Index Amber Collins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 Dr. Matt Leiser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 Rose Wendinger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 Marnie Leist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 Steve Sherman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Toby Freier . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 Megan Benage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10 Kaitlin Pals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 Michelle Miller . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 Heather Hacker-Hammer . . . . . . . . . . . .16 Allisa Fischer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18 Eric and Sarah Warmka . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19 Marinda Kimmel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21 Eric Bode . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22 Mike Kral . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23 Lacey Lueth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24 Virginia Suker Moldan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26 Nick and Jay Fruhwirth . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28 Mike Wise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29 Kristina Schwab . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30
20 under 40 who make a difference Like any community, New Ulm’s future depends on the young people coming into town to start businesses, raise families and get involved in civic and community organizations. They are the ones who will lead the community into the future, preserve the traditions and leave their mark on the city. This “Hometown” edition is dedicated to those who are leading New Ulm into the future. There is an old saying, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it.” Many of the people featured in
this section fit that description. Some are leaders of major organization, who also find time to serve on various committees and groups outside of work. Some are young, hardworking business people who are making New Ulm a better place with their success. Others have brought new ideas and programs to town and are making them work. One thing they all have in common is their love for New Ulm, and their enjoyment of what they do.
Amber Collins brought Crisis Nursery vision to NU By Kevin Sweeney Journal Editor
NEW ULM — When Amber Collins moved to New Ulm three years ago with her husband, Dr. Daryn Collins, and her three children, she also brought with her a desire to do something for children, and an idea on what to. A Virginia, Minnesota, native, Collins was educated as a teacher and has “a passion for kids,” she said. While her husband was in residency in Minneapolis, Collins had become involved
as a volunteer with the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, a service that gives families facing an emergency a safe place to leave their children for a short time while they deal with the emergency. “From that experience, I saw the benefit of what a crisis nursery can do, when parents are facing stressors, and the benefits it has for the children. “My faith led me to doing
Collins Continued on page 3
Staff photo by Kevin Sweeney
Amber Collins stands outside the Southern Minnesota Crisis Nursery that she helped found.
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it here,” Collins said. The Collins worship at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and Collins starting working in youth ministry at the church. She felt that there could be a need for a crisis nursery in New Ulm, similar to the one she worked at in Minneapolis. So Collins started reaching out to see if others felt the same. “I sent e-mails to professionals in town who work with children and families in town — Tom Henderson at Brown County Human Services, Betty Uehling at ECFE, the principals at the schools, and asked if they thought there would be a need for crisis nursery in New Ulm. They all agreed there was.” So Collins organized an open meeting for people who were interested in the idea. The first meeting had about 10 or 15 people, who were all enthusiastic about the idea. The next meeting, those people brought a few friends, and after three or four meetings, it was obvious the support was there. A board of directors was formed, and the work of setting up the board began. Collins, who had served on the board of the Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, was familiar with the kind of organization that needed to be set up, but there were a lot of regulatory hurdles, such as setting up a non-profit organization, that took some extra work and expertise that she found from the board members and volunteers. The group’s discussions helped formulate the kind of service the Southern Minnesota Crisis Nursery would be. Some communities use the foster families system, placing children temporarily with families, but the group decided it would be better to have a home-based facility, where people could leave their children in emergency situations. The crisis nursery doesn’t have a strict definition of what constitutes an “emergency.” It can be anything from a parent needing to leave children for a couple of hours while they go to a medical appointment, to hospitalization or a medical emergency, to the regular day care provider not being available for some reason, to domestic violence, to homelessness. The Southern Minnesota Crisis Nursery can take children for up to three days during emergency times. It also offers assistance to families to help them deal with their emergencies,
through referrals to agencies and counseling. Getting the nursery started presented a financial challenge as well. “Faith had to lead us for the first year funding,” said Collins. The organization is a non-profit organization, but without having any operational experience to cite, it was ineligible to apply for grants. With an estimated budget of $80,000 for the first year of operations, the organization knew funding would have to come through donations. “Last fall we held our first fundraiser, a wine tasting party,” said Collins. And through the generosity of the people and businesses in the community, it has raised its first year funding. A couple of local families donated the down payment for the house that would become the nursery, and local banks cooperated by providing lowinterest loans. Everything in the house, the furniture, the toys, the office equipment — everything with the exception of the dishwasher and the garbage can, has been donated. Getting licensed by the Department of Human Services was a big achievement, Collins said. The Southern Minnesota Crisis Nursery opened in June, just three years after Collins moved to town with her idea. It has a 12-member board of directors, 39 volunteers ready to pitch in when needed and a host of supporters throughout the community. A full time director has been hired, but Collins is the chairman of the board and the driving force behind it. How did she do it? “Just letting God lead me through it all,” she said. She found the people in New Ulm were very willing to help, and very generous with their time. It has taken a lot of her time. It’s a sacrifice she is happy to make. For others with ideas about making a difference in the community, Collins advises to be willing to put the idea out there, to let people know about it. Getting other people on board is important, “because you can’t do it alone,” she said. Another key is patience, being ready to work around or through the obstacles and problems that will arise, she said.
Staff photo by Kevin Sweeney
Amber Collins and Crisis Nursery director Evan Curtin.
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Dr. Matt Lieser wears many hats By Fritz Busch Staff Writer
NEW ULM — New Ulm Medical Center (NUMC) internal medicine physician Dr. Matthew Lieser began working here five years ago and has already taken an active role at the medical center and in the community. Lieser serves on the NUMC Board of Trustees, the Physicians Group of New Ulm, Ltd., and provides medical oversight for the medical center’s Home Care/Hospice Program, the Brown County Jail and detoxification unit at the Brown County Evaluation Center. “I get to do a lot of things. I work at the clinic, hospital, nursing home, hospice program, at the jail and detox,” Lieser said. A Cold Spring native, Lieser said he was always interested in becoming a doctor, even though nobody else is in his immediate family was involved in medicine. “I decided at a very young age that I wanted to work in medicine,” Lieser said. A 2001 Cold Spring Rocori High School graduate, he was class salutatorian among 220 students. While in high school, he toured the St. Cloud Veterans Hospital and Clinic and St. Cloud Hospital, which he said piqued his interest in medicine. Lieser graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter in 2005. He studied pre-medicine and biochemistry. He volunteered at the Mankato Open Door Clinic, an independently-owned, non-profit community health center that provides medical, dental and behavioral health care to Southern Minnesota for people with many private insurance plans, MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance (MA). He graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 2009 and completed residency training at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Dr. Matt Lieser outside the New Ulm Medical Center clinic.
“It was a great experience. I saw all kinds of things, and got connected to Allina hospitals and clinics,” Lieser said about his residency at Abbott Northwestern. After his residency training, Leiser said he was scheduled to interview at several places but was quickly sold on coming to NUMC. “After interviewing in New Ulm, I cancelled my interviews in other places and felt this would be a great fit for us. We wanted to live near home. My wife Andrea (Busch) is from Fairfax,” Lieser said. “It’s amazing how great a team there is here. I got to know many people quickly. It certainly didn’t disappoint us.” Lieser said he sees his patients as partners who have an important role to play in improving and maintaining their health. “I like my patients to be involved in their care. They should be informed so they can take ownership of their health,” Lieser said. His hobbies include family and church activities, fishing, golf, hunting, tennis and walking. Matt’s wife Andrea is a public defender in Brown and Blue Earth County.
The Matt and Andrea family. From left, Matt, Sawyer, Hudson, Davis. Not pictured, Andrea.
Wendinger trades corporate job for Citizens Bank post Ag lender has solid dairy background By Fritz Busch Staff Writer
NEW ULM — Rural Arlington native Rose Wendinger was named an Assistant Vice President at Citizens Bank Minnesota in New Ulm in April 2016. She’s one of the few female ag lenders in the area, but she has all the farm background of her male colleagues. She became involved in agriculture at a young age, growing up on the family farm, Wendinger Dairy. Wendinger said she’s very passionate about the agricultural industry. Everywhere she goes, she’s active in agriculture because she considers it “fun.” “It’s great being in the New Ulm area and working in the agricultural lending business,” Wendinger said. “I love that I am able to work alongside many passionate colleagues and clients that share my love for rural America and agriculture.” As an ag lender, Wendinger is able to work directly with clients, discovering their passions and formulating business plans for their farming operations. Wendinger also does business, consumer and mortgage lending. “It’s fun connecting with clients, young and old, discussing their passions for the agricultural industry,” Wendinger said. “I love that Citizens Bank is dedicated to the community and to our farmers.” Prior to working in New Ulm, Wendinger was a Relationship Analyst Associate at Rabo AgriFinance in
Marshall in 2015 and 2016. In that position, she analyzed financials and collateral positions, discovered cash flow analysis, created possible scenarios and underwrote operating, intermediate and long-term loans. She was a Financial Services Associate at AgStar Financial Services in Glencoe and Waite Park in 2013 to 2015. Wendinger specialized in livestock and dairy units plus cash and specialty crop operations. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business and Management at Southwest Minnesota State University, Wendinger was active in the Future Farmers of American (FFA) Organization, Post Secondary Ag Students (PAS) and Agricultural Club. She placed second and third nationally in Agricultural College Bowl competition. She credits much of her success to her dad, Kenneth. “He always pushed me to do more than I thought I was capable of,” Rose said. “He told me I could become whatever I wanted to be and to blaze my own trail.” A 2009 Glencoe Silver Lake (GSL) High School graduate, Wendinger excelled, holding offices including secretary, vice president and president in the Future Farmers of America Organization and was a National Honor Society member. She was a Sibley County Dairy Princess in 2009 to 2011. Wendinger’s hobbies include quilting, sewing, and raising goats, which she shows at fairs. Some of her other interests include canoeing, and playing co-rec softball in Glencoe and sand volleyball in New Ulm. She is the current vice chair of the New Ulm HYPE (Helping Young Professionals Evolve) group that is sponsored by the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Citizens Bank Minnesota Assistant Vice President Rose Wendinger, left, helps rural Sleepy Eye farmer Brian Aschenbrenner, center, prepare for the next operating year in his Holstein dairy steer barn. Pictured at right is Steve Walter.
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Leist continues history-loving family tradition Grandfather was WWII hero, parents ʻbigʼ on preservation By Fritz Busch Staff Writer
NEW ULM — New Brown County Historical Society (BCHS) Director Marnie Leist grew up surrounded by people with a strong passion for historical preservation. Her career personifies that passion in a number of unique and interesting ways, to say the least. “My parents were really big on rehabilitation and preservation,” Leist said. “For them, it was not what your country could do for you, but what you can do for your country. I grew up enjoying a strong interest in pottery and photography.” Her father, Morgan Howard, was an award-winning television videographer for WKEF and WHIO television stations in Dayton, Ohio for three decades. In addition, he did free-lance work, shooting dance for the Dayton Ballet, historic districts in Dayton, which allowed him to pursue his passions of arts and historic preservation. His work on a 4-H segment led to an Emmy award. Howard said he found fulfillment helping raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network and telling the stories of Dayton Children’s Medical Center patients and families.
How Leist wound up in New Ulm could be one of the more unique things about her. The Director of Operations who worked at the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository in Kodiak, Alaska for 11 years, Leist was at a museum conference in Juneau last year when she decided to visit used book stores while on a break. She found and bought a book, “German Humor: On the Fritz” written by John Louis Anderson, who also wrote “Scandinavian Humor & Other Myths.” Not long after that, she found a job listing in New Ulm for the Brown County Historical Society directorship on the American Association for State and Local History website. The rest is history. Leist followed Bob Burgess who retired at the end of last year after many years with the Brown County Historical Society. “I actually had three job offers at once, ironically,” Leist said. “I could have gone further out in the Aleutians (Alaskan islands), to Ohio or to New Ulm. I found the old book about German humor by John L. Anderson, who grew up in New Ulm. It was supposed to be funny, but I found it more of a self-help book, being the German I am.” Leist provided a rather interesting description of Kodiak, a large, mountainous, heavilyforested in parts, island on the south coast of Alaska and how she dealt with it. “It’s home to the biggest brown bears in the world, but
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Marnie Leist stands in front of the Brown County Historical Society Museum where she is the director.
they are rather tame,” Leist said. “The (ocean) water is cold. You freeze to death fast. I know a few survivors, but I myself am a landlubber. I carried an air horn and bear spray on my excursions, and talked a lot, so I am just fine.” Leist has an even more descriptive viewpoint of Kodiak. “Kodiak’s landscape with stormy seas crashing against steep, slate cliffs, vast black sand beaches, and moss-covered pine forests are an unforgettable place to get lost, or find yourself, whichever comes first,” Leist wrote. “World War II remains dot the landscape. My passion for World War II history peaked. Crawling through bunkers, walking down winding, narrow roads, piecing together smashed, ceramic telephone insulators, discovering new sites, and trying to find lost
ones were my weekend activities,” she added. In a story about her leaving Kodiak, Leist described Alaska and Kodiak as one of the few places where people still rely on their environment for food and entertainment. She admitted she was sad to leave, but ready for new challenges. Leist said she chose to come to New Ulm because she wanted to come to a smaller organization and show them what she has. Some of her first BCHS tasks included financial policy and by-laws. “I created new policies including 2018 strategic planning to guide the organization into the future,” Leist said. “I also updated the (museum) store and am planning future exhibits.” She said the BCHS is always in need of volunteers. Her list of programs next
year include: • Updating school tours • A World War I Knitathon • Lunch and a Bite of History at the museum annex in May with the granddaughter of New Ulm native 1st Lt. Robert F. Niemann, a jet pilot reported Missing In Action (MIA) in the Korean War. • Wild Edibles in July with Scott Kudelka of Minneopa State Park. • New Ulm’s Best - History and Beer in July. • A World War I bunting program in September, October and November. • “Millions of Cats” ornaments in December. Leist is the guest speaker at the Sleepy Eye Area Historical Society Annual Meeting Nov. 16 at the Railway Bar & Grill. Her hobbies include pottery and yoga.
Sherman is top dog at NUCAT By Clay Schuldt Staff Writer
NEW ULM — Anyone who has watched New Ulm’s Cable Access Channel (NUCAT) knows the work of Steven Sherman. The 31-year-old is the New Ulm Community Cable Access Coordinator. Sherman is originally from the small farm town of Franklin. The town has a population of roughly 400 and is only a 30 minute drive from New Ulm. “New Ulm to me was always a bigger town,” he said. “A lot of the younger people in New Ulm feel like they live in a smaller town and I always want to tell them ‘no you don’t!’” As young man Sherman viewed New Ulm as a destination town. He would come her for the shopping and especially to see movies. “I’d come here to see a movie almost every weekend,” Sherman said. It was his love of film that drove his early education. “Movies were always my favorite thing,” Sherman said. “I think it’s one way to learn about the world. Finding a movie that opens your eyes to a new experience is always cool.” Even as a kid Sherman devoured films. Once DVDs became popular he would view all the special features and film commentaries to learn as much as possible. At first he attended college in Nebraska, but dropped after a year. A few years later he restarted college in Moorhead. Sherman specifically chose Moorhead because it was the only school offering a four-year film program with a production degree in Minnesota. “I really wanted to study film,” Sherman said. “I didn’t know if I wanted film production major or a film history major but they had both of those options.” After his first production class he fell in love with the process and he chose that path. The film production required students to get their hands dirty by operating the camera and editing. During his college days Sherman made several films that he is proud of to this very day. After graduating Sherman returned to Franklin to decide what to do next with his film degree. He eventually found an advertisement for a part time with New Ulm Community Access Television. The position would give him a chance to use all his skills and gain experience. Since he was already familiar with the community it seemed like a good fit.
Staff photo by Clay Schuldt
Steve Sherman is New Ulmʼs Cable Access coordinator.
Three months after taking the part-time position Sherman moved to New Ulm. After a year in his part-time position he applied for a full-time position was given the job. Early this year Sherman was once again promoted to the Community Cable Access Coordinator. It is Sherman’s responsibility to schedule the programing for the New Ulm Community Access Television (NUCAT). The NUCAT staff also records all city meetings from city council and Public Utilities Commission to Park and Recreation and Planning Commission meetings. These meetings are then shared on the cable access channels and YouTube. On top of that NUCAT is open to the community. New Ulm residents can come into NUCAT to learn video production skills and editing. The NUCAT video equipment
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belongs to the public and be used by any New Ulm resident as long as they go through the necessary training and use it to create programing to be shared on NUCAT. Sherman has 24 hours of air time to fill each day. City meeting are frequently shown on the channel, but Sherman said all the latest meeting would not fill the whole day. Most of the local churches provide tapes of their services which are aired throughout the week. Occasionally, NUCAT will even run public domain films for the fun on weekends. For some movies the copyright has expired and is legal to use the film on public access television. Other times NUCAT creates new content for the channel. “New Ulm is a really interesting unique city. It is my goal as the coordinator to create original programing that tells the story of
New Ulm through the people who are doing interesting things.” Recently Sherman has been working on a program called “The Process” which centers on the work of local artist Jason Jaspersen. These types of videos will go on NUCAT, but they will also go online and serve as a promotion for New Ulm. Sherman continues to look for original programing ideas, such as the Off the Shelves Music program that features Minnesota bands and musicians. He is also hoping to developing a cooking show. Sherman is also involved in the New Ulm Film Society. He helped start the organization over two years. Initially he wanted to exhibit films and explore the history of the movies. The idea was to expose the community to film in a new way. The Film Society typically screens a film on the second Tuesday of the month in the library basement. Currently the Society is halfway through a films series dedicated to the first World War. The Film Society also has a Minnesota Film series in which Minnesota filmmakers visit New Ulm to showcase their films. “A film isn’t just Hollywood,” Sherman said. “It’s also being made by people in their community.” Sherman is also an avid jogger. Since moving to New Ulm he has worked a lot on getting into shape and staying in shape. Living in New Ulm has made walking easier for Sherman since his apartment in only a few blocks from the office. Recently Sherman has acquired a new jogging buddy through the adoption of a pomeranian. Sherman is excited about his new puppy which was given the name Rose.
Freier works to make NUMC a regional health care leader
Staff photo by Kevin Sweeney
Toby Freier stands outside the New Ulm Medical Center hospital.
By Kevin Sweeney Journal Editor
NEW ULM — Over the past 11 years Toby Freier, administrator at New Ulm Medical Center, has led NUMC through so many changes, from remodelings and expansions in the hospital and clinic facilities, to growth in the number of professionals and health care service offerings, that it’s hard to realize he’s still just 39 years old. When he moved to New Ulm in 2006, at the age of 27, New Ulm had started on what would become an ongoing parade of facilities remodeling and expansions. The surgery center was remodeled and expanded. That project was followed by the building of a cancer center. Next was a birthing center. Then, a major expansion of the NUMC was built, adding an eye clinic, a pharmacy and a medical supplies store, in addition to added office space for a growing cadre of doctors and service providers. Just this past year
the Courage Kenny Institute’s physical rehabilitation center underwent an expansion. Freier was put in charge of the surgery center improvements when he arrived, and has been overseeing the expansions and the increase in programs and services as well. He was 27 when previous administrator Lori Wightman hired him to be the vice president and CFO of NUMC, but it was a job he seemed to have been training for all his life. Freier said he never anticipated, while growing up, that he would be interested in health care. But he was always around business operations growing up in Linton, S.D. His parents owned a restaurant in Linton, a large operation with multiple dining rooms and a large hall for banquets and events. “I literally grew up in the restaurant,” Freier said. “It was open seven days a week, opening around 6 a.m.
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and the lounge closing at 12 or 1 at night.” His parents worked long hours at the restaurant, and it was only natural that Freier worked there as well. “I learned what hard work was,” he said. He also had first hand lessons in business operations, customer service, personnel management. He bused tables, washed dishes, and in the 4th or 5th grade, he started working the cash register, ringing up the bills for the customers. “We had an old-fashioned cash register. It didn’t tell you how much the change was. You had to figure that out and count it out yourself,” Freier said. “People would look at this little kid handing them their change, and they’d count it to make sure it was right.” He helped with time cards and payroll, accounts receivable, and did so well with finance and operations that he got his own checkbook in the 4th grade, and managed a pretend stock portfolio in middle school. He was active in sports, but he also worked in high school, at the restaurant, at the local bank and at a travel agency. He didn’t anticipate a career in health care, he said, but in his college years, as a 19-year-old, he got an internship with health care system in Fargo, N.D “At the age of 19 I was already getting engaged in leadership and management of a pretty complex health care system with 30 some hospitals across the country, and was in a division that supported eight hospitals in the Western United States from Alaska down to Arizona and California and Nevada,” Freier said. By the time he was ready to graduate with his degree in finance and healthcare, he had already been working in a management role for operations and finance. “One thing that was very valuable to me, I was asked to function as a sort of interim chief financial officer. If there was a vacancy in one of our hospitals out in California, I would fly out there for a week or so, and be on site to provide support and work on the financial operations of the hospital. That was when I was 22 years old and really had no business being in that position.
“I remember a quote from Andy Stanley, one of the speakers in the Chamber’s leadercast programs, ‘The value of a life is always measured by how much of it was given away. (We don’t celebrate accumulation at funerals.)’” —Toby Freier “But I had always been motivated, I love to learn, I study a lot, I have no problem working hard, so I try to figure out how I can add value. But that couldn’t have been a better experience for me to learn about this industry and about these jobs. I was able to learn about eight different hospitals, and no two are ever the same.” At 22, after graduation, the health care system was consolidated with another and moved to Phoenix, a part of the country Freier and his fiancé Amanda weren’t interested in moving to. “So I was laid off at 22,” Freier said. A couple of weeks later he had found a position with a hospital in Tomah, Wis. as vice president and CFO. In his four years there he learned a lot about the workings of a small rural hospital, where there aren’t a lot of layers of administration. He also developed his love for community engagement and public service, a love he learned from his parents. His father had always been a community supporter, and after selling the restaurant entered politics, getting elected as a state representative while Toby was in middle school. Toby had traveled around the district with him, knocking on doors and helping with the campaign. “So public service has always been an interest of mine, of looking at how to use our passion and skills to make our community a better place.” In his years in New Ulm he has followed that passion as well, serving on the Park and Rec board, chairing the Reinvest in New Ulm (RENU) committee that studied potential projects and helped get an extension of the New Ulm municipal sales tax approved for more regional park and recreation
projects. Freier is also active in his church, Grace Community Church, where he leads the children’s ministry. Freier said the opportunities for community involvement are endless, so he tries to focus his energy on a few that engage his interests, and finding a balance in community improvements that include the tangible and the “eternal.” He hopes through his youth ministry he can give kids more than just things, and help make a difference in their lives the way his parents did with him. “I remember a quote from Andy Stanley, one of the speakers in the Chamber’s leadercast programs, ‘The value of a life is always measured by how much of it was given away. (We don’t celebrate accumulation at funerals.)’ ” While recruiting new health care professionals at New Ulm Medical Center, he looks for people who will be active not only at the hospital or clinic, but in the community as well.
As a leader at NUMC, Freier sees his role is to help support the 650 talented, intelligent people who work there to realize their potential and be successful. He is involved with creating a vision and strategic plan, balancing that with the “servant-leader” approach that shows he appreciates and cares about the work others do. In community leadership, he said, the important thing is to step up and get engaged, to learn about the community, the people, organizations and plans they have, to ask questions so you can learn, to create a vision for the future, and then identify the key leaders who care about the organization or topic involved. Most important is perseverance. Not many things get done quickly and easily. It’s important to follow through on a project, like the RENU efforts, until its completed. And that won’t really be completed, he said, until the projects it is supporting are up and running, being used and impacting lives.
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Staff photo by Clay Schuldt
Megan Benage walks through a prairie near the DNR Regional office a mile south of New Ulm. Benage said in her line of work as an ecologist she is often walking through prairies.
Benage works for nature and for the community By Clay Schuldt Staff Writer
NEW ULM — In 2013, Megan Benage came to New Ulm to work in her dream job as a DNR ecologist. Over the last four years Benage has worked at the DNR Regional Headquarters located on the south side of New Ulm. “I get to be the first ecologist for the southern part of the state, which includes 32 counties,” she said. The headquarters outside of New Ulm is located in the center of those 32 counties. Benage explained that an ecologist is a scientist who looks at all parts of an ecosystem and makes sure they function well together. “That could be anything from how well our prairies are doing, looking at our wetlands, to also looking at the human component,” Benage said. “How
does that integrate to support the whole?” Over the last four years Benage has proven herself to be vital part of New Ulm’s ecosystem. In addition to her work with the DNR, she has worked as an active and positive force in the community. Benage originally came from Arkansas. She developed an early interest in the natural environment from her mother. Benage said her mom will frequently take the family cross country to visit National Parks. Her mother’s goal was to visit all the National Parks and Benage managed to accompany her on several of these excursions. What led her specifically to ecology was her love for the work.
Benage Continued on page 11
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Benage From page 10
“I want to connect people to the land,” Benage said. “There are so many beautiful things to experience and do in this world. I love that I get to play a part in connecting people with a prairie or a bumblebee. This earth is the greatest gift we’ve ever been given and the fact that I get to play on it and share it with other people as part of my career makes my work not really work at all.” The range of work expected of a DNR ecologist helps keep the job exciting. There is no normal day for a DNR ecologist. In the span of an hour Benage could give advice on a water appropriation permit, help development of a solar installation, work on a seed mix for a prairie, attend a legislative meeting, to talking cover crops and helping identify a bug someone found in their backyard. The education necessary to become an ecologist also took Benage across the country. She started in her home state at the University of Arkansas before transferring to Purdue in Indiana to finish her Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree before doing follow-up grad work at Clemson, South Carolina. She even had a summer internship at Cape Cod. Benage admitted she never thought she would live in Minnesota because she is used to warmer weather, but the ecologist position with the DNR was too awesome to turn down. Benage moved to New Ulm with her husband, Nathan Mullendore, after she was hired for the ecologist position. They have two dogs, Savannah and Fen as well as two cats named Bill and Jim. In short time the couple has fallen in love with New Ulm’s charm. “I like that people know who I am when I am out and about,” Benage said. “I love all the parks and really love the State Park.” Recently Benage has begun getting involved with activism. She felt the political rhetoric and language was getting out of hand and Benage wanted to counteract the negativity. “A lot of this desire to be active in the community also stemmed from the Women’s March,” she said. “It was such a positive coming together that it made me want to do more to bring people together and find the common ground.” Benage helped organized the March for Science that took place earlier this year. The march took place at Hermann
Staff photo by Clay Schuldt
Megan Benage examines a bee house at the center of a pollinator garden located at the DNR Regional office. The bee home was fully occupied and Benage avoided being stung.
Heights Park. Benage was one of the guest speakers at the March for Science. Her goal was to show people how connected everyone was to science, whether it was through their use of every day technology or desire to drink clean water. In addition to speeches the marchers made an active difference by cleaning up Hermann Heights. The response to the March for Science was positive, with 100 people attending. Benage said it made her happy and proud of her community. In August, Benage helped the members of Minnesota Voices with the Candlelight Vigil held at First Methodist in response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Recently the group wrote a letter to the editor supporting the family in St. Peter who received a threatening, horrible hate letter. Benage wrote the letter and members of the Minnesota Voices: Marching Forward signed it to show support. “Whenever you see hate happening it’s important to stand up to it with love. Hate is going to happen, but it doesn’t have to continue.” Benage is also involved with the League of Women Voters and is involved with her church. Recently, she has joined the Skeet Shooting team.
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Local attorney active in local, state groups By Fritz Busch Staff Writer
NEW ULM — A Northern Iowa native who recently joined the Gislason & Hunter LLP law firm said she was told by a college teacher that she should consider studying law because she wrote like a lawyer. “The teacher who told me I wrote like a lawyer was married to a lawyer,” said Kaitlin Pals, who grew up in Belmond, Iowa, located near Mason City. “I’m the family rebel. Everyone else in my family farms or teaches,” Pals said. Specializing in estate and successor planning and probate work for farmers and small business owners, Pals said coming to New Ulm was like coming to the big city compared to her hometown of about 2,500 people. “New Ulm is friendly like my hometown. The German culture here is fun to experience,” Pals said. “In Belmond, the Germans live on one side of the river and the Norwegians live on the other side with lots of Ole and Lena jokes.” Pals grew up on a farm that produced corn and beans in an area with lots of pig farming, so she’s used to that way of life. “In successor planing, I help people get the farm or business to the next generation in a way that pleases the older generation but at the same time offers the younger generation the freedom to do things they want to with the resources they have,” Pals said. “It’s really rewarding to do this work.” Pals also works in business and agriculture and agribusiness law, medical malpractice defense, family law and divorce, litigation, banking and finance and insurance defense. “I like to write wills and meet with people and help them with their business,” Pals said.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Gislason & Hunter LLP attorney Kaitlin M. Pals poses in front of the law firm. Pals joined the Gislason & Hunter law firm of New Ulm recently and has been active in a number of community organizations, following graduation from the University of Iowa college of Law and College of Liberal Arts.
A regular contributor to Gislason & Hunter’s agricultural law newsletter, “Dirt; the banking newsletter;” and the family and estate law sections of the firm’s law blog, Pals frequently presents information on estate planning and farm succession for lawyer and non-lawyer audiences. She has advised business and farm owners on all aspects of corporate and personal succession planning, including Minnesota’s recent Qualified Farm Property and Small Business estate tax elections. Pals has: • Assisted financial institutions in drafting complex credit facilities and forbearance agreements. • Provided legal guidance regarding
ongoing management of trusts holding business and farm property. • Represented businesses in tax and regulatory disputes with state agencies. • Represented adoptive and intended parents. An English major at Iowa State University, Pals said she loves to read and enjoys bicycling. She received an Outstanding Scholastic Achievement honor at the University of Iowa College of Law, earning a J.D. degree in 2011. She was University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Valedictorian, earning a B.A. Degree in English in 2008. Her published works include: • Facing The Music: Webcasting, Interactivity, and Sensible Statutory
Royalty Scheme for Sound Recording Transmissions, 36 J. Corp. Law, 2011. • Co-presenter and author, “Off the Beaten Path: Clearing Unusual Title Issues/Acquiring and Perfecting Security Interests in Unique Property,” 2012 Agricultural Lending Conference, Sept. 6, 2012. Pals’ professional associations and memberships include the Minnesota and Iowa State Bar Association, Minnesota Women Lawyers, New Ulm Sertoma Club. Network New Ulm Leadership Program and a former member of the Lind House Association. In her spare time, she enjoys bicycling.
Miller had hand in creating Middle School By Connor Cummiskey Staff Writer
NEW ULM — Public Middle School Principal Michelle Miller came to New Ulm for the express purpose of making a middle school. Previously the district had a junior high model which, similar to a high school, is organized by department whereas the middle school is organized by teams of teachers who stay with the same students all year. “My whole career has been at the middle level,” Miller said. “This is my 16th year as a middle-level educator. So then when I saw the position in New Ulm they were actually looking for somebody to build a middle school so it was really appealing to me. It was very exciting to think that I could start a school from scratch and really bring in that middle school concept.” Miller grew up in Mequon, Wis. and went to the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire for middle and early education with a minor in English. Though at first, Miller had no intention of becoming a middle school principal. “I kind of stumbled into it,” Miller said. “When I first went to school I thought I wanted to be a fourth or a fifth-grade teacher and then I ended up at Hudson Middle School and I just found out how much I love working with middle school students. I love the age group, they are energetic, they are still excited about learning, they are seeking independence but they are also seeking that support from students.” She ended up working in a gifted and talented classroom in Hudson after getting her undergraduate degree. She later earned her master’s in teaching and learning at St. Mary’s University and graduated from their in 2005. Miller entered the general classroom, teaching seventh-grade language arts for six years. During this time she gained leadership experience work with leadership teams at Hudson and being mentored by then-Principal Dan Koch. Next Miller went to the University of
Minnesota, Mankato and got her principal license in 2011. She went back to Hudson and began coordinating in the gifted and talented program as an instructional coach. “That time I really had a chance to build my leadership capacity by working with the building administration and district administration more on the curricularside of things,” Miller said. After seeing the job posting for a middle school principal in New Ulm, Miller applied. She started as an assistant principal at the high school under the mentorship of High School Principal Mark Bergmann. The next year, the 2016-17 school year, the district built the new high school and Miller was tasked with cobbling together a middle school program. “This year is more exciting because last year was just laying the foundation and the framework of the school and now we are really getting to refine and implement at a higher level,” Miller said. Last year Miller worked with the teachers who broke away into subcommittees to figure out the details. “It took sometime that first year when I was here just to work with the teachers to help them understand the middle school concept,” Miller said. “They were really instrumental in building the program.” How a middle school is organized means the teacher team, in this case four teachers, get to know students and develop relationships. “Relationships are a cornerstone of the middle school concept,” Miller said. “Let’s say you are teaching science and I am teaching social studies and you are struggling with a student and I am having some success. We can share strategies on what might work for that student.” As for Miller, she loves the middle school because of the impact she can have a student’s life. “I like being able to make a difference, not only for the students but also with teachers,” Miller said. “I love curriculum, I love instruction I like asking what can we do new and different that will be beneficial for students in the classroom. I like being able to work with staff who have new ideas.”
Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey
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Hammer makes impact with business, Chamber duties Staff photos by Clay Schuldt
By Clay Schuldt Staff Writer
NEW ULM — For the last five years Heather Hacker-Hammer has been a vital part of the New Ulm business community through her business A to Zinnia Floral & Gifts and through her work with the New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce. Heather is a Sleepy Eye native. She grew up in the community and attended Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School. She left the community to attend college, but returned 10 years ago to help her family, who runs Hacker’s Tree Farm, Nursery and Greenhouse. The Hacker Tree Farm is a well known Brown County business. The Tree Farm is a must-visit destination during the Christmas season. Unfortunately, Heather’s father was diagnosed with ALS, which prompted her to return home to help run the family business. The ALS is slow developing, however, meaning her parents are able to continue running the Tree Farm for the time being. Instead of waiting to take over the family business, Heather decided to start her own and A to Zinnia was born. The Hacker family has a strong horticulture background. As the business name
Heather Hacker-Hammer tends the clothing line she added to her floral and gift shop, A to Zinnia Floral (opposite page).
suggests, A to Zinnia Floral and Gifts specializes in flowers and other horticulture related endeavors. Heather is uncertain how this happened. She admitted upon first attending college she had no intention of following in the family business, but after taking a few horticulture classes she fell in love with it. “I did an internship at a flower shop and the rest is history,” she said. A to Zinnia Floral & Gifts started on Broadway near Center Street in New Ulm five years ago. Hacker-Hammer opened a second store in Sleepy Eye last year. “Since that was my hometown I thought we should be there to serve that community,” Hacker-Hammer said. The Sleepy Eye shop is a smaller store specializing in sympathy and tribute floral work. The New Ulm location is also a center for sympathy and tribute work, but the store also supplies flowers for wedding and events. A to Zinnia is a full service wedding florist.
Hacker-Hammer Continued on page 17
From page 16
“A bride can come to us and get the flowers they carry and wear,” HackerHammer said. “They can get their centerpieces for their tables, their backdrop and covers.” A to Zinnia Floral & Gifts also serves on a smaller scale, selling bouquets and arrangements for anniversaries or birthdays. During the Christmas season the store provides Christmas trees and everything you need to decorate it. The store began offering women’s clothing last year. Hacker-Hammer describes the clothes as easy wearing and generously cut. The clothing line has been in the works for a few years. With a variety of products and services there is no normal work day at A to Zinnia. Hacker-Hammer and her staff are on their feet all day working until the job is done. “Eighty percent of the orders come in on the day of so its hard to plan for.” Hacker-Hammer said. When a funeral order comes in the staff has only two days to prepare the flowers. “So we can have a real quiet day where we get a lot of stuff done and all of sudden we’re just swamped.” Due to the nature of the business the store is forced into changing for the seasons. The switch from fall to winter is huge. Everything in the store needs to be flipped to meet the demand of consumers. On Halloween weekend, staff are busy switching out everything for Christmas items because the New Ulm shopping opener is the following weekend. In addition to running the store,
Hacker-Hammer is involved with New Ulm Area Chamber and St. Paul’s elementary. When she first opened the business Hacker-Hammer got on New Ulm Business and Retail Association and after was approached for the Chamber board of directors. Oktoberfest is one main focus of the group. Hacker-Hammer continues to help with the Fall Fashion Show as well as chairing the Wedding Show committee. She is a member of the New Ulm Chamber Board, which is working hard to organize Oktoberfest. “I am a person who like to make sure things are getting done,” Hacker-Hammer said. “I can’t sit on a committee where you don’t accomplish anything.” Heather and her husband Spencer are involved with St. Paul’s Elementary, which is attended by their two daughters, 8-year-old Olivia and 6-year-old Violet. The Hammer family is also involved with the Milford 4-H. The family is becoming well-known for raising show hogs. Heather grew up with show hogs and is now passing the tradition down to her kids. “It’s a good way to teach them to work hard. You have to practice, you have to take care of them, you have to walk them.” On the rare occasions Heather isn’t working she is usually gardening and spending a lot of time outside. The Hammer family recently moved out to the country and they all spend their spare time outside. In addition to the hogs, they raise 34 chickens, four cows and 13 cats.
Fischer returns to her roots By Fritz Busch Staff Writer
SLEEPY EYE — Alissa Fischer is used to hard work. Growing up on a dairy farm near Sleepy Eye, she spent summers baling hay, picking rocks, and playing softball at the nearby Stark ball park. In high school, Fischer participated in 4-H, Knowledge Bowl, Mock Trial, golf, basketball, the American Dairy Association, choir and many other activities. “I think a variety of activities available in a small town allows a student to become more well-rounded. And that has benefitted me in many ways,” Alissa said. “My farming knowledge as a dairy farmer’s daughter certainly has helped my legal career.” Majoring in business law and political science and graduating with honors at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Fischer graduated with honors at William Mitchell College of Law, becoming an Elder Justice Scholar in 2012. She was the first William Mitchell student to place in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys student writing contest, finishing fourth for her paper on home and communitybased programs for the elderly. After law school and passing the bar exam, Fischer returned to Sleepy Eye after being invited to practice at Hauser and Schmid, PLLP. She cited mentorship from former Sleepy Eye City Attorney Errol Hauser for shaping her to become the Sleepy Eye City Attorney. “I worked with Errol for my first twoand-a-half years as a lawyer. It was instrumental. There was never a dull moment,” Fischer said. Fischer said she decided to study law because she felt it was a good fit. “My parents would tell you I debated
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Sleepy Eye City Attorney Alissa Fischer focuses on elder law and justice. She was first William Mitchell student to place in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Student Writing Contest. She received fourth-place honors for her paper on home and community-based programs for the elderly.
with them more than any of my siblings growing up,” Alissa said. “My parents gave me the freedom and encouragement to pursue my career field that felt right to me.” On April 1, 2015, she opened the doors to her own law practice at 128 E. Main Street. Fischer works primarily in elder law, estate planning, real estate, estate settlement/probate, guardianship/conservatorship law and business law. Alissa said she enjoys being a lawyer. “It’s more fulfilling than I anticipated,” Fischer said. “There are many days I walk away from my office with a smile on my face. My clients, the work, it’s been a very rewarding career so far.” Fisher’s favorite things to do in her spare time include running, reading, watching her nieces and spending time at the lake. Another Sleepy Eye native, Lindsey (Reddemann) Mages, is Fischer’s legal assistant. A Minnesota State University, Mankato graduate majoring in business management and minoring in human resources, Mages said she found her niche in the legal world and as taken a leading role in real estate closings. In her spare time, Mages enjoys baking cakes, playing board games with her family and spending time at the farm.
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Warmkas chose New Ulm for their home By Clay Schuldt Staff Writer
NEW ULM — Eric and Sarah Warmka came to New Ulm three years ago, but the couple has already had major impact on the community. Eric is the Manager of the Minnesota Valley Funeral Homes and Sarah Warmka is the Marketing Specialist with the New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce. Both of their jobs put them in direct contact with local community on a daily basis. As a couple there are few people in New Ulm that one or both them does not know. On any given day the The Journal is likely to see a press release or obituary issued by either of the Warmkas. Eric is originally from Wells which is south of Mankato. Sarah is from Eden Valley. Eric began his career during college as a maintenance man at a St. Cloud Funeral Home. That position turned into working visitation and later funerals. “I saw what a Funeral Director does and I saw that it was a respected profession,” Eric said. “The owner of the funeral home gave me a wonderful opportunity to start a career in funerals.” Eric already had a degree in management from St. Cloud and then he got a second degree in funerals. “The misconception is we are continually surrounded by sadness,” Eric said. “But we’re there to help people through the sadness.” The majority of his day is working with the community to put together a celebration of the person who has passed. This means collaborating with the churches and organization. Typically these events are done on a short notice and each funeral is unique. In attending St. Cloud State University Eric had the good fortune to meet Sarah. Sarah received a BA in History from St. Cloud and worked as an archivist at the Stern’s History Museum. She also has a Masters Degree in Library Science. “It was a great job but it is such a great transition to this job,” Sarah said. Being a Marketing Specialist for New Ulm requires
Staff photo by Clay Schuldt
The Warmka family sits on the sofa at home. Eric and Sarahʼs son Jackson is four and their dog Sirus is seven years old.
a great deal of historic knowledge. Through her involvement with the New Ulm Chamber Sarah is associated with boards and committees. As the Marketing Specialist she has her hands in 20 different community events. In terms of promotions her jobs is extremely busy, but Sarah admits New Ulm is easy to promote. “New Ulm keeps getting recognized for things,” she said. Recently New Ulm entered the running for Minnesota Monthly Best Minnesota Town. “It makes my job easy,” she said. However promoting New Ulm events is still a full time job. Sarah likes to tell people that “without promotion something terrible happens: nothing.” The Warmkas first visited New Ulm as tourists in 2010. For Valentine’s Day they attended Bockfest. They stayed at the Deutche Strasse Bed and Breakfast and learned about the community from Gary and Ramona Sonnenberg. It was a positive experience for them, but they were not looking to move at that time. Shortly after their son Jackson was born they decided it was time to move and they remembered New Ulm. They visited New Ulm again, this time to consider it as a home. The took in the town sights and
sounds and soon realized New Ulm had a lot to offer. “The fact that it was a town with culture but still has small town values was very important to us,” Eric said. In addition the community was inbetween their home towns, which was perfect for extended family visits. The construction of a new public high school was also positive. As a Funeral Home Director Eric was able to find a job anywhere in the state and New Ulm prove to be no exception. Sarah was a stay at home mom for the first month upon moving to New Ulm, but there were a variety of options. With a background in history and library science the Warmkas were confident Sarah could find a job in the Brown County area and Mankato was close by. As fortune would have it Terry Sveine was retiring from the New Ulm Chamber and a position opened up for Sarah. In the three years since the Warmkas have become deeply involved with New Ulm. Sarah is heavily involved with the promotion of civic events and festivals. Eric has recently become involved with Oak Hills Foundation that generates revenue and supports the nursing home. As of
February, Eric was promoted from Funeral Director to General Manager of the Minnesota Valley Nursing Home. When not working the Warmkas are avid travelers and hikers. On summer days they visit a cabin or They visit Flandrau State Park or take the family dog, Sirus, for a run. They even enjoy the live music downtown and visiting with the neighbors. “We have the best neighborhood and neighbors,” Eric said. This was a top reason for moving to New Ulm as they didn’t have as close a relationship with neighbors in St. Cloud. The couple has every intention of staying in New Ulm and building up their new home. Sarah explained their philosophy through a Mura Gast quote: “If you build a place where people want to visit, you’ll build a place where people want to live. And, if you build a place where people want to live, you’ll build a place where people have to work. If you build a place where people want to work, you’ll build a place where business wants to be. And, if you build a place where business wants to be, you’ll have built a place where people want to visit.”
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For Kimmel, empathy turns to activism By Connor Cummiskey Staff Writer
NEW ULM — As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Marinda “Mindy” Kimmel’s job is to listen to people’s problems, which has inspired her political aspirations. Kimmel lives in New Ulm and works in Mankato at Five Rivers Mental Health Clinic, LLC. She helped organize the political group Minnesota Voices: Marching Forward and is now seeking an endorsement from the DFL to run for the State House of Representatives in District 16B. “I talk with people for a living and I hear about their concerns and so much of what I hear is just how the negativity and the political climate really affected peoples’ mental health and I just think there is a better way,” Kimmel said. Officially announcing her campaign June 29, fighting negativity and divisiveness in political rhetoric and daily life is a guiding star for Kimmel. She hopes to be a powerful, positive voice for the region. “I think the biggest thing for me was wanting to be more involved in the political system and being really concerned with the negativity that I was hearing in politics and really believing in my community and believing people want to come together,” Kimmel said. The primary plank of Kimmel’s platform revolves around the ever-present challenge of healthcare. “My number one is affordable healthcare that all people can have access to regardless of their income level,” Kimmel said. “That includes people who are struggling to pay copays and deductibles that makes healthcare really out of reach for them.” A single-payer system is what Kimmel supports. She says that it will save people money, arguing that the tax to pay for it would probably be lower than the collective costs of deductibles and copays that are weighing people down today. “In all honesty I think the money is there,” Kimmel said. “I think it is diverting the money so that instead of people paying it out of their paychecks and instead of paying high copays and deductibles, that essentially the money is rerouted.” The next big plank is housing. Kimmel is advocating for greater choices for housing in this region.
Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey
Marinda “Mindy” Kimmel found listening to peopleʼs problems as a therapist fueled her desire to help them in other ways, including the political arena.
“I think housing can be a really important key for young people, for the elderly, for keeping people in our community and I think when there is not access to housing people leave,” Kimmel said. The remaining planks in Kimmel’s platform are: education — primary, secondary and college; rural issues including broadband access, safety nets for family farms and incentives for conservation; improving the elder-care system for an increasing population of elderly citizens and longterm transportation solutions, according to her campaign website. On a somewhat more local level Kimmel is involved in Minnesota Voices: Marching Forward. “It is a group that formed around the Women’s March,” Kimmel said. “Originally there were several of us talking about going to the Women’s March in January and the group started off as coordinating that.” After the march, Kimmel decided to organize a small talk in a coffee shop to figure out what to do next. “Slowly but surely people started telling their friends and family members and I
realized that this coffee shop conversation needed to be at a bigger venue,” Kimmel said. The meeting moved to Turner Hall where 60 people showed up to share concerns. Since then the group has been behind a number of local direct action activities including: the Science March, the vigil for victims of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia and writing a letter of love to a St. Peter couple who received threatening mail for being gay. The group meets once a month, usually on the fourth Monday at Turner Hall. The group is dedicated to providing members accurate information, opportunities for activism, support and outreach to similarly oriented groups, according to its Facebook page. The group describes itself as a nonpartisan community dedicated to supporting a resistance movement, according to the Facebook page. “It is a lot of people from New Ulm, there are some people that come from the
Sleepy Eye area, there have been people that come from Mankato,” Kimmel said. “It is called Minnesota Voices: Marching Forward because we knew there were people from outside of New Ulm coming and we did not want it to be just a New Ulm group.” Kimmel is originally from New Ulm. In 2003 she graduated high school and moved to Duluth to get an undergraduate degree in psychology from The University of Minnesota, Duluth. She went on to earn her masters of science and education in community counseling at the University of Wisconsin in Superior, Wis. After graduating in 2010 she worked in Duluth until she moved back to New Ulm three years ago because of her family. “My family is all from New Ulm, my parents still live in New Ulm and I wanted to be closer to my family,” Kimmel said. “I felt like I had done my thing in Duluth and I loved living in Duluth but really I missed the closeness of being near my family.”
Bode enjoys what he does every day By Kevin Sweeney Journal Editor
NEW ULM — Eric Bode didn’t set out to remake the face of New Ulm, building by building. But it seems to be working out that way for the 29-year-old owner of BoCo Real Estate. Born and raised in New Ulm, Bode attended New Ulm Area Catholic Schools, graduated from Cathedral High School, and got a degree in finance at Minnesota State University Mankato. Bode stayed in New Ulm while attending college. While in school he worked in town and started a car detailing business. When he graduated he got interested in real estate. “Mary Henle (of New Ulm Real Estate) got me interested in it as I bought and sold a couple of properties from her, then started selling real estate. The real estate business appealed to him, but Bode said he didn’t intend to become a property developer. It’s a field he kind of fell into. When he decided to open his own real estate office, he needed office space. Bode purchased the Weeds and Reeds building on 5th North and Broadway, a former service station with a distinctive windmill architecture design that earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. He converted it into a two-tenant office building, with room for himself and attorney Shari Fischer. When Fischer expressed interest in taking over the whole building, Bode looked around for another space for himself. He found another old gas station on 7th North and German, and started building a new office building on the site, intending to make that his home base and renting
out the extras offices. Before he could finish it, however, he had enough interested tenants to fill the building. The building now houses an investment office, a law office from a Twin Cities firm that expanded into New Ulm, and a tanning salon. Bode, still needing some office space for himself, focused on the former Martinka Motors building on 3rd North and Broadway. Where others saw an old former garage and tiny showroom, Bode envisioned more office space in the service bays and a design that would use its unique curved front. He started work to convert it into his vision. Last year the building opened, with a Jimmy John’s restaurant in the front, Bode’s office on the side, and the Berens, Rodenberg & O’Connor law office and Wide Area Classifieds offices in the back. Currently, Bode is nearing completion of another redevelopment project, converting the former Retzlaff building on Center Street between Broadway and Minnesota Street. Soon to be completed, the building is a multi-purpose space, with room for two offices on the front, a pair of apartments in the middle, and a “Prohibition” style bar in the back that he and his brother are planning to run. Like his other projects, this one involves taking an older property and imagining other uses for it. The idea of having ground-floor apartments in a downtown office building was unprecedented in New Ulm. Bode had to get the approval of the New Ulm City Council for variances from the city’s zoning ordinance to allow the apartments. Bode likes the idea of taking
Staff photo by Kevin Sweeney
Eric Bode stands in front of his office at Third North and Minnesota St., in the former Martinka Motors building. It is the third building Bode developed to create office space for himself and others.
an older building and repurposing it. He comes up with the building design ideas himself, and has a good relationship with his developer, who knows how he works and that new ideas may be incorporated into the design at any time. Bode still devotes most of his time to residential housing sales, a part of the business he truly enjoys. “I love what I do every day. A big part of what I do every day is residential sales for people moving within the community or into the community,” Bode said. “It’s fun to feed off the people who are excited to buy a new house, or build a new house, move to New Ulm and start a new life.” Bode applies that excitement to his own business, and said it spreads around to other businesses he comes in contact with. “People are looking for a new space, a new look, a new way to promote their business, and it’s fun to see that excitement spread.”
“I’m excited to take a building and turn it into kind of a piece of art, and those tenants are happy to be in there,” he said. Bode has turned his enthusiasm and energy to other parts of the community as well. He got active in the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce early on, and has already served a term as chairman of the Chamber’s board of directors. He is active in the New Ulm HYPE group (Helping Young Professionals Evolve), an organization that welcomes young professionals moving to New Ulm, helping them build relationships through social gatherings, gain skills and knowledge through speakers and programs, and encouraging them to give back to the community through volunteer opportunities. Bode is excited about the changes that lie ahead in New Ulm, and he sees the young professionals establishing themselves in New Ulm those who will be leading the changes. There are challenges ahead, but
Bode thinks the next few years will see a lot of those challenges being met. Housing, for instance, is a concern in New Ulm. The housing market is tight right now, in part because of a need for new housing stock, but also because there has been a gap in the cost of starter housing and the next level. People who are interested in moving up into bigger or better homes are finding that the cost of those homes has been rising faster than the value of their homes, Bode said. That has discouraged people from selling their own homes and is reducing the selection for people entering the home market. But Bode thinks that situation is starting to change. There are some new housing development projects coming up that will give more options to people interested in moving to smaller homes or townhouses. “It will be really interesting to see what happens in the next five years,” Bode said.
Mike Kral keeps busy running his own company By Connor Cummiskey Staff Writer NEW ULM — If there is one thing Mike Kral enjoys most about running his housing construction company, it is the visible change he creates. Kral has owned MKC Construction for 15 years. He founded it in New Ulm in 2002 after working under a contractor in Faribault. “Taking a bare piece of ground, that there is nothing there and building a house there, it is neat to see the transformation of a lot to a house where someone is going to live,” Kral said. “That is probably one of my favorite things, to see everything come together.” Kral also enjoys the design aspects of laying out a house as well as being able to work outside and in new places. “I really enjoy working outside, in the environment,” Kral said. “It is just nice, on a nice fall day or a nice summer day to not be in a factory and not be in closed doors. I like to move around, you get to move to different parts of town, to different towns, different job sites.” Born and raised in New Ulm, Kral spent two years at South Central Technical College, Faribault before working for Rick Cashin Construction. He returned to New Ulm to start MKC in part because his family was here and they had resources he could use until he got on his feet. “I originally started using one of my dad’s Bobcats from the farm when we needed to dig a basement,” Kral said. “He also had a very small back-hoe, that had no cab, it was just a real old backhoe. I started with that and just slowly worked my way up into newer equipment.” Since then Kral has been working hard to grow his company. The early days were long and frequent, often working 10 or 12-hour-days for six days a week, Kral said. Kral spent his evenings and nights doing paperwork — putting together estimates and the like, he said. MKC specializes in constructing a full house from digging the basement to shingling the roof and everything in between. “You do not have to find as many jobs out there, you just need to find a
few houses and it is a lot of work, because you are doing everything,” Kral said. The greater stability with working on projects that take as long as a full house has kept Kral in the black. “We have never had a year where we have not profited, I guess you could say it has been very good,” Kral said. “Even through the ’07-’08 housing crisis we still did some houses. We shifted gears and did a little more agricultural building, pole sheds and that kind of stuff.” Of course, steady work for Kral also means steady work for his employees. He proudly explained that he has yet to fire an employee due to slow business. “In 15 years I have never laid anybody off from my company during the winter or during a slow time or anything like that,” Kral said. “I would just seem to always be able to find work or create work for my guys.” While Kral can always seem to find work for his employees, he has felt the pinch of the tight labor market. He gets around the lack of skilled laborers by training them himself, as he learned from his employer. Lower-skilled labor means he can start them at lower pay, but training his own employees also means fewer workers Kral needs to break of bad habits. “This way if I train them exactly how I want them to do it from the get-go, that way it gets done just the way I want it,” Kral said. Since his start Kral has built about 100 houses. He will work within a 30mile-radius of New Ulm and employs about eight to 10 workers. “I am pretty content with the size I am, I do not know if I want to get much bigger because of the headaches and stuff like that, that can occur with more people,” Kral said. Kral advised young people looking for a career to consider the trades. He is doing well and many of his employees, particularly the well-trained and experienced ones, get paid enough to afford a house and a comfortable lifestyle. “You don’t need to go to a four-year college, necessarily, and there is nothing wrong with some manual labor or being in the construction field or plumbing or electrical and you can make really good money,” Kral said.
Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey
Mike Kral is the owner and founder of Mike Kral Construction and Masonry.
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Change has been good for Lueth at Lola’s By Connor Cummiskey
NEW ULM — Lacey Lueth, the owner of Lola — an American Bistro, likes change. Whether it’s the art on her walls or food in her truck, change is good. That could be why her restaurant of nine years has continued with a strong customer base, even if the eclectic menu is not what she planned. “I was trained in Italian cooking and so initially when I came here that is kind of what I thought I wanted to turn this into, a pasta place,” Lueth said. “I was going to do a pasta bar and this and that and then as I started working in the space after I signed lease papers and started working in this kitchen I realized it was not made for that.” The building appealed to Lueth. She liked the architecture. She was also able to lease the building, meaning it was less threatening to take on the responsibility. Fearing a small business loan and the
Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey
Lacey Lueth is the proud owner of Lola — an American Bistro.
failure rate of restaurants, Lueth scraped together some money from family members and started cooking. Even though her father and her uncle each loaned Lueth money, other family members were less enthusiastic because of the risk. At the time Lueth was as a chef at The
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son in your head that says ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that,’” Lacey said. Coming into it, Lueth realized her plans for an Italian restaurant simply could not work for the space.
Lueth Continued on page 25
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“What ended up happening was the menu was made to fit the space instead of the menu I wanted,” Lueth said. “That was an eye opener too, what I envisioned just could not happen.” For the next three years the restaurant was changing its menu about three times per year, Lueth said. Two years into her lease, Lueth bought the building. As her business was growing, Lueth found that their equipment was not up to snuff. “Working with two panini grills and four burners, it was still that tiny kitchen, it did not work,” Lueth said. “We were getting so busy that lunches could take upwards of 50 minutes and that is not good for lunch.” Then three years ago Lola’s took advantage of an unfortunate burst water pipe and went through a few major changes, including a renovation, menu change and changing the name from Lola’s Larkspur Market. The kitchen had to be improved, so Lueth took out a city development loan and a bank loan to pay for the renovation. “We made it bigger, we made it more functional, we added more equipment, plus it was not as scary then because I felt like we had momentum going,” Lueth said. The kitchen expanded in space and went from four burners and two panini grills to six burners and three ovens. With a change in space came a change in the menu. Lueth found a restaurant consultant named Pat Weber after seeing what he did with The Buttered Tin in the Twin Cities. “We totally redid our menu to make it more efficient so it is all coming out of the back kitchen,” Lueth said. “Some of it used to come out of the front and the back and they would have to coordinate with each other.” Along with efficiency, the menu change also addressed some concerns Lueth had with how much of her food was heavy with cream sauces or cheese. “Everything felt really heavy, so when we changed a menu that was a thought,” Lueth said. “We wanted to introduce a lot of freshness to it, but also flavor.” While some customers lodged complaints at the loss of some old recipes, the new recipes made it possible for more consistency between chefs. “There were recipes but they were loosey-goosey, now there are very specific
recipes to go with everything and that helps with consistency,” Lueth said. The next year, 2015, Lueth got a food truck. Oddly enough, the truck happened mostly because of an awful Mother’s Day. Lola’s was catering an event; however, more and more reservations kept coming up until the night before. Many of those reservations were simply guests leaving a message, so their spots had not been confirmed on Lueth’s end. “So we had this influx of all of these guests that came and we could not keep up with it,” Lueth said. “We couldn’t flip the tables, we couldn’t keep enough food out, the servers were crying, the staff was crying, it was probably the worst experience in my whole restaurant career — at least the top five.” To decompress, Lueth and staff members went up to the Twin Cities where they found out they could have a truck built, so they did. At first, the decision led to much anxiety on Lueth’s part. The first year was particularly rocky as they figured out how to use the truck. “We wanted something totally different than what the store had but then we realized we were doing so much more work trying to do that because we were having to prep the menu and load the truck from (the restaurant),” Lueth said. After the first year Lueth decided that was too much trouble. Now instead the truck has a few consistent items and whatever Lueth wants to put on it. The food truck spends most of its time in Mankato, so the restaurant does not compete with it. Instead the two venues have formed a symbiotic relationship. “They kind of feed each other,” Lueth said. “The restaurant gives the food truck food and the restaurant business.” More recently Lola’s has continued expanding with Lola’s at the Grand, serving food at The Grand Kabaret. The stress of expansion and all of the projects going on caused Lueth to take on a partner, Jordan Kuelbs. Kuelbs is a graduate from Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis and interned under Lueth. Last spring Lueth, virtually in tears from stress, contacted Kuelbs asking if she wanted to buy into the restaurant. As for the future, Lueth does not have any solid plans for expansion. She has some hopes and dreams about even more changes and expansions, but seems fairly content with what she has now.
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Virginia Suker Moldan, manager at Turner Hall, consults with contractors working on Turner Hallʼs kitchen renovation project. Part of her job, she said, is learning all about Turner Hallʼs infrastructure, from plumbing to wiring to air ducts.
Suker Moldan works with the past toward the present By Kevin Sweeney Journal Editor
NEW ULM — As manager of New Ulm’s venerable Turner Hall, Virginia Suker Moldan has 160 years of history riding on her young shoulders. Turner Hall, after all, is the oldest organization in town. It was the city’s first school, its first hospital, its first meeting hall, library and theater, its first gymnasium. Whatever New Ulm needed it to be, it was there. Its physical building has changed over the years, surviving tornadoes and fire. But its place in New Ulm’s history is secure. It has hosted banquets, wedding parties and receptions of all kind. A hundred years ago, as the U.S. was entering World War I, it was the
site of the massive rally about the U.S.’s draft law and whether New Ulm’s men would be sent to fight their German relatives. So Suker Moldan is the curator of all that history. But she is also the manager who wants to see Turner Hall continue on for another 160 years. And to do that, it is evolving. For much of its history, Turner Hall was a social club, home of the Turnverein, a German organization founded in 1811 as an athletic, cultural and social organization that stressed the idea of a “strong mind and a strong body.” It came to America with the 1848ers political refugees from Germany. Some of them arrived in the Minnesota Territory to found New Ulm, and
Suker Moldan Continued on page 27
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New Ulm has had a strong presence here ever since. Today it still hosts the gymnastics program that is one of the foundations of the Turner philosophy. But as New Ulm continues to grow and change, Turner Hall will be changing to continue to meet its needs. Suker Moldan was hired as manager of Turner Hall 11 years ago. A native of Sleepy Eye, she attended Minnesota State University Mankato, graduating in economics and business. She did an internship with a political organization in the 2004 election, and then tried a summer working for a resort in northern Minnesota. “I thought that was something I wanted to do, but I thought I’d try it for a summer,” Suker Moldan said. The experience convinced her that resort work was not for her, so she and her fiancé decided they’d start back here, closer to home. Suker Moldan saw the position for Turner Hall manager was open, and applied for it. She was hired, and started on a career path that has been challenging, but rewarding as well. “Turner Hall has been changing all that time, so my job has been changing as well,” she said. “It’s different every day. It’s certainly different than it was eight years ago. I think the big difference in my job now is that I’m not so involved in weddings and the restaurant and more involved in the big picture stuff — grants, where we see ourselves in ten years, the budget and planning.” Even the growth of the restaurant business has its challenges. As revenues rise, so do costs and overhead expenses. Each year presents a different hurdle, Suker Moldan said. Eight years ago Turner Hall made a big change, opening up its facilities to the public instead of being a private club. It’s gone from being mostly a bar with a little bit of food to being a restaurant with bar. Turner Hall is currently undertaking another fundraiser to remodel its kitchen to give it a professional layout, with a regular cooking line.
Currently it has a more circular layout that is helpful with large dinners and banquets, but not so efficient for the kind of cooking a restaurant does. As that business has grown, Suker Moldan has added some assistant managers who take care of the wedding catering and restaurant operations. She is also proud of the staff she has built up over the years. “We take their happiness very seriously,” Suker Moldan said. “I try to put myself in their shoes.” The staff has a low turnover rate, said Suker Moldan, which helps develop that personal connection and family atmosphere when everyone cares about what they’re doing, she said. One example of that, she said, was recently when Turner Hall closed on a Sunday so the staff could take a tour of the Hauenstein brewery, and had a picnic, to show Turner Hall’s appreciation for them. Suker Moldan said perseverance has been an important attribute for her job. When she started, there were a lot of things that needed to be done, but it took patience to wait until revenues could be raised to do them. “My first three years were difficult,” she said. “I had a lot to learn, but after a while it started getting better. By that time I was so invested in Turner Hall that I wanted to see it through.” As part of her job, Suker Moldan has been active in other community activities and organizations. She spent seven years on the New Ulm Convention Visitors Bureau, which helped her business and helped her to network with others, and build business relationships. She is also active on the Heart of New Ulm Leadership Team. She is participating in the HONU program to help develop healthier food options for the restaurant, to keep their customers happier and healthier. Which, in a way, gets back to the Turnverein philosophy of a strong mind and a strong body.
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Fruhwirth brothers carry on Happy Joe’s tradition By Kevin Sweeney Journal Editor NEW ULM — Nick and Jay Fruhwirth are enjoying the challenges of owning and operating a New Ulm business that’s been around longer than they have. The brothers are the owners of Happy Joe’s Restaurant, which will be marking its 39th year in business. Nick, 33, and Jay, 29, grew up going to birthday parties at Happy Joe’s, eating pizza and ice cream and having fun. So they understand what Happy Joe’s means to folks in New Ulm, and it’s their aim to keep that tradition alive. The two brothers have a history of working in restaurants. Nicked worked at Happy Joe’s as a teen and into his early 20s, and later the brother worked at the Holiday Inn, about 10 or 15 years ago, working in the kitchen. They gained restaurant experience there, and a group of friends who are still working with them. “Apparently we do some things right, because we’ve stuck with a group that we’ve worked with. We have two or three employees that we still work with” said Nick. A couple of years ago Nick found himself back in school and working at Happy Joe’s part time. “I was sitting in class on day, and I realized I had nothing in common with 19- to 22-yearolds,” he said. “I like to talk. I don’t like text messaging, I don’t like computers.” Then the opportunity came up to buy Happy Joe’s. “Lee (former owner Lee Sturm) had been trying to sell the place for a while. Finally I said to him, ‘What will it take to get this place?’ We talked, came up with a price, I said, ‘Let’s go to the bank.’ The bank said, ‘We’re going to work this out,’ and here we are.”
Staff photo by Kevin Sweeney
Nick (left) and Jay Fruhwirth are the owners of Happy Joeʼs Restaurant in New Ulm.
Nick had talked to his brother about joining him. “He came to me with the idea, and I jumped on board,” said Jay, who had been working at Kraft for nearly 10 years. “The opportunity came...” “...and we decided to take the nightmare on,” Nick finished with a laugh. “No, it’s a lot of fun,” Nick said. “But it is a lot of work.” “The big thing for us, for the community, there is this — I don’t want to say expectation — but to step into the shoes of the previous owners and what this place is,” Nick said. “We hear it every day about how people have been coming here for years. (they’ll say) ‘I remember when the price of the buffet was $2.50,’ and I’m ‘Well, yeah, that was 40 years ago.’ “But that’s the following we have. And to jump in — and this is our first business venture — to be the ones in charge, you have to coordinate everything, it’s a lot of work, and you can lose yourself in
it sometimes.” The time commitment may be demanding, but it’s a responsibility the brothers are willing to accept. “We could let it go. We could put in less hours,” Nick said. “But I love this place. I love my job and I love what I do.” With that commitment to maintaining the Happy Joe’s reputation in New Ulm, the brothers are serious about the quality of the food and the service. “If someone complains, we really take it to heart,” Nick said. Since taking over the business last spring, the brothers have worked out their complementary responsibilities. Nick is the “front” man who likes to meet and greet people, and work on customer service. Jay is quieter, and handles most of the back office duties like ordering food and supplies and keeping the systems running. They have a staff of about 50, many of them family and friends, who know how the sys-
tem of “organized chaos” works. “I know we make it look easy, but it’s not,” Nick said. “People say, ‘How hard can it be to make a pizza?’ But I’d like to see them give it a try.” They are committed to making everything fresh. They are one of the few Happy Joe’s pizza restaurants that doesn’t use frozen dough. “We make the dough fresh every day,” said Nick. They go through 2,000 pounds of flour in a week, about 1,200 pounds of cheese, various meats and vegetables and chicken (for the broasted chicken and the famous chicken and Tater Tot hot dish that earned the WCCO-TV “Minnesota’s Best” honor two years ago). They don’t use a conveyor oven that cooks the pizza a predetermined amount of time. “I like putting it in the oven, moving it around and checking it to make sure it’s done,” said Nick. It takes a lot of attention, especially when it’s busy in the kitchen
and there are other pizzas to be made. “There’s such a short period of time between when a pizza’s almost done, and it’s burned. You can’t look away,” Nick said. “They do burn once in a while, and then you have to make the phone call and tell them, ‘Sorry, we burned your pizza. It’s going to take a while longer while we make another.’ And most people are okay with that.” Delivery orders are a big part of the business, and sometimes the orders can be big, too. The biggest single delivery was 120 pizzas for a large corporate event. When a big order comes in, and the Fruhwirths hope they get a couple days notice, everyone pitches in making pizzas. The Fruhwirths are happy with their team of employees, though Nick says he hates the “team” concept and prefers to think of everyone as family. The employees are all friends, and hang out with each other, he said. “If you’re with us, if you fit in, you’re in,” Nick said. New employees, if they work out, quickly become part of the family. And the owners work hard to make them feel appreciated. “Part of what makes us a success is that you’re not a number, not a name, not just a body.” The owners show appreciation with gifts at Christmas time, and special events. Once the brothers closed the restaurant for a day and took everyone to Valleyfair. The brothers have taken on some special events, like having a stand at the Brown County Fair, or holding fundraisers for local schools. They plan on heading out to Oktoberfest this year. When they need extra help they call on family members to come help out. Growing up in New Ulm, the brothers have an appreciation for the community, and a great desire to give back. They know that the donations they give for various groups and organizations adds up to a lot, but they are happy to give back to the community that supports them. “The people who ask us for things are people we see in here all the time,” Nick said. “They support us and we support them.”
Wise taking on Chamber challenges By Connor Cummiskey Staff Writer
NEW ULM — Mike Wise recently became the board chair of the Chamber of Commerce, with September being his first month. Wise is a former business owner. He founded Notion IT, an internet technology company. Around 2010, tired of working solo, he sold it to Thriveon and began working there. “I feel like to keep a community strong and a desirable place to be and live and raise a family, we need to contribute back to it in anyway that we can,” Wise said. The timing of Wise’s tenure has put him in a position to work on the questions surrounding the City Council’s recent decision to stop funding the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and stopping some funds for the Chamber’s retail supporting activities. “It creates this unique situation where we have to have open lines of communication with the city, the chamber, the EDC — we have to get together on this stuff and make sure we are coming up with a solution that is going to benefit New Ulm,” Wise said. That is not the only challenge facing Wise as he starts his term as chair. He is also looking at the beginning of changes to Chamber membership. “Chamber membership historically has been based on the number of employees in an organization or the number of assets for financial institutions,” Wise said. The new membership will be based on the Chamber’s value to a business and there will be multiple levels of membership businesses can choose. As of now there are not too
The Wise family, pictured left to right: Mike, Erin, Kristen, Hannah and Joey in front.
many details hammered out on the new membership and Wise expects the work on it to outlast his one-year tenure. Wise grew up around New Ulm before going to Alexandria Technical College for two years to become a software engineer. He came back to New Ulm to found his business in 2006 and ran it for around four or five years. Notion IT was its name and it functioned as essentially an out-of-house IT department for hire. “I created it to provide small to medium-sized businesses an enterprise-level IT strategy and support experience,” Wise said. For the first year Wise worked with a partner until he took it all over to go full-time, as there was not enough business for both of them. As his business grew, Wise’s
role in the one-man business became increasingly more difficult. “I got to the point where I was maxed out as far as personal time too,” Wise said. “I was the technician, I was the sales person, I was the billing person so it got to be a lot for time.” Then he sold it to Thriveon and became a sales representative. He was more interested in developing relationships than continuing to work on the technical details. “So similar to what I was doing, only with Thriveon I have 22 other folks that are in the background working on the technical stuff, taking care of the networks, making sure everybody is helped the way they should be helped,” Wise said. Wise returned to New Ulm to settle down because of the
town’s atmosphere. “I came back because of the small-town feel,” Wise said. “It is a great place to raise a family, I don’t have to worry about my kids getting into trouble, not that there is no trouble but, it is just a nice community.” He also appreciates how many people in the town have that same priority, however, he is worried about the future. Wise is concerned that unlike him, today’s young people will not be coming back to settle down. “It seems like the younger generation, all they want to do is leave, which is fine but let’s give them a reason to come back after they leave,” Wise said. One idea Wise has been kicking around for a little while is trying to attract more hightech companies such as soft-
ware developers or internetbased service companies. “With the improvements in broadband internet that we have seen over the last five or 10 years, there is no reason a hightech company could not headquarter out of New Ulm and produce the same results they produce in the metro area while at the same time lowering the cost of living, increasing the quality of that experience in general,” Wise said. However, he acknowledged that is not likely possible in the near future, at least not until the housing shortage is solved. “It seems like everybody in town, when you talk to the manufacturers and the major employers, they all have trouble finding people, especially professionals, that can move to town,” Wise said. To do that, he argues that city organizations must be collaborating to develop available housing and workers can start moving into New Ulm. “When I say collaboration I mean the Chamber, EDC, the city, businesses, we all need to work together on a lot of this stuff because if we do not, we are not going to make any headway,” Wise said. On the topic of leadership itself, Wise said virtually everything he has learned about it in his business can be applied to his home life. Due to that, things like the Chamber’s leadership training event Leadercast can be useful for just about anybody. “When somebody asks me about Leadercast and they are asking who should they send I tell them ‘well, it is not just for managers you can send in your employees, especially any of your employees that have a family or are in a leadership position in some sort of capacity,” Wise said.
Schwab brings new vision to her business, Inspired By Clay Schuldt Staff Writer
NEW ULM — Kristina Schwab is one of Minnesota Street’s newest shop owners. In February, she opened Inspired in the former Lambrecht’s building. Schwab is originally from Lamberton, Minnesota. Becoming the owner of her own business has been a dream of Schwab’s since high school, but the type of business she wanted changed over the years. “I tried talking my parents into buying a gas station in Lamberton,” Schwab said. She had worked at the gas station and considering owning the station after returning from
college. “After graduating from high school I just wanted to work,” Schwab said. Her parents encouraged her to attend college. She attended Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall and pursued a business major because it was all encompassing. While attending college she met her husband Randy. The couple has been together for 12 years and have two children, Karli and Thayne. Randy grew up on a dairy farm outside of St. George and after getting married the couple moved to New Ulm. Before moving Schwab was already familiar with New Ulm and liked the community.
“I was very impressed with the downtown here,” Schwab said. Owning a building downtown became her new dream. After college Schwab worked at a bank in the customer service department and as an investment representative. In her time as a bank employee she helped with marketing committees in which she put together door prizes and gifts. Schwab enjoyed this part of the job and led her to consider a gift shop as possible business. Schwab briefly left the work force to start raising her family. In 2012, she returned the work force to work for Don
Schwab Continued on page 32
Staff photo by Clay Schuldt
Inspired owner Kristina Schwab examines a necklace from the jewelry line in her store.
2017 From page 31
Sanderson’s State Farm Agency, but it was last year that Schwab made the first step to owning her own business. “Last year I went to the Chamber’s Start Smart Seminar and just the information I got from that I wanted to keep the ball rolling,” she said. Her first idea for the store was to open a gift shop with eco-friendly products. Schwab began working with the small business development center and became connected with Curt and Donna Lambrecht. The Lambrechts had not announced plans to sell the store at that time. Schwab was able to begin working with them to transfer ownership. This arrangement was perfect for Schwab as she was an avid shopper at Lambrecht’s. Schwab began working with the Lambrechts in October 2016 in order to gain experience during the holiday rush. This internship was done in secret as none of the staff knew the business was for sale. Schwab officially purchased the store in February 2017. All of Lambrecht’s sale staff stayed on to work at Inspired. The Lambrechts have continued to offer Schwab support as they want see the business succeed as well. Inspired was remodeled shortly after it was purchased by Schwab. “The store looks a little different but it was important to me to carry a lot of the same products as the Lambrechts did, but mix in some of those things I am little more passionate in,” she said. Inspired carries more ecofriendly and sustainable lifestyle products. These new products have melded well with the traditional items. Inspired is currently preparing for its first holiday
season. Soon the store will be switching out the fall items for the Christmas items. The basement of Inspired is already stocked with Christmas products. Lambrecht’s was famous for its Christmas displays and an assortment of Christmas tree decorations. Inspired is planning to continue the tradition. Schwab hinted that this year customers can expect to see more blue colors. At least one Christmas tree will be decorated in blue ornaments. Before Christmas, Inspired is taking part in the New Ulm’s Fall Fashion Show. Schwab said this season, dark greens, grey and rust colors are in fashion. In the future Schwab hopes to offer wedding and baby registries at Inspired as well as an online shopping component. When not running her business, Schwab volunteers as a coach for the “Girls on the Run” program. The organization coaches girls on how to run, inspiring self confidence and promoting a healthy lifestyle. Schwab recently completed the coach training with Ashley Aukes. The program is currently run through the Young Women’s Christian Association YWCA in Mankato with hopes to bring it to New Ulm in the spring. The program is for third to fifth-grade girls. The program ends with the girls running in a 5K race. Schwab ran track in high school. She has completed several half-marathons, including a half-marathon in Ireland. “I am always looking for a new challenge and having a girl of my own it is important to me to inspire her to be self confident.”
Staff photo by Clay Schuldt
Kristina Schwab took over as owners of the Lambrechtʼs building in Feb. 2017. After remodel of the store she reopened it as Inspired
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WEâ€™RE MAKING A DIFFERENCE Missy Marti-17 years
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