” boomed the larger-than-life woodsman from his seat at the famed amusement park, then located at the junction of Highways 371 and 210. “How does he know our name?” wondered the kids. “He just does,”replied their father, Tom. Tom and Elaine Bercher had brought their children up to the lakes area for a family vacation. After a day of rides, the family decided to explore the area. They drove around Gull Lake and noticed a“Lots for Sale”sign on the west side. After talking to the owner, Fred Schupert, local real estate agent, Ray Ruttger, and a few more weekend trips to the area, they purchased the lot for $18,000. “It seems like such a bargain now, but it was a lot of money back then,”says Elaine. In 1974,Tom started his own construction company in Minneapolis, Tom Bercher Construction. From a young age, he knew he wanted to be a carpenter when he grew up. When he was 8, his father was building an addition onto their home near Chicago. Tom loved to help pound in the nails. His father would even intentionally leave some nails out so Tom would have more to pound in when he got home from school. “From then on, that’s all I ever wanted to do,” recalls Bercher. After graduating from high school, Tom learned his craft on residential and commercial jobsites in the Chicago and Minneapolis areas. 2012 | generations in business

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While Tom worked out in the field, Elaine helped by answering the phone, filing and doing the bookwork from a small home office. She took accounting and real estate classes at a local community college to enhance her business skills. They grew from two to eight employees, working on a wide range of residential projects in all areas of the Twin Cities. By 1978, the couple had purchased several more lots on Gull Lake and in Nisswa. “By then, we said to ourselves, ‘Let’s either move up there or sell the lots’,” recalls, Tom. “The beauty of the lakes, the friendly people, and the opportunity to get in on the lake home industry really drew us here,”says Elaine. “At that time, there was still a lot of lakeshore available, much of it with good elevation.” In 1979, they finished up jobs in Minneapolis and headed north. “When I first came to town, I visited the Chamber of Commerce. The Commerce and Industry Show was about to start,” says Tom, “so I rented a booth. That’s where we got our first jobs.” It’s also where Tom met local builders Jerry Stromberg, Bob Gmeinder and Jack McDonald. By April 1980, this group, along with several others, established and became charter members of the Mid-Minnesota Builders Association. Today, the organization has more than 250 members and is involved in local, state, and national issues that affect the building industry. The couple recalls that the early 1980s were interesting times to be a builder in this area. “Compared to today, interest rates were sky-high at around 20 percent,” says Elaine. “But,” Tom adds, “Those were also some of our best years. It seemed that when the economy was bad, people took their money out of the stock market and invested in real estate and construction projects. Our reputation grew during that time as builders of lake homes.” As Tom Bercher Construction evolved and became Bercher Construction, their work portfolio included more commercial and remodeling projects. They moved their office out of their home and rented space on Golf Course Drive in Baxter. In the early 1990s, the Berchers built the Design Drive Professional Court on Design Road, where their offices are now located. Over the years, Tom spent more time in the office doing sales and managing projects and Elaine hired office staff to help with the daily accounting tasks. “I became more active in managing the entire office, marketing, advertising, photographing projects and helping with interior design,”says Elaine. “We also realized how important it was to be involved in the community,” says Elaine. Tom’s leadership roles at the local, state and national level of the National Association of Home Builders helped them bring new ideas to the area and network with builders and suppliers from around the country. He also served as Board Chair of the Brainerd Chamber of Commerce and coached youth hockey and baseball. Elaine was active as a Chamber Ambassador, worked on United Way campaigns, served on the Bremer Bank Advisory Board and enjoyed membership in the Newcomers Club, Lioness of Nisswa

and Zonta organizations. After 25 years in business, Tom and Elaine started thinking about retirement. “First, we approached our children,”recalls Tom. “But they weren’t interested.” While the Berchers pondered their options, Jenny and her husband, Brent Gunsbury, began to reconsider the offer. “It was very appealing from a family aspect,” says Brent. “We realized it was a great opportunity to raise our kids in a strong community near extended family.” Like Tom, Brent knew what he wanted to do from an early age — own his own business. Similar to Jenny, he grew up in a family business on Gull Lake and had a good idea about the benefits and occasional drawbacks to that lifestyle. With business management and psychology degrees in hand, along with experience in sales, marketing, public relations and a job with an architectural firm in Minneapolis, Brent agreed to become part of the Bercher team. In 2000, Brent, Jenny, and their two young children moved from Minneapolis to Brainerd. Brent was to take over Elaine’s role in the company so she could retire first. Tom says with a grin, “But she really wasn’t ready to give it up completely, so I started giving Brent my responsibilities.” Tom officially retired in 2002 and Elaine followed in 2004. That’s when Jenny stepped in and took over many of Elaine’s duties. In 2007, the Gunsburys purchased Bercher Design & Construction from the Berchers. “Getting my general contractor’s license, learning about human resources and understanding the specifics of construction management were my first tasks,” says Brent. “Tom and Elaine were, and continue to be, great mentors for all aspects of the business. They also have a firm grasp on the importance of separating business and family, which I think is healthy. There’s a link, but they’re not one and the same.” Both generations agree that working with a spouse has its ups and downs. “We never had to ask each other about their day because we already knew,” says Tom. “We also understood the long hours and weekend appointments,”adds Elaine. “For clients, it can also be helpful to have a couple assisting them with the building process. I think Jenny and I complement one another in our skill sets,”says Brent. Many things have changed in the lakes area since 1976. Even Paul Bunyan has a new address. As Bercher Design & Construction enters its 38th year of business, the family agrees that the reasons for its longevity and success remain the same. “Our clients, dedicated and talented employees, and commitment to the industry have made all the difference,” notes Tom. “Staying current on trends in the marketplace and being fiscally responsible helped us weather the tougher times, too,” says Elaine. “The construction industry is constantly changing,”says Brent. “The one constant, though, is approaching each client in a way that addresses and respects their unique set of circumstances. If we keep focusing on what is important to them, we should be doing fine for the third generation.”


Designers Builders



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Tom Bercher (second from left) and his wife Elaine, moved to Brainerd in 1976 where Tom started Tom Bercher construction, now owned by son-inlaw Brent Gunsbury (far right) and his wife Jenny Bercher Gunsbury.

Jenny Gunsbury

Jenny Gunsbury enjoys working with her husband, carrying on the family business. She loves the smell of a newly framed house and remembers reading Professional Builder and Qualified Remodeler at the breakfast table growing up. Her free-lance articles can be found in various publications.

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a n o s r e m o t s s i s Cu a B e m a N First

g the hes, flyin ated g u H d r a dic 23; How evelt de killing 4 n Delano Roos at its helm. , s y e K Florida their Frankli rations e hit the U.S. President see three gene y have lived in ther n a ic r r u e ; h Paul’s fa or Day h ld live to house th 352 mp 35 a Lab eed record of born that wou ant room (in a are store that ng time — 9 1 f o r was leas r a lo mbe ardw airsp In Septe Racer, set an iver, a business Gardiner in a p lk about the h , let’s just say fo 1 e ll R ta e g e r H w a entuHughes am; and in Pin ith Paul and M e Pine River, to n Gary for — r. ., and ev d the .D S , o D s te w ts th r s h e ig ng ase ing own their Hoov Ree He as a you verlook e purch ge and y I sat d Recentl ar marriage) o Paul and Mar were when I w aul’s father, left love. In 1935 h ner of First and to cor own V), P 8-ye they entire 6 1935. I’ve kn nable now as ce Virgil (aka C ted and grown d occupies the o in n n n s a 1936 u e r d opene are just as pe an when Clar had fished, h dware Hank school in operh ig r e y h g a e e h H b m t y a o ry and th e batter ardiner’s uated fr re histo n area th he grad re, he recalls th 27.45. A cusHardwa Pine River, a is known as G n e h w day led in er and er’s sto milies old for $ ally sett Store, which to t of town. r his fath ucts in his fath areas. “They s Paul, many fa n he fo s d e s n e le e d l tr to he Gamb n the main s ool and week ed about pro y in the rura ccording . He smiles w bake A .” k it o h s ic c th y a s n tr la d r n c o e’d e e Barc -powere ck of ele ee. Wh rked aft tomer, h d $5 a m Paul wo ll-time employ r due to the la n, $5 down an f them gasoline range to a cus pula a fu t pla st o chen ttle gas became s that were po e on a paymen the store, mo ld deliver a kit d the bo ell. n a u io s n m o d s o o a e w r fr e sw sin e as he ated ance bu part to them a struck ld purch ashing machin r was. “Before li u p o p c a r e e t edy f th the tha tom st w ut part o sons, CV sold onths later, trag ersevered, their fir rfectionist his fa orking.” b t ll h a g u d o e p b ea M purchas it was w hat a pe rdiners ods health r anded. relates w it to make sure rother Kenneth ar later, due to 970 it was exp tore. But the Ga re, sporting go a b 1 s e in w y e is d e in a r h k th d f ut ha a ca Paul and but abo dware Hank an the main part o re, appliances, ers. arge In 1948 m their father r n u d a it w e n H o r tt itation M a u le fu s g e o e o s d h — m fr n e t r a a s c e u m s e v o ion eca ith ne busine 0 the store b d Paul b ew addit etter tha d and w nd In 196 destroyed the n is bigger and b etire, Marge an fter they retire floors a r a it eeping o ambire y to e fi r a w d s d a to e f s to n o id e e c d e n wh t th the job rbored n r Kenny d e store a st abou as given the store he ha west to Denve w rebuilt th In 1977, when ey missed mo eople.” e h n e t th h a p . u t w s th o e n y . s t e e ic g and to d them wha ,“Meeting n bankin headed early ag rents sp ss at an ng hours his pa om college, he ed in mortgage exploring the eed) e r I aske g in a s l u u b a ey work the lo tion fr ea of family (and P replied came into the fter witnessing d, upon gradua ife, Janice, who er with the id r trial period th iv a a w a e R y t r y Ga reeck, bu otsteps. Inste re he met his ated to Pine posed th c e inaway sto fo the beg e putting llow in their . And that’s wh 1990 they relo of their self-im In . s s e fo m in d ure busin Gary ca tions to t into real estate hanged when ss. At the en re/furnit . That’s when w e c n a in e it s w w u d r w b d a e n y h o n a famil they k elp them cover h ll to the Life as f acquiring the sted we an who could h ustomer to dis ju d a s o a c . h y m ity at e possibil decision to sta out that his wif e if there was a ear, forcing th e p ic t e p n th a in th e Ja is o n d d p k e a s m as to ick to uld a w wh w u o o q r n w e is s s h r a y e r g r Ga elp.” ustom of supportin ted a monste nice to h wever, c y a ning, ho plan. “My wa I may have cre always want Ja e store Janice a y th . up with geable she was r comes in the ut working in want to come e o d y b m e le a to t th w s s o u o o d it’s n c s k a basis an e likes m ey need ings or phone r asked what sh tomers what th on a first name When get cus stomers e.” Trying to a lot of our cu are of everyon “ , s e li p c re e w k o n ta ek y to back. W challenge to tr a s y alwa



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Story & photo by Theresa Jarvela While Janice and Gary find their garden and remote location with much wildlife a real therapy for the stress of business, their Springers (Bud and Beau) who accompany them to the store daily prefer to snooze on the job. Whether another generation of Gardiners will take the helm (Gary’s son, Sean, is currently working as a pastor in Kansas and is the father of three daughters) is unknown, but what is known is that 76 years ago Clarence Virgil had a secret to success and today Gary and Janice own it.


Theresa Jarvela

Gardiner’s Paul and Marge (center & right) have passed on ownership of Gardiner’s Hardware Hank in Pine River to their son, Gary and his wife, Janice.

Theresa Jarvela lives in Brainerd, is a member of Great River Writers, Brainerd Writers Alliance and Sisters in Crime Organization.

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by Arlene Jones


p h o t o b y Tr a c y Wa l l i n


What’s in a Name?


Top Photo: Opening Schaefer’s Model Meat Market on 6th and Oak in Brainerd were Schaefer brothers (left to right): Ted II, John and Bud. Bottom Photo: Schaefer Family (left to right): Tony, Tiffany, Ted III, Robyn, Andy and Ted IV.


Schaefer’s…its synonymous with the lakes area. It is a fixture, a landmark and the gateway to the Nisswa business area. “Take a left at Schaefer’s corner.” “Go a mile past Schaefer’s.” And if you’ve been around long enough, “go right at the Airport Market” might have been what you heard. Yes, at one time, there was an airport just west of the store and Schaefer’s was once known as Schaefer’s Airport Market. In 1914, Theodore “Ted” Schaefer opened the original Schaefer’s store in the Brainerd area, Schaefer’s Model Meat Market, on the corner of 6th and Maple. His sons, Ted II, Bud and John Schaefer, opened a new store with groceries at the corner of 7th and Maple (currently The Office Shop). The Schaefers owned and operated a third store in Little Falls, just west of the river. The fourth store opened as Schaefer’s Airport Market, in Nisswa, at its current location, in 1964. When the brothers purchased the store, it was known as “Jimmy’s” and included The Flight Room — a cafe and dance hall for local teenagers, a laundromat and a variety store. The variety store was a one-stop shop for folks vacationing in the Nisswa area where they could get what they needed without having to travel to the big city, Brainerd. Ted III says that this store filled a niche and shelves were stocked with items from clothing to shelf paper, to children’s toys and kitchen gadgets and had a“tad of everything.” At first the stores were seasonal so one of the first orders of business was to keep the store open year round. When the Schaefer family purchased the Nisswa grocery market, the family owned and operated four grocery stores in the region: two in Brainerd, one in Little Falls and one in Nisswa. Eventually, the stores in Brainerd and Little Falls

were sold and the Schaefer family remained in the grocery business with the Nisswa store. The current Schaefer at the helm of the family business, Ted Schaefer III, is the third generation Schaefer to own and operate a grocery store in the lakes area. Ted Schaefer III was born into a family of six siblings with four older sisters and a younger brother on Brainerd’s south side. Ted III began working in his grandfather’s grocery business when he was 12 years old. He says his first “job” was to sort pop bottles, and with another smile says that his first promotion was to mow lawns. When the Nisswa store was purchased in 1964, his father, Ted II, moved his family from Brainerd to the Nisswa area. In 1969, the store name was again changed to Schaefer’s Red Owl when the brothers began to purchase groceries from a Hopkins distributor. Ted III graduated from Brainerd High School in 1970 and was employed full time at the Brainerd store. In 1972, when an employee returned from a military deployment, Ted was “let go” from his job. As he was the last one hired, Ted III was released from employment in order for the soldier return to active employment. This turns out to have been a good thing. Ted III decided to take advantage of his employment condition and travel. He landed on the slopes of Vail, Colo., where he met his future wife, Robyn. Ted III and Robyn were married in 1973. The first major remodel of Schaefer’s Red Owl began in the spring of 1975. The store remodel project was completed by Bud Schaefer, who had left the grocery business and owned Brainerd Construction. When finished, the store was enlarged by 4,300 square feet. All

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new refrigeration was added and the laundromat received all new laundry equipment. With the increased size, the store was able to receive daily bakery items from its sister stores in Brainerd and was able to hire additional employees. The store reduced the variety component of inventory and focused on general merchandise related to food preparation and kitchen gadgetry. The remodeling job took almost a year to complete and the store was ready for the spring season of 1976. At the age of 30, Ted III and his brother, Tom, bought the Nisswa store from their father, Ted II, and their uncle, John Schaefer in 1981. At this time, Ted II retired from the grocery business and eventually sold the stores in the Brainerd and Little Falls areas. Ted II and his wife, Bettie Jane, retired to the hobby of training and showing Tennessee Walking Horses. The face of Schaefer’s again changed when it remodeled in 1993, almost doubling in size. The store moved to a full service in-house bakery and upgraded existing deli departments by adding sitdown areas for full service meals. The current storefront with the iconic timber framing was reopened in the spring of 1994 as Schaefer’s Foods. When I asked what makes for a successful stand-alone grocery business in the face of larger stores, Ted says,“You listen to your customers, not big city marketing trends, and that is a successful model.” Schaefer’s Foods is also an outstanding

example of a family-owned business that is from scratch which bear yet another fully integrated into their community and Schaefer name, Bettie Jane. It is a store its needs. One of the most well-known where your groceries are bagged for you events in the Nisswa area is the annual and carried to your vehicle, even in the Schaefer’s “Taste of the Holidays,” held the snow and rain, everyday of the year. first Thursday of December. The store is Schaefer’s Foods employs 75-80 yearelaborately lit from its roadway entrances round employees and as many as 120 with luminaries and the entire store is employees through the summer months. decorated for the holidays. Vendor after Ted III and Robyn Schaefer and their vendor fill the aisles, demonstrating their four children, Ted IV, Andy, Tony and products. Ted says that it is not only a way Tiffany, all work at the store in varying to showcase the vendors, but a way to capacities. Working with family requires showcase the store and its capabilities for consistent communication that spans over holiday entertaining. Additionally, pro- generations of diverse values, interests and ceeds are given to a different benefactor ideas. If success can be measured by geneach year. erations of working with family successToday, Schaefer’s Foods still remains a fully, then the Schaefer family has maslandmark in Nisswa. It also is a good, old- tered the course. fashioned grocery store that has managed Schaefer’s motto is “Your family tradito maintain much of its small town values tion; our family’s legacy.” In 2014, and characteristics. There is a full service Schaefer’s Foods will celebrate its 100th meat department where beef and pork are anniversary of being in business under the still hand cut by meatcutters. Ted explains Schaefer name in the Brainerd area. You that traditionally employees who worked can be sure that there is a communityin the meat department were trained at minded celebration coming. meat cutting school. Though meatcutters today are not formally trained, Ted says that he can still hear his Uncle John’s Arlene Jones words and they Arlene Jones owns and operates The Farm “help convey meat cutting tra- on St. Mathias with her husband, Bob. When not farming or collaborating with the community ditions.” on food-related issues, she spends time with At Schaefer’s her children and grandchildren, traveling, readFoods, you can ing and researching genealogy. still find pies


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Generations in Business - Vol1 Iss1  
Generations in Business - Vol1 Iss1  

I would like to welcome you inside the Brainerd Dispatch’s newest publication…….Generations in Business. It is a magazine about our local co...