2022 Generations

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Generations 2022

ENTERPRISE MEDIA GROUP

A historical look at the families behind Washington County's locally owned businesses


1904 1904 1904 1904

Proudly serving the financial needs of Proudly serving the financial needs of Proudly serving the financial needs of Proudly serving the financial needs of Washington County businesses since 1904, Washington County businesses since 1904, Washington County businesses since 1904, Washington County businesses since 1904, and for generations to come! and and for for generations generations to to come! come!

and for generations to come!

Remarkable Community Banking. Since 1904. Remarkable Community Banking. Since 1904. Remarkable Community Banking. Since 1904. 2

GENERATIONS | 2022

Remarkable Community Banking. Since 1904.

Member FDIC Member FDIC Member FDIC

Member FDIC


The Rhoades Family and employees of Enterprise Media Group would like to say congratulations to all of the Generational businesses in Washington County.

EMG is proud to be publishing newspapers for 153 years! Washington County Enterprise & Pilot-Tribune, Arlington Citizen, Oakland Independent, Lyons Mirror-Sun, Missouri Valley Times-News, Dunlap Reporter, Mapleton Press, West Point News, Wisner News-Chronicle

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138 N. 16th Street P.O. Box 328 » Blair, NE 402-426-2121 enterprisepub.com GENERATIONS | 2022

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Kelly Ryan Equipment celebrates three generations of ownership

Built on bravery BY GREG FORBES editor@enterprisepub.com

The Kelly Ryan Equipment Company's roots began when founder Kelly Ryan collected scrap metal as a teenager. He built and shipped his first elevators out of his garage in Omaha in the early 1940s and when he moved back to the Blair area in 1945, the company officially began. The humble beginnings in the early 40s eventually grew to multiple facilities throughout Blair and a payroll that at one time included about 400 employees in the 1950s. A stack of 400 W2 tax forms from the 50s can still be found at the business. “Back in that era, practically every kid that graduated from Blair worked there at one time or another,” said Kelly Ryan's son and current CEO James Ryan. James said Kelly built the business on a can-do attitude and determination, often times overcom-

ing situations that threatened the future of the equipment manufacturer. His father liked to use a quote that James now sees as the mentality that has allowed Kelly Ryan to adapt and grow to what it is today. “Someone asked him if he ever made mistakes and he said, 'Well I've made many mistakes but I've also tried more things than most people,'” James recalled. “He didn't know the word 'No,' or 'I can't.'” And Kelly wasn't shy about the pride he had of the company's success. James recalls an instance in which Kelly responded to critics about the manufacturing industry with a very clear gesture. “They fought him tooth and nail. They didn't want industry in this town,” James said. “When he wanted to show Blair where the money came from in town, he had Brinks bring in payroll in two dollar bills one week and silver dollars the next week and the cash registers in Blair were overloaded with two dollar bills and silver dollars.” Determination was one of Kelly's calling cards but his daughter, current secretary Kathy Cook, said he also operated his business with care and compassion to those who worked for Kelly Ryan as well as people in the community. Having experienced first-hand an injury on the job and apathy from

PHOTOS BY GREG FORBES | ENTERPRISE PUBLISHING

Kelly Ryan founded the Kelly Ryan Equipment Company in 1945. Pictured, from left, are president RJ Ryan, vice CEO Steve Cook, CEO James Ryand and secretary Kathy Cook. Not pictured is vice president Steven Cook.

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one of his early employers, Kelly vowed to start his own business to give people a caring place to work. “He felt like he wanted to have his own place so he could treat each employee like they should be treated,” Kathy said. “He treated people really wonderfully,” added vice CEO Steve Cook. “It didn't matter if they didn't (have anything), he would hire them and work with them.” Kelly's example has trickled down to the second and third generations of Ryans. James first came to the company in the 1960s and has since assumed the role of CEO. His son, RJ, is the current president. Another one of Kelly Ryan's grandchildren, Steven Cook, runs the steel fabrication side of the company, which was introduced in 2007 to accommodate the Cargill plant. Kathy said Steven and RJ have different ways of looking at things, but, together, they carry a continuation of Kelly's vision. “Between the two of them, they're a lot like dad in that there isn't anything they won't try,” she said. “They have very different talents but they work very well together. “They grew up a few houses apart and they've been friends since they were 3 and 6 (years old).” To see the next generation of Ryans step into leadership roles to lead Kelly Ryan into its next era, James said, was important to him and his family. Seeing RJ have an interest in joining the company and lead it through the coming years, James said, is important. “That meant a lot to me,” James said.

1945

W-2 tax forms from the 1950s show Kelly Ryan Equipment at one point employed nearly 400 people.


Celebrating our th 77 Year

1945 - 2022 Our solid background sets us apart

•Provide superior, dependable machinery for today’s farmer. •Sell great equipment at an affordable price. •Give continuing customer service

Kelly Ryan

1940s Our Beginning

Kelly Ryan Equipment Company was founded in 1945. Reflecting on those early days, Kelly Ryan once said, "After the war, you could sell almost anything because farmers were in such need." With material shortages, the first Kelly Ryan portable farm elevators were constructed from a variety of materials, some of which came from scrap yards. But they filled the need, were priced right and performed well. Some can still be seen in service today. Besides elevators for grain and hay, some of the company’s other early products included ground-driven wheel-type hay rakes and P.T.O. singlebeater and all-steel manure spreaders. At one time, Kelly Ryan was producing thousands of disc-harrows.

•Keep our customers in step with the ever-changing agriculture market

1950s Making Progress

Kelly Ryan’s spreader business launched it into mechanized cattle feeding in the 1950s. Ever since then, the company has offered standard and mixer feedwagons in a variety of models and sizes.

1970s - 1980s Innovation

After its introduction to bagged silage, Kelly Ryan greatly simplified the bagging machine in 1983 and introduced the 2-wheel version with 8- and 9-ft bag diameter sizes (7-, 10-, and 12-ft sizes came later). This simplification made the machine more affordable and suitable for use in any size operation.

1990s Lifetime Commitment

After a life devoted to his employees and company, Kelly Ryan passed away in 1996 after a three-year battle with cancer. Up to the onset of his illness, Mr. Ryan was active in sales, customer service, and product development. He was proud to be on a first-name basis with many of the company’s dealers and cattle-feeding customers.

Today Looking Forward

Kelly Ryan Equipment Company has its office and manufacturing operation at the river plant location just south of the U.S. Highway 30 Missouri River bridge on the east edge of Blair, Nebraska. Principals of the company today are Mr. Ryan’s son, James P. Ryan, CEO, and his grandson, RJ Ryan, President.

KELLY RYAN EQUIPMENT CO. Blair, Nebraska • 402-426-2151 www.kryan.com

GENERATIONS | 2022

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'Keep it in the family' "We try to do good for our clients — it's customer-driven. We try to give them the best product for the best rate and best coverage. I try to treat all my clients as family and look out for them and try to treat them as best as I can." Ritch Nelson COURTESY RITCH NELSON

Ritch Nelson, left, took over his father Irwin’s company, New Frontier Insurance, in 2013. Irwin died in 2015.

1984 BY CHEYENNE ALEXIS features@enterprisepub.com

Since 1984, the Nelson family has owned New Frontier Insurance Agency, serving clients in Fort Calhoun and Omaha. New Frontier Insurance Agency (NFIA) is a full-line insurance agency, now headed by Ritch Nelson after taking over from his father, Irwin, in 2013. Irwin died in January 2015. The business started in south Omaha in 1984 before moving to its present location at 3637 South 24th St. in 1990. The startup of the business was a surprise to Ritch, he said. "In 1984 (I was in college) I came home, (Irwin) ran the bank agency in Calhoun, and I went into the of-

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fice and said, 'Where's my dad?' and they said, 'He doesn't work here anymore,'" Ritch said. Five years later, the business expanded its services to Fort Calhoun, opening a branch at 100 South 14th St. In 1997, the company bought the Fort Calhoun Insurance Agency from the Fort Calhoun State Bank and moved into an office at 108 South 14th, before relocating its present office at 514 North 14th St. Ritch Nelson started working in insurance at Banker's Life of Nebraska three years before joining his his dad in south Omaha in 1990. "I think you have a sense of trust and you have that relationship already," Ritch said of working for his dad. Several of the Nelsons' family

members have worked for the business, including Ritch's daughters, aunt and mother-in-law. "We kind of keep it in the family," Ritch said. Since the start of the company, Ritch said the services offered have become more technology-based. "When I first started, we would do a rate out of a manual, now it's all computerized," he said. "Back then, we had to call the company in and ask if they made a payment, now we can get online, look at their history and figure things out. So, I don't call insurance companies much anymore as we used to." Since the business is operated by a family, Ritch said it's imperative that clients are treated as such. "We try to do good for our clients — it's customer-driven," he said.

"We try to give them the best product for the best rate and best coverage. I try to treat all my clients as family and look out for them and try to treat them as best as I can." Other than owning the business, Ritch has also followed in his footsteps in other ways. "One thing that's unique for us is both dad and I were presidents of the the Big I of Nebraska," he said, adding that he wasn't aware of another son and father duo who accomplished that feat. "Dad was the legislative chair of Big I and now I am. I'm following in his footsteps and acting like him a lot, too. "My dad was kind of the person where, he would tell you the way he thought regardless if you wanted to hear it or not. I'm not that forceful, but everybody appreciated him."


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402-704-1813 - Fort Calhoun 402-731-2505 - Omaha www.nebraskasinsurance.com GENERATIONS | 2022

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A roof overhead Nielsen Custom Homes built on two generations BY ELIZABETH A. ELLIOTT news@enterprisepub.com

Since 1969, Nielsen Custom Homes have been helping to put a roof over the heads of many residents in Blair and those outside the city. Last year they worked in five counties in Nebraska. They were responsible for homes in Spring Ridge at the southeast section of County Road 29 and Highway 30, as well as Colfax Villas on 10th and Colfax Street. Nielsen Brothers Construction was founded by Jay’s father, James. Jay said his dad founded it with his two brothers. Jay has been involved with the business since high school, working between his dad and his uncle, Bill Hardy. He studied architecture in college for three years, then traveled across the country working on commercial construction for around five years.

In 1988, they built the shop they are in now and Jay stayed. Not only is there a two-generation ownership at Nielsen Custom Homes, that translates to customers, as well. “There's three generations that we have built houses for,” Jay said. “When OPPD came to town, dad built for four of the five people who did the startup, their kids and their grandkids.” Jay said they have even built multiple houses for the same people. In his time in business, Jay has seen changes. Changes in codes, building equipment such as nail guns, and technology are a few parts. When Jay's dad, Jim, was working, communication was more face-to-face. Now it's constant. When Jay worked his father, planning meetings were held at the Corner Retreat. “I had lunch with my dad every day to plan the rest of the day and the next day,” he said. “It wasn't just about enjoying each other's company but working.” Jay and his company have helped out the Blair community. They helped with the press box at the baseball field, as well as the soccer stadium building. “It's how small towns survive,” Jay said. Along with new construction, Nielsen Custom Homes has been involved with several remodels in the area. “We do those because it's usually for people we have built for or for referrals,” he said. “We try to stay local with up to 50 different subcontractors and contractors,” Jay said. “People need to stay local more often to keep businesses going.”

1969

Nielsen Custom Homes

Building top quality homes since 1969 Nielsen Custom Homes is a local, family owned and operated business, building homes for over 50 years. Licenced • Bonded • Insured • 1-Year Builder Warranty We offer FREE Initial Consultations Contact us today to talk about your addition, renovation or custom home 1730 State St. • Blair, NE 402-426-2059 nielsencustomhomes.com Since 1969

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Long’s OK Tire Pros have served for decades BY ELIZABETH A. ELLIOTT news@enterprisepub.com

For more than 70 years, Long’s OK Tire Pros has served the Blair community for their tire needs. A two-generation business with a third generation waiting in the wings, customers have long relied on their service. Owner Kent Long said his dad started the company in 1951 at 16th and Washington streets, before moving across the way at 19th and Washington streets. They moved to their current location on 7th and Washington streets in 1957. Long said the company has been lucky to provide continued service over the years, including customers in Colorado, Kansas and South Dakota. “I've got people I've dealt with, their families come, and we pull from 90 miles away,” he said. “A lot of customers lived in Blair and moved away. They will come back

and buy tires from me.” He said it's amazing that they’ve been so lucky to have such a pull, with customers even coming in now from Fremont. Long said he started working at the company when he was a kid and started full time in 1976 when he graduated. He took over in 1992. Long said he was lucky to work with his father, Jim, every day for most of his life. His dad came down to the office every day until he was 88 and he died at 94. “We were great partners. We got along great on everything and worked well together,” he said. Long said he always knew he would take over the family business. “My goal was to be the youngest tire dealer in Nebraska. I wanted to be that by 25 years old, but I was 30 years old when I did it,” he said. “I knew this is what I was going to do since I was younger. My other siblings weren't interested in it. I'd sweep the floors in elementary

Keep those tires rolling 1951

ELIZABETH A. ELLIOTT | ENTERPRISE PUBLISHING

Keegan, left, and Kent Long of Long’s OK Tire Pros in Blair are a multigenerational company.

school just to be around the guys.” The business has longevity. “Business has been open for more than 70 years and we will be here for a long time to come,” Long said. "We have so many customers that really are like family.

Founder Jim Long.

COURTESY

Serving the Nebraska & Iowa Area for Over 70 Years

See us for all your tire needs. . .

New Tire Sales & Service • Tire Rotation • Flat Repairs Custom Wheels & Hubcaps • Computer Balance

Curtis T. Cole, Keegan Long, Owner Kent Long and Eli Edens.

770 Washington St. • Blair • 402-426-8636

www.longsoktirepros.com Hours: Mon.-Fri. 8:00 am - 5:00 pm Sat. 8:00 am - 12:00 Noon GENERATIONS | 2022

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45 Years later our focus remains the same, Family and Quality

Henton Trenching entrenched in community

BY GREG FORBES editor@enterprisepub.com

John M Henton started Henton Trenching and Excavating with just one backhoe and a trencher in 1977. A replica of the original Jeep trencher sits at the entrance to the Henton shop just off of Highway 30 near Blair as a reminder of the company’s early days. The fleet is much bigger now than the initial backhoe and trencher, but a focus on family and quality is still at the heart of Henton Trenching 45 years later. Shortly after John started the company, his brother, Jim, moved from Kansas to join him as an employee. As the company gained momentum and a reputation for quality work, it grew in both staff and service area. Today, about 15 people are on staff and Henton Trenching services Washington, Dodge, Douglas and Sarpy counties in Nebraska and makes trips to Harrison and Pottawattamie counties in Iowa. The growth of the company from one backhoe to a prominent name in trenching didn’t happen overnight. “Bit by bit,” John said. “A lot of hard work.”

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Along with a growth in customer base from its body of work, Henton Trenching has also become a destination for hard workers who want to work for a reputable company with a strong support system. “They walk in the door and want a job because they know us and want to work in Blair and that’s why we’re able to grow more than anything,” John “Johnny” R. Henton, son of John said. “We have good help. They are a bunch of great guys. In fact, we’re probably bigger than we planned on but these guys, they just come here and bring their friends and they just become part of it.” Not long into his life, Johnny, now the owner and president, became part of the Henton Trenching family. For Johnny, it was an easy decision. “I started helping my dad as soon as I could,” he said. “I just liked it all. I liked the smell of dirt, I liked pushing dirt and I liked to dig. “Most kids do, but the toys just got bigger, that’s the only difference.” In Henton Trenching’s early days, it served mainly local farmers and homes. Johnny fondly recalled those days and the way service calls to farms were a community-wide event to some extent.

“When I was a kid, we worked on farms, mostly,” he said. “I’d go with dad, so we knew all the farmers around. When you worked on a farm, everyone worked on it. “You never packed a lunch if you were going to work on the farm.” Now, Henton serves as the primary trenching service for the City of Blair and provides service to most of the communities in Washington County. The company also casts and makes its own septic tanks, which it began doing to keep up with its growing business. “Nobody in Omaha could keep up with us,” Johnny said. Johnny said the company is proud to be a Blair original. The dedication and loyalty to the community and surrounding areas has been on display when disaster strikes. During the floods of 2011, Henton crews worked to protect homes and businesses from rapidly rising floodwaters. “When those floods came, we worked days and nights for weeks,” he said. Rigorous work is sometimes required but for the Henton crew, it’s just part of the job. “It’s been interesting all the things we’ve been involved in

around town,” Johnny said. “We’ve seen floods and fixed water mains... we’ve been part of a lot of it. “People may not realize all the different things we have been involved in.”

1977


G N I G G I D N E E B S A H Y L I M A F R s r OU a e y 5 4 r for ove

Henton Trenching & Excavating, Inc. Excavating

• Building site prep • Basements • Tree Removal

• General dirt work • Demolition • Water lines

Septic Systems

• We are licensed to perform percolation tests • We cast and make our own concrete septic tanks • We install new or repair existing septic systems

Waste Containers

• Blue Ox Box, a division of Henton Trenching, offers waste containers for all sizes of household and commercial projects

HentonTrenchingInc.com | 402-426-9580

GENERATIONS | 2022

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'A Family, lotemployees of good people' drive Nebraska-Iowa Supply At Nebraska-Iowa Supply three generations have worked together to provide petroleum products and services to its customers. Tom Lippincott began his career at NebraskaIowa Supply (NEIA) in 1958, and his son, Mark, and grandson, Matt, would soon follow in his footsteps dedicating their career to the business as well. The family component of the business expanded further in 2017 upon hiring Brian Hansen, husband of Katie, Mark's daughter. Today NEIA is a regional leader in the wholesale and retail of petroleum products and services. NEIA and its retail c-store division Petromart has approximately 100 team members. NEIA is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. In 1947, NEIA was started by L.L Snyder, who later became Tom's mentor when he first started working for the company in 1958. "Snyder approached me and wanted me to come work for this company," Tom said. "At the time, he was in the parts and tires business and had just started back in the oil business, and I went to work as a warehouse and delivery guy to start with.” By the mid-60s, and after helping to build NEIA, in its return to petroleum Tom said he was "antsy" to start his own business. “(Snyder) promised me if I stuck around that he would make sure I bought the stock of one of the other minority stockholders that were going to retire, in 1967,” he said, adding that he and Kermit Andrews went on to each own half of the company in 1976. In 1979, Tom said he was happy when his son, Mark, joined the company during college. "I started out as a Fuel Delivery Driver," Mark said. "As we grew, I can say I've done just about every job in the company including delivery and warehouse, sales, dispatch and pricing, General Manager, and President."

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Tom became the sole owner of the company in 1986, and In 2012, he retired passing on the responsibility to Mark. Matt joined in 2007, and was later named General Manager, in that role he has helped continue to move the business forward. “Like all businesses we’ve been forced to adapt. We’ve added a lot of technology over the last decade to keep up with a changing industry. We’ve added things like tank level monitors, and an integrated dispatch software, to a provide a better, faster, service to the hundreds of customer tanks in the field that we service.” Matt said. "We pride ourselves on being a more than a supplier, but rather a service company helping our customers find real solutions for their petroleum or energy needs, that includes lubricants, diesel/gasoline, and equipment." Matt currently serves as president of the Nebraska Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store, Association (NPCA Inc). With Matt in this role all three Lippincotts have proudly served as president of the NPCA, helping the association advocate for its members across the state, many of which are also small family businesses. Now with the third generation taking the reins, Tom Lippincott said he is proud to see the business still succeeding 75 years later. "I am proud we've kept it going. These guys have done a great job running it," he said of his son, grandson and grandson-in-law. "The future is still here. We continue to grow and provide good jobs and career opportunities for our people, and that's probably what I'm most proud of. People tend to come work for us and stay. That's the whole key to keeping a business running." Mark also attributes a large part of the company's success to the team members.

"The biggest thing is the people. I can name several people that have been here 35 years," Mark said. "We tend to hire people, they enjoy it, and they stay until retirement." Being able to pass the business on to two generations has been a large benefit for Tom. "(The business) provides succeeding family members the opportunity to provide continuing job and financial security to current employees and themselves," Tom said. "If I had sold to an outside party, I wouldn’t have the same confidence the business would maintain those opportunities and services for current employees and customers." Hansen said the company tries to treat their employees like family. "Tom built a foundational wholesale business which continues to succeed. The expansion to Omaha resulted in a focus on the commercial supply and services,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of changes in 75 years, but our foundation is the people and community of Blair and the surround-

COURTESY TOM LIPPINCOTT

Tom Lippincott began working for Nebraska-Iowa Supply in 1958, and owned 100% of the company in 1986.

ing area. We are fortunate to have several team members with roots here. We have a high level of engagement within our team, a lot of that is due to the quality of people. Despite our operational reach growing we are thankful to maintain our headquarters in Blair and continue to serve many of the area’s local businesses."

1947

CHEYENNE ALEXIS | ENTERPRISE PUBLISHING

Nebraska-Iowa Supply Company has been owned by three generations. Pictured from left, Matt Lippincott, Tom Lippincott, Mark Lippincott and Brian Hansen, Mark’s son-inlaw.


sond as ger

Nebraska-Iowa Supply is proud to be celebrating 75 years of history. From humble beginnings in Blair, Nebraska-Iowa Supply is a regional leading distributor of petroleum products, services and solutions 1955

H I S T O R Y

1974-78

L.L.Synder re-enters the oil business as Nebraska-Iowa Supply, Inc

1947

L.L. Snyder sells Nebraska-Iowa Oil Co. and forms Nebraska-Iowa Supply, Inc. (parts and tire business)

6 tire stores in 7 Nebraska-Iowa communities are opened

1958

Tom Lippincott begins lifelong career: Knudsen Oil signed and remains oldest customer for 64 years

1979-85

Mark starts career as Delivery Driver; company acquires Meisinger Oil in Norfolk

1978-80

5 Kopper Kettle retail stores are acquired; Company exits the parts & tire business

1986

1989

First Petromart in North Omaha is opened

Tom Lippincott becomes sole owner, Mark Lippincott assumes role of General Manager

1995 - Present

Eastgate Plaza and Blair Petromart are opened

1989-91

Corporate Office on Lincoln Street is opened; Company acquires Conway Oil

2007

2015-2017

Matt Lippincott hired and later promoted to General Manager

2000s

Zimmer Oil and Milder Oil are acquired, main distribution is moved to Omaha

Petromart Missouri Valley re-opened Brian Hansen hired as Finance Manager

2012

Tom Lippincott retires, Mark becomes Company President

F U T U R E

BY THE NUMBERS • 65% volume growth over last decade • 120 active dealer locations • 30 Trucks & 100 team members • Serving 4 states from 8 locations • 450 active customer accounts

Thank You Blair for Your Support Blair

1160 Lincoln St. | 402-426-2171

Omaha

3441 So. 66th St. | 402-393-8350

NEIAsupply.com

GENERATIONS | 2022

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'The benefits outweigh the challenges'

COURTESY PHOTOS

From the Left: Colton Harper, John Klabunde, Loren Corhs, Billy George, Conor Harper, Bob Harper The row of old chairs stands as testimony to the decades that Knudsen Oil & Feed has conducted business in Washington. Don’t you wish they could recount the stories their seats have collected? No one knows exactly when the chairs arrived, but they’ve been a part of the store for as long as anyone can remember. The business began in 1944 out of necessity and opportunity. Eric and Emma Knudsen were farmersin the 1930’s and were hardpressed to make a living. When Ben Gottsch wanted to sell his truckingbusiness, Eric was ready to make a go with Knudsen Transfer. Eric’s daughter, Marybeth Cohrs, remembers riding along with him to haul livestock to the stockyards in Omaha. Feed had to be picked up at the Crete Mills and trucked back to Washington. A milk route was added, picking up cans of milk from area farms and dropping off the milk at theOmaha dairy plants for processing. Eric’s son-in-law, Loren Cohrs, joined the business and he introduced the fuel product line. Nebraska-Iowa Supply Company, another Washington County family business, was instrumental in this process. Through the years many people were employed at Knudsen Oil & Feed and raised their families in and around Washington. Two of them stand out for their years of service. Artie Eicke and Danny Parrishworked for 40+ years in a variety of roles doing whatever job needed doing. Currently John

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GENERATIONS | 2022

Klabunde rounds out the work crew, arriving in 2015. Eric’s granddaughter, Amy and her husband Bob Harper were the next generation. “I grew up with the business and Bob and I are so grateful that our kids could grow up with it also,” says Amy. Their daughter, Cal Jorgensen, runs the office; sons Conor and Colton manage the fuel and tires, respectively. The younger sons, Casey and Cory, have their own careers, but come to help out when needed. Eric’s greatgrandchildren are ready to take the business into the next age. His oldest great-great-grandson Tucker is already making himself useful around the shop at age 12. -- “Dad loved visiting with the customers. He’d be open seven days a week so he could help someone who needed anything.” -- “We’ve seen four generations of families as customers. That’s amazing! They’re not just customers, they’re our friends!” -- “People will walk in here and say ‘I love this place. Don’t ever change these old floors.’ We like it too.” -- “We’ve told our kids our reputation isn’t something we take lightly. People want to do busi-

ness with someone they can trust.” The old chairs have seen many changes to Knudsen Oil & Feed. The cargo of cattle and milk cans has been replaced by propane and diesel fuel. But the family is still there answering the phone, putting in the work, and doing the jobs necessary to keep the legacy alive. It’s nice to know some things stay the same.


Knudsen Oil & Feed

Kn udseNEn68068 Oil & Washington, (402)427-7272 or (402)238-2413 knudsenpropane@gmail.com

Washington, NE 6

Our customers are the best! (402)427-7272 or (402 Through the years our family has been privileged to provide service to generations of customers in and knudsenpropane@gmail Our around customers are the Washington County. Thank best! you!

Through the years our family has Tires Complete Line of Pickup, Car & Implement Firestone, Cooper, Mastercraft, Goodyear, Michelin, BF Goodrich Lawn Mower Tires, All size tires repaired been privileged toCarlisle provide service Our customers are theinbest! Propane Sales & Service to generations of customers and Tanks Leased by theK Year nour udsfamily en OCounty. ihas l & been Feedprivile Through the years around Washington New & Used Tanks for Sale Washington, NE of 68068 Residential & provide service to generations customers i Thank you!or (402)238-2413 Agricultural Service(402)427-7272 around Washington County. Thank you! knudsenpropane@gmail.com On the FarmOur Diesel & are Gas Service customers the Tankwagon best!

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Complete Line of Pickup, Car

Carlisle Lawn Mower Tires

Fourth Generation FAll amSize ily Otires wned & Operated for 78 years repaired Complete Line of Pickup, Car & Implement Tires Firestone, Cooper, Mastercraft, Goodyear, Michelin, BF Goodrich Carlisle Lawn Mower Tires, All size tires repaired

Propane Sales & Service Propane Sales & Service

the Year Tanks LeasedTanks byLeased thebyYear New & Used Tanks for Sale Residential & New & Used Tanks for Sale Agricultural Service Residential & On the Farm Diesel & Gas Tankwagon Service Agricultural Service

Proudly serving the Washington County Area since 1944

Proudly serving the Washington County Area since 1944 Farm Diesel & Gas Tankwag Fourth Generation Family Owned & Operated for 78 years Fourth Generation Family Owned & Operated for 78 years

On the

Proudly serving the Washington County A GENERATIONS | 2022

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Fourth Generation Family Owned & Operate


Not just a tire store anymore BY GREG FORBES editor@enterprisepub.com

Reminders of Country Tire and Auto's storied history can be found all over the Blair shop. Cases contain vintage tires, spark plugs, promotional items and even a picture of found Roger Howland with 2000 Olympic gold medal winning heavyweight wrestler Rulon Gardner. The tokens are a trail through time from Roger's journey from a college trainee working for Firestone Tire and Rubber to the patriarch of Country Tire, which he founded in 1985. Roger said the business began strictly as a tire company, purchasing the tire portion of an auto business from Kermit Andrews on Jan. 1 of 1985. “We sold our first tire on Jan. 2,” Roger said. Along with the Blair location, Country Tire currently has shops in Shenandoah and Glenwood. While tires were the foundation of Country

1985

Tire, the business had to transition to more of a full-service model to accommodate the changing landscape of the auto industry. In 2013, Eric Howland, son of Roger and current General Manager, helped switch the model from strictly tire sales to an automotive repair business. Howland said the idea to transition to the new look of the company was because of historic floods in 2011 and a record drought in 2012. Both weather anomalies cut down on the demand for tires and financially restricted the company. The shift required a total change in mindset and a recruitment of experts to execute the new plan, but the work has paid off for Country Tire today. “Being able to see where we are now, with the quality of people we have employed here, it was all worth it,” he said. Country Tire currently has 17 total employees throughout the three locations. Eric said the business now sees a split of 60% automotive repairs to 40% tire sales, but tire sales have remained consistent throughout the years. Roger said the strides the company has made despite setbacks and transitions has encouraged him, his son and all the employees at Country

GREG FORBES | ENTERPRISE PUBLISHING

Roger Howland, left, founded what is now Country Tire and Auto in 1985. His son, Eric, right, now oversees the day to day operation of its three locations. Tire to continue to advance as a trusted name throughout the area. “I'm really proud of where we've been and where we're going now,” he said.

Father, son lead Country Tire and Auto through new waters

S M A L L T O W N VA L U E S , B I G C I T Y S E R V I C E ! We are one of the leading auto repair shops serving customers in Blair, NE, Shenandoah, IA, Glenwood, IA, and surrounding areas. All automotive repair and mechanic services at Country Tire are performed by highly qualified mechanics.

WE OFFER:

1210 Grant St. • Blair 402-426-2173 www.countrytire.biz

At Country Tire, we focus on customer satisfaction in all of our locations and we carry a reputation for quality automotive repairs. We provide a large variety of auto repair services for our customers and we take pride in our customer service skills, the work provided by our service technicians and mechanics, and our entire staff. We have confidence that your repairs will be performed correctly the first time. Whether your vehicle needs routine maintenance or auto repair services, contact us to schedule your next auto service appointment at our auto repair shop today.

• Oil Changes • Brake Service • Shocks/Struts • CV Joints • Belts/Hoses • Alignments • Batteries • Complete Exhaust • Radiator Flush/Fill • Transmission Service • Air Conditioning Service/Repair

• Complete Tire Service • Diagnostic Service • Clutches • Service Engine Lights • Tune-Ups • Fuel & Electrical Systems • Trailer Repair • Starters/Alternators • Scheduled Preventive Maintenance

Monday-Thursday: 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. • Friday: 7:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. • Closed: Saturday & Sunday 16

GENERATIONS | 2022


Insuring locals, others through the years A third generation will sell American Family Insurance BY ELIZABETH A. ELLIOTT news@enterprisepub.com

Though George Hall is retiring at the end of June, the third generation, Nick Hall, will carry the American Family Insurance agency into the future. When Hall started selling insurance in 1982, work entailed going to a customer’s house with a thick book and hand figure rates. It meant cold

calling and setting up appointments. Business then, meant collecting the money, depositing into the office account and mailing one big check to the company, all the while being on the hook to recoup some of the money if clients were late on payments for their premiums. Hall’s office got their first computer in 1990. Not collecting the premiums directly eventually changed, which Hall described as “the best change ever.” The mark of a good company is in returning customers. Hall, who is licensed in 12 states, said their customers have returned to them even after moving out of state.

“If they like your service, they will just keep you even after they move,” he said. Family has long been involved in this company. “My wife is always promoting the company,” Hall said. “Two sons have followed me into the insurance business. My youngest son is a representative but doesn’t write policies.” Hill said he thought about bringing him in to take over for him but didn’t want to bring competition between him and his brother. “I competed against my father-inlaw, Bill Rasmussen, for 18 years,” Hall said. “Good competition is

healthy, but I didn’t want that for my family to go through. Nick has been an agent since 2004 and he’s never really taken any of my clients.” At one point, Hall was the largest agent in the state. “I’ve enjoyed it. If you like people it’s a great job,” he said. “You have to be consistent and give good service, know your product and your people. Don’t take a ‘no’ personally. They aren’t saying no to you but to your product.”

1982

“I’ve enjoyed it. If you like people it’s a great job!”

-George Hall

Thank You for your loyalty! A farewell from your former American Family Agent, George Hall

Insure carefully, dream fearlessly.

George Hall Agency, Inc 1641 Washington Street GENERATIONS | 2022 17 Blair, NE 68008-0326


'Everyone genuinely cares about each other' Eriksen Construction nears

40 years

of family, community oriented service BY GREG FORBES editor@enterprisepub.coim

Throughout its 39-year history, Eriksen Construction has played a considerable role in Blair’s growth. The company has built the water/wastewater treatment plants, schools, businesses, city facilities, and many residential homes in our community. John founded Eriksen Construction in 1983 with the belief that with hard work, focus on quality, and strong leadership; continued growth and success would follow. This belief is applied to the main areas of focus for Eriksen Construction…business, community, and family. Eriksen president Jenny Eriksen, daughter of founder John Eriksen, said that focus on community is an ongoing product of her father’s vision. "For him, it was always very important to give back to the community,” Jenny said. "He did everything he could to help with advancement of Blair. Whether it was from a construction standpoint, giving advice, volunteering time, or donating to local charities, he just wanted to help the people in and the progress of our city.” Jenny assumed the role as president in 2021 following the retirement former president Tim Shaw. Jenny said through working with the

schools and other organizations to bolster the employee pool for trade careers, she’s carrying on John’s unyielding passion for Blair’s future. She also serves as president of the Gateway Economic Development’s executive board. “For us, it’s just being involved in as many different things as we can to help our community,” she said. John passed away in early 2022 but left behind a legacy of hard work, community dedication, and continued success that everyone in his family is determined to carry on. Along with Jenny, several other members of the family also work for

the company. Nick Eriksen, son of John, has been a mechanical superintendent for 22 years. Casey Ackermann, husband of Jess Eriksen, and son in-law of John, has been a Project Manager for 11 years. Alex Fitzke, step-daughter of John, joined the accounting team 5 years ago. Nick Eriksen stated, “My dad taught me a lot of things growing up. I am proud to use all of those skills every day at work. We all get to carry on the work he loved so much”. An important trait of the company is that all who work under the Eriksen name are a part of the family. “When you talk about our employees, everyone knows the majority of each other’s spouses, how many children they have, what sports they play, etc.” Jenny said. "That’s from senior management down to hourly employees. It is the culture we have and everyone genuinely cares about each other.” "Carrying on his legacy is a big task, but I have a lot of pride in knowing we have the opportunity to keep his dreams and hard work going,” Jenny said. "We were all very close with dad. He challenged us to give 150% in everything we did. Nothing else was acceptable. That is how we will work as a team to tackle the next 40 years.” As the company approaches its 40th year, Jenny said she is focused on leading the team through the ever-changing construction environment. The entire family hopes to keep their father’s legacy alive for many years to come and have their kids celebrate the 80th anniversary down the road.

1983

President Jenny Eriksen and Superintendent Nick Eriksen

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GENERATIONS | 2022

JOE BURNS | ENTERPRISE PUBLISHING

Family ties to Eriksen Construction founder John Eriksen include, from left: Superintendent Nick Eriksen, son; accountant Alex Fitzke, step-daughter; President Jenny Eriksen, daughter; daughter Jess Ackermann and Project Manager Casey Ackerman, son-in-law.


G N I S I R

To Meet The CHALLENGES of Tomorrow

Our focus is always on the future. Not just what will take care of you immediate needs, but what will serve you best five, ten, fifteen years down the road. 2546 S Hwy 30, Blair, NE 402-426-3119 • www.eriksenconst.com GENERATIONS | 2022

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expanded products and services!

A BRANCH OF FIRST STATE BANKOF & TRUST CO. A BRANCH FIRST STATE BANK & TRUSTOF CO. A BRANCH

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GENERATIONS | 2022

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