Generations of Business

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D1 generations

OF BUSINESS West Central Tribue | Willmar, Minn. | Saturday, April 27, 2019

Thein families share history in their separate businesses

The story picks up when John’s son Eugene Thein moved to Clara City around 1890. Called a “Jack-of-all-trades” by his great-great-grandsons, hen John P. Thein left Luxembourg in 1854 and Eugene Thein used “self ingenuity” to work as a blacksmith, run moved to Minnesota to start a new life in a new a threshing crew, erect windmills, drill wells and move buildings. If there was a problem to solve, Eugene usually found a way to country as a blacksmith, it’s a fair guess he had no idea his skills would be passed onto future generations and lay fix it, according to his great-great-grandsons. Two of Eugene’s sons, John and George, took over the buildthe foundation to sustain his families’ businesses 165 years later. According to family history, John P. Thein learned blacksmith- ing-moving enterprise in a business called Thein Moving Company ing in France and set up his first shop in St. Paul and later made – still based in Clara City – that currently has fourth-generation Theins running it, with hopes that a fifth generation will step in. wheels for the Union Army during the Civil War.


By Carolyn Lange

Another of Eugene’s sons, Eugene Jr., erected windmills and eventually started a plumbing business and his other son, Peter, dug wells in a business called Thein Well Company – based in Spicer – that has fourth-generation Theins running it with a fifth generation already working in the business. “We’re fortunate,” Bob Thein, president of Thein Well Company, said of the extended Thein family’s multi-generational businesses. That fortune was matched with a solid dose of hard work and willingness to keep changing with the times that has kept Thein Moving Company and Thein Well Company strong today and growing from the family roots they share.

Moving mountains of buildings Thein Moving Company has been moving buildings since 1892

was purchased and rubber tire dollies were introduced. Because World War II put rubber in short supply, used airplane tires were used By Carolyn Lange on the dollies. “It was a lot of manual labor. Screw jacks. tarted by Eugene Thein in 1892, using No hydraulics. No skid loader. It was block and horses, screw jacks, wooden wheel tackle and winches,” said Tim Thein. dollies and hard manual labor, Thein In 1966 they purchased a unified hydraulic Moving Company now has an office in down- jacking system to lift buildings up, and the town Clara City – and a sprawling warehouse large wooden timbers typically used to move a site west of town that houses large, modern building were replaced with steel beams. equipment and neatly organized steel beams. Today’s equipment includes skid loadMatt Thein and ers – which Tim and Tim Thein are the Matt said drastically fourth-generation reduced their labor owners and operators input – and self-proof Thein Moving Compelled dollies with a pany. remote-controlled The two cousins system and hydraulic took over the busipower steering. ness in 1992 from their “It’s a much smoothfathers, brothers Tom er process,” said Tim Thein and Jim Thein, Thein, adding that who began managing the new technology the business in 1966 requires about half the alongside their father, number of people to John Thein. John Thein, move a building now along with his brother compared to the preSubmitted photo / This historic George, took over the vious generation. house was built in the 1800s in Chaska. business in 1924 from They currently work It was moved by Thein Moving to their father, Eugene in a five-state area, accommodate the curling arena in Thein, who started the with most jobs taking downtown Chaska. business in the late place in a 100-mile 1800s. radius of Clara City. They’ve had some memIn 1943, John Thein took over the moving orable jobs, including moving 11 hangars from business full time and his brother George start- the old Willmar airport to the new location ed a John Deere dealership in Clara City. west of town, and moving the Frank Lake CovThat long history of family members work- enant Church of rural Murdock to a new locaing together to grow an evolving business tion south of Benson where they were greeted continues today for Matt and Tim. by an audience, band and lunch. “There are very few family businesses, obviWhile the new equipment makes it easier ously, that go the duration that this one has,” to move buildings than in the past, the job still said Matt Thein. requires hard labor. Sometimes there can be siblings and cous“It really takes a special person to do this ins that can’t work together, said Tim Thein. kind of work,” said Tim Thein. “You do it all. That wasn’t the case with their dads. You’re in the mud, you’re in the slop, you’re in “Jim and Tom complemented each other the heat, you’re in the cold.” very, very well, as Tim and I have,” said Matt The job also includes nights and weekends Thein. “Tim and I have the same mindset. away from the family. Honesty and openness are keys to building a “It definitely takes two people to do it, that’s partnership and maintaining one.” for sure. And a good crew,” said Tim Thein. Back in the 1890s, it was tough work to Matt and Tim said they learned a lot about move a building with equipment powered with the business from the family members that steam, live horses or just plain human labor. came before them. “It was all hand work with bars and sledge “They gave us the right fundamentals,” said hammers, things of that sort,” said Matt Thein. Matt Thein. “They helped lay some of the In the 1920s the company advanced to MOVING COMPANY: PAGE D8 steel wheel dollies, and in the 1940s a truck



Erica Dischino / Tribune Andy, from left, Bob, Mike, Tony and Zack Thein pose for a family photo in front of a truck used to drill wells at Thein Well Company in Spicer. The company has been in business for more than 125 years.

Working with water

Thein Well Company begins 126th year in operation same way, and he missed school and activities as a youth when he was needed on the job digging wells. By Carolyn Lange Advancements in well-drilling machines were made from 1930 to 1965 when equipment hein Well Company marks its start changed from a wood rig to a cable-tool rig. In in 1893 when Eugene Thein started the 1960s, rotary drilling machines were introdigging wells by hand – along with duced and they used high-pressure, air-hamworking as a blacksmith, thresher and house mer drilling. In the 1970s, they began using mover – to supplement income he needed to televised monitoring wells to detect and solve support his growing family in Clara City. problems, and in the 1980s, a modern “top New farms and new towns were popping up head” rotary drive system was introduced and on the prairie and he was kept busy digging they patented a procedure to address sand wells. pumping problems. Around 1910, Large equipment, Eugene’s son, Peter like the versa-drill, Thein Sr., took over allows the compathe well-drilling ny to dig residential, enterprise at the farm, commercial age of 18 when he and municipal wells, purchased a rig. This and expand to new self-propelled woodareas of digging geoen drill rig could be thermal wells and “walked” from one water conditioning Early well drilling equipment from job site to the next in services. Thein Well Company. a process that took In the last 10 years, as long as it did to they have dug about dig the well. two-thirds of the city The early well-drillwells in Minnesota, ing tools and techsaid Bob Thein. niques of “percusThe deepest well sion drilling” were they’ve dug so far is primitive, slow and 1,400 feet. labor-intensive. “As time went on, But that early start we got more efficient set the tone for the with what we do,” he business, which has said. a solid history of Gains in efficiency keeping it all in the and advancements family. in technology over As Peter Thein Sr. the last 126 years drilled wells for farmhave helped keep the ers and small towns, well-drilling business including municipal growing in a six-state wells in Kandiyohi, area with offices in Atwater, Murdock five locations, includand Clara City, he put ing Spicer, Clara City his five sons to work and Rochester, said in the business. Submitted photos / Thein Well Company Bob Thein. It was like growing A growing part of up on a farm, said Bob Thein, who along with the business is digging monitoring wells to his brother Mike are the fourth- generation detect groundwater contamination, as part of owners. remediation projects. The environmental side If there was work to do, the sons worked of the business is based in Monticello. alongside their father to get the job done. “It’s Because of the growth of rural water how you learned the business,” said Bob Thein. Bob said he and his brothers learned the WELL COMPANY: PAGE D7



Erica Dischino / Tribune Cousins Matt Thein, left, and Tim Thein of Thein Moving Company stand among the beams they use to move houses. The two took over the family business in 1992.

generations of business

D2 Saturday, April 27, 2019

West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.

Photos by Erica Dischino / Tribune Father and son duo Paal Haug, left, and Butch Haug speak about Haug Implement Co., which has been in business for more than 100 years.

Starting a new century as a family business Haug Implement Company begins 101st year in business

WILLMAR By Carolyn Lange


s Haug Implement Company launches its 101st year in business, father and son co-owners Butch Haug and Paal Haug disclose that they got their start in the fourth-generation business the same way – sweeping the floor in the family’s farm implement shop. Truth be told, Butch Haug, 80, comes to work every day and said he still sweeps the floor. As a business owner, “you do what needs to be done,” he said. “You do it all.” In a nod to the future, 15-year-old Charlie Haug is also wielding a broom in his first job alongside his dad and grandfather. The family has high hopes that Charlie will be the fifth-generation owner of Haug Implement. The company currently has 50 full-time employees at John Deere shops in Willmar and Litchfield that include parts, sales, service, administrative, integrated solutions and information technology departments. The business got its start in 1918 when Gunder Haug started managing a farmer-owned cooperative in Pennock. He purchased the business shortly afterward and named it Haug Implement Company. When Gunder Haug died in 1955, his son Donald Sr. – who was one of 10 surviving children

several years before joining the company on a full-time basis in 1964. In 1972, the father-and-son team made another big move to Willmar and built a new facility on U.S. Highway 12 east of town. After Donald Sr. died in 1980, Butch took over and became the owner/manager. “You just keep investing your life and resources to get where you are today,” said Butch Haug, reflecting on taking over the business. In 1992 – after years of working summers and weekends in the different departments – Paal Haug, 48, joined his father in the business on a full-time basis and now serves as general manager. In 1996, they expanded into the Litchfield area by purchasing the former Litchfield Implement and, in 2006, they added the John Deere Glasses and family photos hang on the wall of Butch Haug’s office at Haug Implement lawn and garden equipment line to the Willmar location. Co. in Willmar. “We’ve come a long way,” said Paal Haug. – took over the business. “But it doesn’t happen with a 9-to-5 job,” Butch Haug, whose name is actually Don- added Butch Haug. Working 12 hours a day and ald Jr., started sweeping floors in the cold, six days a week is typical for the two, he said. bare-bones shop when he was about 5 years “You build a business with hours and hours of old. Working alongside his dad – whom he time.” described as a slim, wiry, hard-working mechanPutting in that time is necessary in order to ic – Butch worked during summers and holidays be available to customers, said Paal Haug, while going to school. especially during high-stress episodes of The business grew and in 1960 moved from equipment breakdowns during planting Pennock to Kerkhoven. and harvest. After earning degrees in math and science, Keeping pace with new technology Butch Haug taught school in Kerkhoven for to meet farmers’ needs has helped the

business grow, said Butch Haug. Advancements in autonomous farm equipment – tractors that drive themselves – and monitoring devices for crops, chemical or soil have been important changes for implement dealers. “We try to be on the forefront of what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s a technology business.” But a downturn in the farm economy that began in 2014 has taken its toll on all farm-related businesses, including implement dealers. “We’re in the sixth year of this,” said Butch Haug. “It’s been a struggle.” “We’ve kind of been in survival mode these last several years,” said Paal Haug. In 2018, the company celebrated its 100th birthday by building a float and participating in nearly a dozen community parades in the service area. By seeking new technology and keeping a commitment to put in long hours and hard work to serve their customers, the Haugs said they’re looking forward so a fifth-generation Haug can carry the company into the next century.


Fourth-generation business with a fifth generation coming up the ranks

Gunder’s son Donald Haug Sr. took over the business

1918 Started in Pennock by Gunder Haug


Donald Jr. “Butch” Haug joined his dad full time

Butch becomes owner/manager

1960 1964


Business moved to Kerkhoven

Business moved to Willmar


Father and son duo Paal Haug, left, and Butch Haug

Expanded to Litchfield

1992 1996

Paal Haug joined the business and is now general manager






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About this section:

Each year the staff at the West Central Tribune works together to put out a “Focus” section, centering on a theme that showcases people from the region. This special edition to the paper is always well-received by our readers, and gives our reporters a chance to get out and do something different from the day-to-day coverage of their beat topics. This year’s theme is: Generations of Business. There are a number of businesses in the area that have served their communities for decades – and some for more than a century. Those businesses range from funeral homes to jewelry stores, and include a number of agricultural-based businesses, as well as house moving, well drilling, and many more. There are many businesses that could have been included in our section, too many to cover here. We tried to include a cross-section of businesses – some you may not be aware of – across the region to get people thinking about all the businesses they may encounter that have been in the community for years and years – and will continue to serve their communities for years to come. We hope you enjoy this year’s Generations of Business edition.


generations of business

West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.

Saturday, April 27, 2019 D3

Photos by Erica Dischino / Tribune Kristin and Chuck Carlson operate Carlson Meats in Grove City, a business that has been in the family for 106 years.

Carlson family brings long tradition to meat processing GROVE CITY By Anne Polta


Carlson Meats in Grove City is a third-generation meat processing shop. They have been in business for over 100 years. Carlson said. The business was founded when Chuck’s grandfather, William Carlson, bought the existing meat market on Grove City’s main street. Billy Butch, as everyone called him, sold fresh cuts, along with sausages and specialty items beloved by the area’s Scandinavian community. He would buy animals from local farmers and take them to the town pasture, Chuck Carlson recalled. “There used to be a little shed down there where they’d slaughter.” The Great Northern trains that came through town would bring boxcar loads for delivery, he


s a boy, Chuck Carlson spent many hours at the family’s meat processing business. “It was just our life growing up,” he said. “I always helped Dad down at the shop.” When he went away to college, he had other plans. He earned a biology degree and dreamed of working in wildlife management. But the shop kept pulling him back to his hometown of Grove City. “Dad would say, ‘We’re really busy here. I could use some help,’” Carlson recalls. More than 40 years later, “Here we are,” said his wife, Kristin. They’re the third generation to own and operate the Carlson Meat Processing Company. The business has been in the family since 1913, custom-processing everything from bacon and beefsteaks to buffalo and even yak. The Carlsons take pride in the company’s 106-year history and the quality of its products. Their website contains enthusiastic reviews from loyal customers: “Every one of their products is world-class.” “I feel like part of their family and they process each animal with my needs in mind.” “They’re the best.” “I get a lot of satisfaction from people coming in and saying ‘I’m so glad you’re here,’” Chuck

said. “At Christmastime that’s how they got their lutefisk.” Chuck’s father, Willard Carlson, changed the focus of the business from the traditional butcher shop to custom processing, mainly for area farmers. Chuck Carlson has followed a similar path. During a typical week, the USDA-certified shop processes 7,000 to 8,000 pounds of meat into custom-cut steaks, roasts, ground patties and more. In the 1990s the Carlsons expanded into buffalo, for which they’ve developed a considerable following. More recently they began processing yak for a local farmer. Some of their products are destined for home freezers. Others are packaged for resale under private labels, such as an outlet in Luverne that’s one of their best buffalo customers. They’ve branched out into a variety of award-winning sausages that boast natural casings and no additives. “A few of them are my grandpa’s recipes,” Carlson said. They also established a thriving retail section where customers can walk in and purchase bacon, buffalo meat or some of the Carlsons’ best-selling firesticks and jerky. Eight full- and part-time employees help the couple maintain a tradition of quality and customer satisfaction. “We couldn’t do it without everyone,” Kristin Carlson said. “So much of it is custom

work. You have to cut the steaks to the size they want. One of my jobs is to make sure the cutters have the instructions. It’s not so much a typical day as a typical week. There’s a cycle to it.” For their own dinner table at home, the Carlsons are partial to a chuck roast. “If this place was not here, I don’t know where I would get a chuck roast,” Chuck said. “We’re kind of spoiled that way.” Their three adult children have scattered to Montana and the West Coast but still get regular supplies of the old-fashioned wieners made at the shop. The Carlsons get wistful when they talk about retirement and the likelihood there won’t be a fourth generation of Carlson Meat Processing owners. But they say the business has been a rewarding way of life. “It was a good place to raise a family,” Kristin said. As public interest surges in local food, the company has come full circle, Chuck said. “A lot of the customers we have come here because this is important to them. They want locally grown food. They want to know who cut their meat. That’s the kind of customers we like. They just have to find us.”

Carlson Meat Processing

►C arlson Meats is USDA-certified; all animals are federally inspected for consumer safety. ► A specialty is the company’s award-winning sausage products.

TIMELINE William’s son, Willard Carlson, took over in 1954 to become the second generation to run the business.

1954 1955

1913 Founded in 1913 when William “Billy Butch” Carlson purchased City Meat Market in Grove City.

Business moved in 1967 from Grove City’s main street to its current location one block north of U.S. Highway 12; new cutting room and retail area added.

New slaughterhouse and coolers built in 1955 to accommodate growing demand for custom processing.



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Chuck Carlson talks about his third-generation meat processing company, Carlson Meats, among fresh beef hanging at the shop in Grove City.


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generations of business

D4 Saturday, April 27, 2019

West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.

Photos by Erica Dischino / Tribune Family members Dion Warne, from left, Laura Warne and Matt Behm pose for a photo at Home State Bank in Willmar.

Home State Bank preserves family legacy and values WILLMAR By Anne Polta


ommunity banks around them are merging into larger financial companies but Home State Bank has stayed true to its roots: independent, locally owned, involved in the community and still very much all in the family. It’s a tradition that Laura Warne, her husband, Dion Warne, and brother Matt Behm take seriously. Theirs is the second generation of Home State Bank family ownership, and they’ve worked at sustaining direct relationships with their customers and local decision-making. “That’s one of the things we’ve carried through,” Dion Warne said. “If we can put together a deal for you, we can make the decision.” The bank’s story reflects that of the many independent community banks that crisscrossed the Minnesota landscape into the 21st century. Chartered in 1926, Home State Bank in Kandiyohi served the surrounding area and

was run by a board of shareholders. A combination of local ties and a desire to put down roots brought Ken and Alix Behm and their young family to town in 1971 to purchase the bank. They took a big chance, liquidating everything they had to Submitted photo make the move. There was no expecKen Behm tation that their children – who included Laura and Matt – would someday follow their footsteps into banking. But Home State Bank was part of their lives as they grew up, Laura and Matt recalled. Matt used to be there on Saturday mornings to help with outdoor tasks. “There was always mowing the lawn and trimming trees,” he said. Both he and Laura also worked as tellers while they were in high school. College took them in different directions. Laura married Concordia College classmate Dion Warne and the two pursued careers in banking, first in North Dakota and then in the

Twin Cities. Meanwhile, Matt went into broadcasting and started working on a second degree in finance. Fate brought them back in the 1990s to the family business, where all three have well-established careers. Dion Warne heads the commercial lending department and Matt Behm oversees real estate lending. Laura Warne stepped into her father’s shoes to become president of the bank in 1998. “Ken knew where he wanted the bank to be, but he needed the people infrastructure,” Dion said, noting that the bank didn’t have a commercial loan service until he came on board. “We brought a lot of new ideas,” Laura agreed. In the two decades since, the bank has grown from approximately $35 million in assets to more than $150 million. It has locations in Willmar, Cosmos, Hutchinson and Litchfield. So what is it like for three family members to work together in the same setting? Many people are unaware they’re related. “Some of that we’ve done by strategy,” Laura said. Sometimes they disagree, but overall they mesh well as a team, Dion said. “I think our

relationship now is the best it’s ever been. We complement each other. We all have different skill sets.” Ken Behm is semi-retired these days although he still has an office at the bank as chairman, and maintains a handful of customers. It’s now the younger generation running Home State Bank, and they’re conscious of their legacy. “What I learned quickly was how well-respected Ken was in the business community and the banking community here,” Dion said. One of the values they’ve worked especially hard to uphold is the importance of giving back to the community. Ken Behm and Dion and Laura Warne all have taken turns serving on the Willmar School Board over the years. The family as a whole was recognized for its philanthropic contributions with the Willmar Area Community Foundation’s first-ever philanthropist of the year award in 2005. There won’t be a third generation to take over Home State Bank but Laura, Dion and Matt hope to preserve the tradition summarized by the bank’s slogan, “People you can talk to.” “We’re hoping for a future as an independent community bank,” Dion said.


Home State Bank

►C urrently in its second generation of ownership. President is Laura (Behm) Warne. Laura’s husband, Dion Warne, and brother, Matt Behm, are senior vice presidents. ► Although the town of Kandiyohi was the bank’s main site for many years, it eventually opened an office at Apple Tree Square in Willmar. The bank later moved its headquarters to a new building at the corner of Highway 12 East and Lakeland Drive in Willmar and sold the Kandiyohi building. In the early 2000s it expanded with the opening of branches in Cosmos, Hutchinson and Litchfield. ► Brand: “People You Can Talk To.” ► Current assets: $150 million-plus.

Dion and Laura Warne speak about working with each other at Home State Bank in Willmar.

Purchased by Ken Behm in 1971 and operated as a locally owned community bank.


Matt Behm laughs while telling a story about his dad at Home State Bank in Willmar.


Chartered in Kandiyohi in 1926 by a group of local shareholders.



The Behm family has maintained a tradition of community giving and volunteerism. They were recognized in 2006 with the Willmar Area Community Foundation’s first annual philanthropic giving award.



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generations of business

West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.

Saturday, April 27, 2019 D5

All photos submitted Duininck Concrete provides concrete product and service across the region in commercial, residential and municipal markets.


It is all about family at Duininck

By Shelby Lindrud Duininck Companies started with family, and 93 years later, family – blood and otherwise – is still part of the firm foundation of this construction company’s conglomerate. “This company was not built by Duinincks alone, it was built by the families of employees who believed in what we were doing and wanted to be a part of it as well,” said Chris Duininck, vice president of Duininck Midwest, a division of Duininck Inc. based in Prinsburg. “We are a third-generation business who work hard each and every day to provide opportunities to people who share our values and want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.” The first Duininck company was founded as a road construction business in 1926 in Prinsburg by brothers Henry, Amos and Wilbur. Almost a century later, the company now has several pieces including Duininck Inc., with divisions in Minnesota and Texas; as well as Duininck Golf, Duininck Concrete and Prinsco. Also part of the Duininck family of companies are Hart Ranch Development Company, InHarvest and Midwest Outdoor Resorts. Most of the Duininck companies are headquartered in west central Minnesota, where it all began. “Our employee base has been the backbone

of this company. That is why this is the right location,” said Jason Duininck, vice president of business development for Duininck Midwest. Duininck Incorporated focuses on general contracting. This was the original Duininck business. “Concentrating on heavy civil, our main focus areas are gravel and asphalt production and paving, underground utility construction, bridge, earthmoving and site development,” Chris Duininck said. Prinsco was started in 1975, by the second generation of Duinincks and today is run by co-presidents Jamie Duininck and Jeremy Duininck. The business focuses on the management of stormwater, including collecting, storing and treating it. Duininck Concrete was established when the company purchased Central Allied approximately 16 years ago, with ready mix plants in several communities including Danube, Willmar and New London. Six years ago the business opened its Duininck Concrete Construction Supply store in Willmar, adding to the company’s reach. “We’ve improved our rolling stock, increased our sales and have grown our (Duininck Concrete) employee base to 68 currently,” said Harris Duininck, who is also part of the second generation of Duinincks to be involved in the family business. Duininck Golf was formed after the family built and operated its own golf course at Hart Ranch in Rapid City, South Dakota, in the 1980s.

Today it constructs courses across the country. “Building or renovating the courses of highly regarded clubs such as Hazeltine National Golf Club (in Chaska), The Floridian (Palm City, Florida), Minikahda Country Club (Minneapolis) has helped Duininck Golf become highly recognized and preferred throughout the industry,” said Judd Duininck, golf division manager. Supporting all of these businesses is Duininck Companies, which focuses on the governance, leadership and administrative services – including human resources, finances, risk management and information technology. “In the past we approached these functional areas and a variety of issues from a more ad hoc approach you might expect from a family business where leaders and owners wear a lot of different hats,” said Trevor Duininck, CEO of Duininck Companies and president of Duininck Midwest. “As we’ve grown and the world continues to change at ever-increasing rates, our approach has adapted as well.” All totaled Duininck Companies employs more than 1,000 people across its businesses. While each of the companies has its own specialty, they all have the same philosophy, started by the first generation of the family. “Our grandfathers would be proud that we have carried on the values such as ‘servant leadership,’ ‘generosity,’ ‘family’ that they and our fathers taught us over the years,” Judd

Duininck said. Family and community continue to be central tenets of Duininck Companies. Their community involvement has included donating money toward police dogs and helping construct the Willmar Destination Playground, as well as volunteering at schools, churches and other community events. “I would say it is an important part of the company’s ‘character,’ not identity. Character is what you do when no one is looking,” Chris Duininck said. “That is, we do it because it is the right thing to do, not because we can get publicity out of it.” The overall thought is the three brothers that started Duininck – as well as those who followed them – would be proud of how the company has grown. “‘Wow! I never expected this company to go where it’s gone,’” Harris Duininck believes they would say.

While most of the Duininck Companies are based in Minnesota, the company also has a foothold in other states, including Texas.

anagement s in water m d retail. e iz al ci e sp ial an Prinsco re, commerc for agricultu

Duininck Companies

► Established in 1926 in Prinsburg ► Run by three generations of the Duininck family ► Duininck Incorporated was the first business, focusing on general contracting ► Duininck Companies now include Duininck Inc., Duininck Concrete, Prinsco, Hart Ranch Development Company, InHarvest and Midwest Outdoor Resorts. ► Duininck Inc. has a Midwest, Texas and Golf division

Chris Duininck, vice president of Duininck Midwest


Jason Duininck, business development for Duininck Midwest

Compan ies got road con its start in 1926, w struction h company en three brothers in Prinsb began a urg.

Jeremy Duininck, co-president Prinsco

Judd Duininck, golf division manager

Jamie Duininck, co-president of Prinsco

Harris Duininck, Duininck Concrete

Submitted photos

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generations of business

D6 Saturday, April 27, 2019

West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.

Photos by Erica Dischino / Tribune Steve Dirks walks through Dirks Furniture, the store his family began in the early 20th century in Olivia.

It is all about family, customers, community at Dirks Furniture in Olivia OLIVIA

By Shelby Lindrud


Steve Dirks stands at the original counter his family has been using for over a century at Dirks Furniture in Olivia. business in 1993. It is now called Dirks-Blem and provides funeral services across Renville County. “I am the first generation not involved in both (businesses),” Steve Dirks said. The first store is still visible today in the present store, outlined by the original tin ceiling. August Dirks expanded the store in 1927, and

Mementos of Dirks Furniture’s history can be found throughout the store.

Dirks Furniture in Olivia has been family-owned for over a century.


Steve Dirks of Dirks Furniture shows the typewriter his family used for over a century at the family store in Olivia.

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Dirks Furniture

► Located in Olivia ► Established in 1913 by August Dirks ► A four-generation, family-owned business which has passed father to son for over a century ► The current owner is Steve Dirks, great-grandson of the first owner ► Sells a wide range of furniture brands ► Also installs electronics, repairs home goods and sells sewing machines

Thank you to all of our volunteers: coaches, ambassadors, gardeners, child care and maintenance. Including our volunteer committees:


Warren’s Generators,

now, since there is not a fifth generation of Dirks willing to take on the store. Instead Dirks believes the store will go on when he decides to retire because of the employees. “There is a future for this business because of the talented people we have here,” Dirks said. There is also a future because of the relationships Dirks Furniture has with the community. “The community has supported us very, very well,” Dirks said. “We have worked hard to achieve that.” It has always been important to the Dirks family to be active and involved in the community. Family members have been board and council members and the family even donated land for a city park, appropriately called Dirks Park. “It is philosophical. You have to be part of the community,” Dirks said. “We’ve looked for opportunities to help the community succeed, for other businesses to succeed.” While changes are a part of life and business, if one continues to put the customers and community first, there is a good chance a business can succeed for a hundred years and more. “It is up to us to offer something, so customers will continue to come,” Dirks said. “I believe that will happen.”

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or generations the Dirks family in Olivia has been in the furniture business, keeping up with the latest styles and trends, while providing high-quality products and customer service. It is this focus on the customers’ wants and needs that has helped Dirks Furniture survive for nearly 106 years, according to Steve Dirks, the fourth generation of the Dirks family to lead the store. “There is no magic to it,” Dirks said. “The focus is all about the people. It is one of our strengths to this day.” August Dirks came to Olivia in 1911 and leased the local furniture store for two years. When the lease was up, he bought the building and continued the business. In addition to furniture, Dirks also operated the city funeral home, which was common for furniture stores in the early 1900s. The funeral home split from the furniture store around 1960, and became its own independent business when Gordy Blem purchased the funeral

over the years, the building has grown to cover a good portion of an Olivia city block. Harold Dirks, August’s son, took over the store when his father died around 1930. Harold was a fixture at the furniture store for decades, instilling a work ethic that can still be seen today. “He came to work until he was 95,” Steve Dirks said. Harold died in 1996. Ben, Harold’s son, worked at the family business for over four decades, retiring in 1994. He died in 2012. Steve Dirks, Ben’s son, returned to Olivia and the store in 1989 and took over once his father retired. Ben had six sons, but it was Steve who decided to come home and keep the family business running. The century of unbroken Dirks family ownership of the furniture store has been a benefit. The younger generations were able to see and experience how the older generation ran the store and treated the customers. “The philosophy of how we do business here has passed down the generations,” Dirks said. While family has been important, Dirks was quick to point out that the business has also benefited greatly from the non-family members who have been involved. That is especially true

generations of business

Dooley’s founder set it on right road WILLMAR By Tom Cherveny


t wasn’t that Louis Dooley did anything to set himself apart when he purchased a bulk fuel oil distribution business in Murdock in 1956. There were bulk distributors in just about every town at the time. It’s how he operated the business in the years that followed that matter. The owner of Dooley’s Oil Company built a reputation for his hard work, and fair dealings with customers and competitors alike. That made all the difference when many of his father’s contemporaries decided it was time to sell their businesses, said Randy Dooley, son of the company founder and its CEO today. “We had the good fortune of being able to work off of my dad’s great reputation and having the ability to expand the business through acquisitions from fellow competitors,” said Randy Dooley. Today, Dooley’s Petroleum is an integral part of west central Minnesota’s economy. It’s been listed among the top 100 private companies in the state. Its 250 employees are responsible for delivering gasoline, diesel, propane and natural gas to keep the region’s cars, trucks and tractors on the go, to heat residents’ homes and to dry the crops farmers harvest. Along with its new headquarters building in the Willmar Industrial Park, Dooley’s operates six outlying offices that manage the distribution of fuels to farms, businesses and homes.

Randy and Tammy Dooley continue a family business started by Randy’s father, Louis, in Murdock in 1956. Its fleet of trucks transport fuel throughout Minnesota, parts of Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, and into Canada. Dooley’s operates nine convenience stores and fuel stations. It also operates terminals that receive propane delivered by rail to the region. In recent years, it also developed two natural gas systems. It installed 120 miles of pipeline in 2012 to provide natural gas to the communities of Maynard, Clara City, Prinsburg, Roseland, Blomkest, Svea and Raymond. It installed 100 miles of pipeline in 2014 to serve the Brooten and Belgrade areas. Growth came both with the acquisition of bulk distributors in the region as well as the company’s move into propane. When Randy Dooley came home from what is now Ridge-

water College in the summer of 1984, his father asked him if he was interested in getting into the propane business. The market for propane has grown steadily ever since, for both home heating and farm and commercial use. Louis Dooley suffered a heart attack in 1984 that kept him from running the business, at which time Randy took over the business. His wife, Tammy, joined in 1989. His older brother Tom joined the business in 1985 and the two purchased the company from their father. They worked together until Tom Dooley retired in October 2015. Brotherin-law Gary Zimmer began working with the company shortly after Randy Dooley had joined it. Zimmer currently manages operations from Murdock. Randy Dooley said the company is very fortunate to have what he called a “fantastic group” of employees to manage the company’s many operations. He also credits the loyal support from its customer base with helping this company grow. His father operated the business with one bulk truck, while he and his wife, Jean, raised nine children. Randy said his father borrowed no more than $1,300 during his entire life. The energy industry is certainly different today. Randy anticipates continued consolidation in the industry going forward. The company had to make a tough decision when moving the corporate office from its hometown in Murdock to its current location in Willmar. However, the centralized location benefits the company, and it offers a service center to maintain its fleet.


Dooley’s Oil

►L ouis Dooley started Dooley Oil Company in Murdock in 1956. ► Sons Randy and Tom purchased the company from their father in 1985. ► The company has grown with the acquisition of bulk fuel distributors through the years. ► Dooley’s distributes fuel to customers throughout Minnesota, and into portions of Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Canada. ► Along with a newly built headquarters in Willmar, the company operates six outlying offices.

Saturday, April 27, 2019 D7


systems in North Dakota and South Dakota, the company opened an office in Vermillion, South Dakota, in 2016. Rounding out the business is another brother of Bob and Mike – Joe Thein – who operates a well drilling supply company. The company has also been involved with helping restore water infrastructure to Third World countries, including Haiti. The business has had its share of tragedies. A third-generation family member – Joseph – died in a well-drilling accident in 1947, and a fourth-generation family member – David Thein – died in a truck accident in 2004. But along with a staff of non-family members who are credited for helping the business grow, Bob Thein said the company is prepared for the future. Bob Thein and Mike Thein work alongside two nephews, Andrew and Zack, and Mike’s son, Tony, who are poised to become fifth-generation owners. “That’s what we’re looking forward to. Moving us in to another generation of Theins,” said Bob Thein.

Thein Well Company


West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.

►T hein Well Company got its start in 1893 in Clara City. ► Eugene Thein dug wells, along with moving houses, threshing and operating a blacksmith shop ► 1910 – Eugene’s son, Peter Thein Sr., purchased a wooden welldigging rig. ► Peter’s five sons worked in the business in offices throughout the state. ► The fourth-generation family business has offices in Spicer, Monticello, Rochester and Clara City in Minnesota and in Vermillion, South Dakota. ► Fifth-generation Theins are currently working for the company.

Photos by Tom Cherveny / Tribune Louis and Jean Dooley are shown in this artwork located at the Dooley’s Petroleum headquarters in Willmar.

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generations of business

D8 Saturday, April 27, 2019

West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.


“So we had some damn good coaches. They definitely helped shape the company to what it is today.” FROM PAGE D1 Likely changes in the future include adding an engineer’s report to projects to meet groundwork that we built upon in order to clients’ needs. Tim’s son Ethan is currently move forward and grow and expand.” studying structural engineering in college, Their dads and “Grandpa John” were “tre- which could set the business up for a fifth mendous businessmen,” said Tim Thein. generation.

THEIN MOVING COMPANY TIMELINE Eugene Thein started moving houses, along with digging wells, threshing and operating a blacksmith shop.

City speaks about the generations before that helped lay the foundation for the company.

Jim Thein and Tom Thein began managing the business with their dad, John.


Thein Moving Company was started in 1892 in Clara City.

Submitted photo / Thein Moving moved this large grain bin, which has a 60-foot diameter and is 60-feet tall.

Questions about usage? Contact: Thein of Thein Kristin Allen Moving | Tim Company in Clara

John Thein and George Thein took over their father’s business.


Matt Thein speaks about the progress of Thein Moving Company.




John ran the business full time and George opened a farm implement business.


Tim Thein (son of Jim) and Matt Thein (son of Tom) became the fourth generation to work with the business.

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E1 generations

OF BUSINESS West Central Tribue | Willmar, Minn. | Saturday, April 27, 2019

Black and white and read all over, with a history and a future

Carolyn Lange / Tribune Ted, Kari Jo and Jordan Almen, from left, stand outside the office of the Kerkhoven Banner newspaper. The paper, which was first published in 1896, was purchased by Ted Almen’s father, the late John Almen, in 1954. It is now operated by the second and third generations of Almens.

Ink in their blood

Tim, April and Leslie Ehrenberg, from left, spend the day at the Appleton Press putting out a weekly newspaper and printing a variety of projects in their print shop. Ten-month-old Erik spends every day at the newspaper office with his parents and grandmother. Three generations of the Ehrenberg family have owned the paper. Erik could be the fourth.

Community newspapers stay in the family APPLETON

By Carolyn Lange


ranted it’s a few years down the road, but Erik Ehrenberg could be the fourth-generation member of his family to work at The Appleton Press newspaper. The 10-month-old baby boy spends every day at The Appleton Press newspaper office, continuing a long line of early starters in the newspaper business. Erik’s 5-year-old brother, Adam, used to come to the newspaper every day until he started kindergarten and his 18-year-old brother, Damon, used to hang out at the office too, but he just enlisted in the National Guard. Little Erik naps and plays while his dad, Tim Ehrenberg, runs the printing press; his mom, April Ehrenberg, sells and designs newspaper ads; and his grandmother Leslie Ehrenberg writes stories, takes photos and does a million other tasks required of an owner, editor and publisher. It’s the same office where Leslie started working as a young teen, alongside her parents, Loren and Dianne Johnson, and her uncle and aunt Curtis and Gloria Johnson. Leslie Ehrenberg learned how to run every machine in the shop and do every task while working with her family. Now this second-generation owner is doing the same with her son and daughter-in-law,

who represent the third generation of this newspaper family that may be raising the fourth-generation owners right there in the office. “It’s a very comfortable way to do business,” said Leslie, of working with Tim and April. She said her grandsons are growing up in the office instead of going to day care. “It’s a treat,” she said, of having family close. This weekly community newspaper has been in business since 1880. It was initially named The Riverside Press and C.T. Gray was the first publisher. It was renamed The Appleton Press in 1883 and it has been owned by the same family since 1972, when Loren Johnson and Curtis Johnson – who had worked at the newspaper when they were kids – moved back to their hometown and purchased it. Leslie Ehrenberg started working there in 1982, when she was in junior high school. “It’s kind of like a family farm, except in the printing industry,” she said. Leslie said her dad insisted she learn how to operate every machine in the print shop, along with doing bookwork and writing news stories and taking photos. “I can’t think of a job here that I haven’t done,” she said. “You have to do pretty much everything in a small business. You have to do it all.” After her parents died, her Uncle Curtis came out of retirement for a couple years to


Almen family is four generations deep in the newspaper business KERKHOVEN By Carolyn Lange


ed Almen was well-steeped in the newspaper business before he purchased the Kerkhoven Banner in 1981 from his dad, John Almen, who had his own long history in the newspaper business before he purchased the Banner in 1954. The family newspaper history goes back even further. Ted’s grandparents and his uncle and aunt were in the newspaper business in southern Minnesota for at least 50 years with the family-owned Truman Tribune. “My dad grew up in the business,” said Ted Almen, adding that his dad started working at the family newspaper at the age of 8. After a stint in the Army and graduating from college, John Almen worked at several regional newspapers before settling in Kerkhoven to become owner of the weekly newspaper that has been published since 1896. But, unlike his father – who spent his childhood working in the press shop of his parents’ newspaper – Ted Almen said he and his siblings didn’t have much to do with the Kerkhoven Banner while growing up. John Almen wanted his kids to have a childhood that was more than just work, said Ted. “He wanted us to be kids.” But nonetheless, Ted also caught the newspaper bug. After graduating from college, Ted Almen moved back to Kerkhoven in 1980 and began working with his dad at the Banner, and shortly afterward took over ownership. Along with his

wife, Kari Jo, Ted Almen purchased several other community newspapers, although over the years some have been sold and one, the Prinsburg/Raymond News, was closed. In addition to the Kerkhoven Banner, the Almens currently own the Clara City Herald and the Lakes Area Review, serving the communities of New London and Spicer. Ted Almen said running small-town newspapers has been “lots of fun,” and he firmly believes community newspapers are still relevant in an era of social media. “We cover the things the internet isn’t,” he said. “People still love to see the photo of their child in the paper.” Almen’s daughter, Jordan, 27, is now working with her parents in the business. “We’re thrilled,” he said. “I guess she found her calling. She seems to love small-town community journalism as well.” Almen said community newspapers fill a “niche that’s longstanding and will continue to stand.” Having a fourth-generation Almen working in the newspaper business – including three generations at the Kerkhoven Banner – will help secure that future.


Carolyn Lange / Tribune

The Kerkhoven Banner

► First published in 1896 ► Owned by the Almen family since 1954 ► Ted and Kari Jo Almen are secondgeneration owners ► Jordan Almen is the third generation to join the family business

Fearing for the future of Minnesota newspapers Anfinson works to keep citizens informed and connected in Swift County; advocates for keeping community newspapers strong

APPLETON By Carolyn Lange


eed Anfinson is proud of the history of the Swift County Monitor News. The Benson-based newspaper was first published in 1886 and has chronicled the victories and challenges of the community as it continues to grow from its early beginnings as a pioneer settlement. Anfinson began doing odd jobs at the newspaper as a kid after his father purchased it 1962. In 1990, he and his brother bought it from their dad, but since 1996, Anfinson has been the sole owner, publisher, editor and the doer-of-anything-that-needs-to-be-done at the paper. Anfinson is unapologetically passionate about the newspaper’s watchdog role and says he attends local government meetings in order to hold elected officials accountable and to tell the community what’s happening. He’s equally passionate about writing stories about the people in the community, stories

Since 2004, Anfinson said 1,800 newspapers – including 60 daily and 1,700 weekly newspapers – have disappeared nationwide. “Newspapers are threatened in communities throughout Minnesota and the country,” he said. The internet, fewer advertisers, a decline in rural population and growing reluctance by government entities to post public notices share in the blame, he said. Anfinson said he’s afraid that, unless there’s a change, more community newspapers will disappear, and citizens and society will be the Carolyn Lange / Tribune worse for it. By serving in key state and national newspaReed Anfinson stands by bound copies of the Swift County Monitor News, which date back per leadership positions – including past presto 1886. Anfinson is the publisher and editor ident of the National Newspaper Association of the paper, which was purchased by his fa- and current president of the National Newsther in 1962. paper Association Foundation – Anfinson has become a well-regarded advocate for keeping that help hold his hometown together with a community newspapers strong. “If you lose a community newspaper, if you common bond. But that passion and pride is tempered with lose the Swift County Monitor News, people in concern for the future – not just for his newspa- Benson will know nothing of what’s happening at the city, school, county or hospital, or they per, but all community newspapers.

won’t have the stories that connect us as a community, that get us to do things as a community, things we have in common,” he said. “A common sense of purpose is lost.” Without a “trusted source of news,” Anfison said he fears people will become more isolated, turn to social media and become manipulated by “rumor, anger and disinformation.” Anfison said nothing can replace the work of a journalist at a community newspaper. “The internet is not going to replace us,” he said. “It could wipe us out. It’s not going to replace us.” Anfinson said the country needs to develop a model for saving community newspapers. “We need to start looking at newspapers as a public good,” he said. “We provide society with something they’re not going to get anywhere else.” One of the advocacy roles Anfinson plays is as an appointed member of the Rural Policy and Development Board, which advises the Minnesota Legislature on rural issues.


E2 Saturday, April 27, 2019

generations of business

West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.

Submitted photo Revier Cattle raise black Angus cattle, which is considered one of the top breeds for beef.

Home-grown beef on the family farm OLIVIA By Shelby Lindrud


he Revier family of Olivia has been producing beef for 152 years. In just the last 19 years, that beef has been available for people far and wide to enjoy at some of the highest-rated restaurants in the country. It can also now be found in regional grocery stores and through local butchers. The Reviers established their homestead in Renville County, just south of Olivia, in 1867. The family farm has grown to a 10,000-head cattle business that focuses on raising healthy animals in the most sustainable way possible. “We know we are making, raising better cattle, better beef,” Tom Revier said. Revier Cattle raises black Angus cattle and sells the beef under the Revier Cattle Company brand at restaurants, butchers and grocery stores across the country. The company is even branching out internationally, getting ready to ship to Japan. “We work really hard to produce high quality,” said Libby Revier, Tom’s wife. There are two things Revier Cattle focuses on to produce the high-quality product they are so proud of: “Breed and feed are the two big things,” Tom Revier said. The cattle live in a top-of-the-line facility which includes open-air concrete yards, partial

confinement pens and totally enclosed barns. They are fed a specific diet, a portion of which Revier Cattle raises itself. “Total livestock care is what we call our livestock operation,” Tom Revier said. The company even makes sure the waste product of its 10,000 cattle is used sustainably. “The back end of the plant has really valuable stuff that people don’t think about,” he said of the cattle operation. Revier Cattle is in the planning stages of using tertiary anaerobic digester technology to make compressed natural gas that can then be used as an energy source. The family wants to have as little negative impact on the surrounding community and environment as possible. “We want to be good neighbors. We want to be the best neighbors we can be,” Revier said. In 2012, Revier Cattle played host to a large group of environmental regulators and rulemakers to show the measures implemented to be better stewards of the environment. “We went beyond them,” Revier said of the rules and regulations set down by the MPCA. “We wanted to really show them what we are doing.” Revier Cattle also welcomes the public, hosting tours for elementary students to college students and other public events. “We are not ashamed of anything we do. We are doing things the right way. We are proud of all we do,” Revier said.

The family also believes in being active in the community. Last year the company was a sponsor for the Governor’s Fishing Opener and is also known for donating to other causes and organizations. “We try to give back to the community as much as we can,” said Tom Revier, the fourth generation of the Revier family to be involved in beef cattle. While members of the current generation of Reviers are proud of the long family history, it isn’t something they usually spend time thinking about. When asked, Revier said he can’t help but be amazed at all his forebears did to be successful “We are just farmers,” he said. Paul Hillen, a partner in the business, said one of the best things about Revier Cattle, in the world of beef production, is that the company is an authentic, multi-generational, family-run business. “There is a real Revier family,” Hillen said. “You don’t have to make it up.”

Erica Dischino / Tribune

A box showing the Revier Cattle Company logo is seen at the farm in Olivia.

Erica Dischino / Tribune

Submitted photo

The Revier family farm in 1974 Tom and Libby Revier pose for a photo at Revier Cattle Company.


Paul Hillen, a partner in Revier Cattle Company, talks about how the farm operates in Olivia.

Submitted photo

Today, Revier Cattle Company in Olivia is a 10,000head of cattle operation, raising black Angus.

Revier Cattle Company

► F ourth-generation cattle producer in Renville County ► Farm established in 1867 ► Farm is a 10,000-head operation today ► Operation raises black Angus cattle for the commercial and restaurant industries ► Family also raises feed for the cattle

Erica Dischino / Tribune


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generations of business

West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.

Saturday, April 27, 2019 E3

Photo by Tom Cherveny / Tribune Ann Thompson holds a photo of her great-grandfather in the harness shop he built in 1884, and is now the home for her store in downtown Milan, Billy Maple Tree’s.

Billy Maple Tree’s keeps family’s entrepreneurial spirit Owner is fourth generation in family to operate business at this location

MILAN By Tom Cherveny


nn Thompson’s family didn’t get very far after leaving Norway and landing in Milan, Minnesota. And after living 10 years in Australia, neither has she. Thompson was only too happy to return home to Milan and continue a family tradition that dates back to the town’s founding in 1879. The owner of Billy Maple Tree’s in downtown Milan is the fourth-generation Thompson to operate a business in Milan. Her gift shop features the works of regional artists and craftspeople as well as fair trade goods. It is located in the very same building that her great-grandfather Aaslak Thompson built in 1884 for his business as a harness maker. Her gift shop is located in the south side of the building. The north side of the building holds the Arv Haus Museum today. It previously held the general store, and later hardware store, that her grandfather William Thompson Sr. operated for decades.

The inside of Aaslak Thompson’s harness shop. Aaslak Thompson, right, is the greatgrandfather of Ann Thompson. Not only was William Sr. an entrepreneur like his father, he was also an innovator. He invented a device that boosted signals for the AM radios that rural folks relied on back in the 1920s and early 1930s. During those years, he kept a crew of workers busy upstairs assembling over 15,000 of the devices for sale around the country. He never got a patent, and an outfit known as RCA got a hold of the design, Thompson said. William Sr. also operated Williams Public Address, a business on wheels that brought speakers and sound systems to political rallies

Aaslak Thompson reached Milan at its founding in 1879, and built a building to house his harness shop business in 1884.

and county fairs across the countryside. Ann Thompson’s father, Billy, got his start and entrepreneurial wings in his father’s public address business. After service during the Korean War, Billy Thompson opened his own business in the building. He operated the Thompson Floor covering and carpeting business until 1984. That’s when he followed up on his dad’s dream to develop the Arv Haus Museum that tells the story of the Thompson family and Milan area. Ann Thompson said she knew she wanted to operate her own business too, and that there was only one place for it. “It was here or nowhere because it was a perfect fit,” she said. With the Milan Village Arts School and a community that embraced rural arts, Thompson said she knew there was no place better than Milan. Billy Maple Tree’s carries an eclectic mix of goods, most of them handcrafted. Turned wood bowls and carved spoons. Hand-knit scarves and sweaters. Pottery, candles, handmade baskets and hardanger. There are regional and Scandinavian books. There is also what she calls “quirky stuff,’’ including antique items. “I knew before I opened my shop it had to be

different. I wanted it to be different,” Thompson said. She was living in Australia with her husband, Ron Proep, when the yearning to return home and open a business led them back to Milan in 2005. He currently serves as director for the Milan Village Arts School. Billy Maple Tree’s is profitable, but only generates a modest income, according to Thompson. She continues part-time gigs as an English as a Second Language instructor and coordinator for the Greater Milan Initiative. She’s also a busy volunteer in the community, working with youth and community projects. She said she originally opened the business with hopes of promoting local artists. She was “pleasantly surprised” when she returned to her hometown and discovered just how vibrant the arts community is in the region. Thompson said she enjoys helping customers find the unique things they seek, and working in a building with so much family history. She especially enjoys being part of downtown Milan and the community itself, she said. It’s why this family has kept its roots here, said Thompson. It’s a love for this community.

William Thompson Sr. operated a public address system which was used at outdoor political rallies, county fairs and other events in the region.

Ann Thompson’s great-grandfather Aaslak Thompson, right, is shown in his harness shop in 1884. Ann Thompson now operates Billy Maple Tree’s in the building.



Billy Maple Tree’s

Ann Thompson’s great-grandfather built the building for his harness business in 1884 that Billy Maple Tree’s now occupies in downtown Milan. He started his harness business some years earlier; family members know he was in Milan when it was founded in 1879. Billy Thompson, 90, has been planting maple trees in Milan for many years, and has earned the moniker “Billy Maple Tree,” a play on Johnny Appleseed. Thompson named her business Billy Maple Tree’s because of it. Her grandfather William Thompson Sr. was an inventor as well as entrepreneur. He invented a booster for AM radios that allowed people living in rural areas to pick up the signals from distant stations in large cities. Ann Thompson returned to Milan in 2005 to open Billy Maple Tree’s with a goal of promoting local artists.

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generations of business

E4 Saturday, April 27, 2019

West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.

Photo by Tom Cherveny / Tribune Roger Enestvedt is the third generation of the family leading the Enestvedt Seed Corn Company. This year marks the 119th anniversary of the business.

Right size is family size at Enestvedt Seeds SACRED HEART TOWNSHIP By Tom Cherveny


t can look deceptively easy this time of year. With the clockwork of mail carriers leaving a post office, trucks stacked with flats and rounds of seeds head out to farms throughout the region from the Enestvedt Seed Corn Company farm nestled in the Minnesota River Valley south of Sacred Heart. “A lot of people will just see your finished product,’’ said Roger Enestvedt, “but they don’t realize all of the work that goes into it.’’ It’s work that the Enestvedt family has been carrying on for 119 years now, and wouldn’t have it any other way. “We do everything. Grading. Bagging. Treating. The planting. We do it from start to finish,” Enestvedt said. This approach means the company can be certain of the quality of the product, and know it will perform, he explained. This start-to-finish approach means it can control costs and offer its products at lower prices than the big international seed companies that represent much of the competition. There’s another, equally important element that allows this small seed company to compete in today’s world: It’s what Enestvedt calls the “personal effect.” “We’re small enough to get to know the customers and they get to know us well,” he said. Many of its customers are second- and third-generation, but the company also continues to see many new customers each year.

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

The death of her husband at age 43 in 1923 left Clara Enestvedt with five children, ages 3 to 13, to raise, and a business to maintain. She carried the business through its toughest years.

The University of Minnesota named one of its newly developed varieties of soybeans “Bert” in honor Bert Enestvedt.

Most are located in a roughly 100-mile radius of the seed farm, but the seeds produced here will be planted as far away as the Missouri River in South Dakota. The company sells seed corn, soybeans and small grains. The biggest challenge is anticipating what farmers will be looking for each year, Enestvedt said. With today’s low commodity prices, farmers are focused on lowering input costs. Conven-

tional seed corn, mostly non-GMO, represent the majority of sales right now, he said. His grandfather E.G. Enestvedt was a student at the St. Paul School of Agriculture in 1897 when the University of Minnesota released Minnesota 13 open pollinated seed corn. Enestvedt said his grandfather returned to the home farm and established the seed business in 1900. He died in 1923 at the age of 43. His widow, Clara, continued the business while raising three

young sons: Odean, Johannes and Bert. Clara saw the business through the difficult years of the Great Depression. The three sons continued the business as adults. They grew the business and firmly established its reputation. In 1991, the University named one of its newly developed varieties of soybeans “Bert” in honor of his work in the soybean industry. The three brothers always put the success of the business ahead of their problems, said Enestvedt. Odean died in 1988. Roger’s father, Johannes, died in 2012, and Bert in 2015. The business remains family-owned and operated under Roger, and it continues traditions which have gained it much attention. Perhaps the best-known tradition is that of serving up hefty farm meals to the youth who work detasseling corn for the company. The tradition of detasseling began in the 1930s with the development of hybrid seed corn varieties. Today, the responsibility of feeding as many as 40 hungry young detasselers belongs to Brenda Holm, Roger’s niece, daughter of Robert and Birdelle Enestvedt. Enestvedt Seeds employs two full-time workers year-round, plenty of part-time help during the busy seasons, and, of course, the teams of young detasselers. Roger has two sons he believes will be interested in carrying on the Enestvedt tradition. He’s optimistic for the company’s future. It maintains a good customer base and continues to see growth. Importantly, he said the company remains at the right size to keep control of costs and quality and treat its customers right.


Enestvedt Seed

►E nestvedt Seed was established in 1900 by E.G. Enestvedt, who began selling seed corn while he attended the St. Paul School of Agriculture. ► E.G. Enestvedt died at a young age in 1923. His widow, Clara, oversaw the operations and continued the company during the Depression years while raising three young boys: Odean, Johannes and Bert. ► The three brothers operated the company and guided its continued growth in an era when the seed business is increasingly dominated by large, international corporations. ► Roger Enestvedt continues the family-owned and operated business started by his grandfather, and has two sons interested in maintaining the family tradition in the years ahead. ► Through its entire history, the company has been located on the farm homesteaded in 1867 by Ole Enestvedt, the great-grandfather of Roger.

Submitted photo

An aerial photo shows the Enestvedt Seeds farm located along the Minnesota River south of Sacred Heart in Renville County. Ole Enestvedt homesteaded the farm in 1867.



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generations of business

West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.

Saturday, April 27, 2019 E5

Photos by Erica Dischino / Tribune Lance Peterson shares some of the history of Peterson Brothers Funeral Home.

One of Willmar’s oldest, Peterson Brothers Funeral Home now led by fifth generation


By Linda Vanderwerf Lance Peterson is the fifth consecutive generation to have served the Willmar community as a director at Peterson Brothers Funeral Home. He follows in the footsteps of his great-great-grandfather Andrew, great-grandfather Elmer, grandfather Ralph and father Rolf. The business is about to celebrate its 130th anniversary and is among Willmar’s oldest family businesses. Andrew Peterson started the business with $400 and a partner on July 22, 1889. He later became the sole proprietor, and welcomed his sons Elmer and Alfred to the family enterprise. Elmer’s son Ralph followed and was joined by brothers Algene and C. Howard after their service in World War II. That is where the “Brothers” came in, with the third generation. Algene and Howard later moved to run funeral homes in other neighboring communities, including Howard in Benson. Ralph’s son Rolf joined the business in 1964, and Rolf’s wife, Caryl, joined him soon after.

won’t push it on my kids,” said Lance. He and his wife, Tina, a New London-Spicer teacher, have a 19-year-old son and two daughters, 14 and 16. “To continue in a family business is a wonderful thing to do,” he said, but being a funeral director is a “calling” that doesn’t speak to everyone. His own two sisters chose other careers. Lance Peterson said the business has made many adjustments in its history. In the beginning, it was a funeral home and furniture store, a common combination in those years. From 1947 to 1962, Peterson Brothers operLance Peterson of Peterson Brothers ated the Willmar Ambulance Service before Funeral Home speaks about the turning it over to the city of Willmar. generations of family members who have The business now includes funeral homes in run the funeral home in Willmar prior his Spicer, Atwater and Sunburg in addition to the joining the business in 1994 Willmar location. Peterson Brothers includes three funeral They are semi-retired but still part of the busidirectors, Rolf Peterson and Lance Peterson ness. Lance Peterson is Rolf and Caryl’s son. He and Justin Bos, a Willmar native. All earned their joined the business in 1994, after working for a mortuary science degrees at the University of Minnesota. A recent graduate of that program, time in Anchorage, Alaska. It’s too soon to know whether there will be a BriAnna McCabe, recently joined as an intern. Caryl Peterson is a certified mortuary technisixth generation in the business. “This business was never pushed on me, and I cian, and Audrey Nelsen is a certified funeral

preplanning consultant. Funerals have changed over time. What might have been staid, “cookie cutter” affairs in the past are now more personal and celebratory. The baby boom brought changes, seeking unique experiences and modern music for funerals that were more celebratory, Lance Peterson said. Cremations have also increased in recent years. As Willmar has become a multicultural community, the Peterson funeral directors have provided services for a growing variety of faith traditions. Each culture has its own traditions, Lance said. Sometimes there’s a longer visitation, or another group may have no formal service. It’s the job of a funeral director to learn about the traditions and respect them so they can serve every family, he added. Regardless of the differences, a funeral or memorial service is important for the grieving process, he said. “They have an opportunity for that closure, to say farewell.” Though many things have changed, “we still try to provide a meaningful remembrance and a celebration of the life that’s lived,” he said.


Peterson Brothers Funeral Home

►E stablished in 1889 in Willmar, celebrating 130th anniversary this year ► Five consecutive generations of Petersons have run the business, handed from father to son ► Three brothers ran the business for a time after World War II, with two of the brothers branching out to neighboring communities ► The business now includes funeral homes in Spicer, Atwater and Sunburg in addition to the Willmar location. ► Over the years the business also included a furniture store and running the ambulance service

Lance Peterson points to photos of his family members as he talks about the history of Peterson Brothers Funeral Home in Willmar. On the left is a portrait of his grandparents, Ralph and Brownell Peterson. On the right is a photo of Algene and Elaine Peterson.

Family portraits hang in the Peterson Brothers Funeral Home in Willmar, including those of Elmer Peterson, left, and Andrew Peterson.


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generations of business

E6 Saturday, April 27, 2019

West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.

Photos by Erica Dischino / Tribune Jeff Paffrath works on a ring he will turn into a pendant at Paffrath & Son Jewelers in Willmar.

A diamond of a family business


By Shelby Lindrud


t has been a family story and store since the beginning. Paffrath Jewelers got its start in 1926 when Rudy Paffrath purchased a jewelry business in Willmar. Now called Paffrath & Son Jewelers, the business is led by the third and fourth generations of the family. “To make four generations is special,” said Jeff Paffrath, son of current owner Todd Paffrath and great-grandson of store founder Rudy Paffrath. “To carry on the tradition is great.” Rudy Paffrath moved to Willmar to open his jewelry store after working as a watchmaker in Wadena and Duluth. In Willmar he continued with watches, while also filling his store with jewelry and plateware. “He was the official watchmaker, keeper, for Burlington Railroad. Railroad is all about the time,” said Todd Paffrath, the grandson of Rudy Paffrath. Lowell Paffrath, the son of Rudy Paffrath, took over the store when his father died in 1952. While at first the store continued to sell plateware, Lowell Paffrath started the business

vision, Todd Paffrath said. “He had a captive audience.” The commercials worked so well Lowell Paffrath became a local celebrity, with people lining up outside to meet him. “It was big for him,” Todd Paffrath said. The jewelry store moved twice in downtown Willmar before relocating to the brand new Kandi Mall in the 1970s. “We are an original tenant,” Todd Paffrath said. He joined the store full time in 1980, after briefly serving as a school teacher and farming for three years. In 2002, Jeff Paffrath came to Father and son Todd, left, and Jeff Paffrath work at the store. pose for a portrait at Paffrath & Son Jewelers “He is a great goldsmith. He is amazing,” at the Kandi Mall in Willmar. They are the Todd Paffrath said of his son. third and fourth generations of the family to The business has also relied on its employwork at the jewelry store. ees, many who have been with the company for down a path more focused on diamonds and decades. Jerri Johnson worked for Paffrath for over 50 years, helping Rudy, Lowell and Todd. jewelry. “She was instrumental to me when my dad “He was one of the first people to implement a diamond room in the store,” Todd Paffrath died,” Todd Paffrath said. Today, Jackie Brown has been at the store for said. Soon the plateware was gone and Lowell six months longer than Todd Paffrath. “No one ever really leaves. It is nice. It crePaffrath began selling his new store concept to ates a lot of continuity for the business,” Todd the masses. “He did his own television commercials. He Paffrath said. What has also stayed the same at Paffrath would sponsor a Sunday night movie” on tele-


Todd Paffrath of Paffrath & Son Jewelers helps a customer at the store in Willmar’s Kandi Mall. Customer service has always been a cornerstone of the family business, Paffrath said.

Jackie Brown has been an employee of Paffrath & Son Jewelers for nearly 40 years; six months longer than Todd Paffrath.


► Established in 1926 by Rudy Paffrath ► Four generations of Paffraths have worked at the store – Rudy, Lowell, Todd and Jeff ► First located in downtown Willmar ► Moved to the Kandi Mall, where the business is an original tenant ► Sells engagement and wedding rings, jewelry and watches ► Also custom jewelry creation and jewelry and watch repair


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West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.

generations of business

Saturday, April 27, 2019 E7

A Great Place to… Submitted photo Loren and Dianne Johnson, from left, Evy Perry, Gloria and Curtis Johnson pose in front of The Appleton Press office around 1980.



said working there gives her the flexibility she needs to get her work done while taking care of their children. FROM PAGE E1 It’s the same kind of flexibility Leslie said she enjoyed while raising her children and help Leslie run the business while Tim Ehrenputting out a newspaper each week that helps berg went to college to learn print production, keep her small-town community connected. so he could join his mom in the business. Leslie said she hopes her grandchildren – In the early years, papers were printed using who are growing up in the newspaper office lead, wood blocks, linotype and large, dirty – may want to make the business their future machines. too. “It was a lot different than it is today,” said Leslie Ehrenberg, adding that her son brought new ideas and new technology to the busiThe Appleton Press ness. ► First published in 1880 as the Tim runs the print shop, which not only Riverside Press prints the newspaper but other products ► Renamed The Appleton Press in including brochures, posters and surveys for 1883 entities such as area school districts. ► Owned by the same family since Tim said he knew he wanted to be in the 1972 business after he job-shadowed his grandpa ► Three generations involved with as part of a school program. He likes the the business variety of work the job entails. His wife, April,

LIVE Affordable housing is an important part of the quality of life and construction of Willmar’s newest housing complex 15th Street Flats will begin in 2018! Creating 47 units of workforce housing for families with children, including the following amenities: community room, patio, outdoor play equipment, exercise room and common laundry on each level. Another great addition to the Willmar community.


Carolyn Lange / Tribune Early tools of newspaper printing are on display at many newspaper offices, including at the Swift County Monitor News in Benson. The Swift County Monitor is one of three family-owned newspapers still operating in Swift County, along with The Appleton Press and Kerkhoven Banner.



the same pride and passion he has about community newspapers to take over. “I want this newspaper to go to somebody FROM PAGE E1 who cares about the community. Cares about journalism and cares about the community,” He said part of the recipe for saving smallhe said. town newspapers is to keep rural America healthy. Swift County “I have to work to strengthen my community Monitor News to strengthen my newspaper,” he said. “So I have ► First published in 1886 to work to strengthen rural Minnesota.” ► Purchased by Ronald Anfinson in Anfinson, 64, also owns the Grant County 1962 Herald in Battle Lake. ► Purchased by Reed Anfinson and With no one in his family set to take over Rob Anfinson in 1990 either newspaper, Anfinson said he intends to ► Purchased by Reed Anfinson in keep working into the near future. But he said he 1996 hopes to eventually find someone who shares

Businesses in Willmar continue to grow, the West Central Steel Inc. Parts Production Facility is one of the most recent examples. The facility is the size of 1 ½ football fields and is 38 feet tall! Housing precision equipment from around the world and providing more job opportunities!


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generations of business

E8 Saturday, April 27, 2019

West Central Tribune | Willmar, Minn.

A grocery store where they know your name Bill’s Supermarket is high-tech, yet all about local


By Tony Cherveny



ill Pauling wanted to get into the grocery business so bad that, as a 15-yearold, he lied about his age in hopes of getting a job at the local Red Owl store. He came clean during the interview. The store owner said the law required him to be 16 years old. Three months later the store owner called and said the law was changed, and he should talk to him again. “I worked for him through high school,” said Pauling, who has never turned back. He now counts over four decades as an independent grocery store owner. He will mark the 20th anniversary of Bill’s Supermarket in Montevideo this autumn. It’s a family affair for Bill and Connie Pauling, who once were high school sweethearts. They’ve raised four children in the business. “We always said we raised them in grocery carts,” said Bill, laughing. He also likes to joke that the kids were “pretrained, indentured servants,” but the truth is, they loved it. Betsy, the first of their two girls, stood on stacks of pop cans to reach the till and operate it. A neighbor lady in Madison once brought their oldest son, Billy, to the store when he was just a tyke. He so wanted to go to work that he put his jacket on backwards and slipped out of the house. Billy, Betsy and youngest sibling Sarah have all gone on to careers of their own. Tom, the third in the sibling pecking order, is now a partner with his parents. An independent grocery store is the modern dairy farm, Bill Pauling said. The whole family works hard and puts in lots of hours. Thanks to that upbringing, he said all four of the children have learned good work habits “and understand what it takes to make something go.” After his high school years of working at the Montevideo Red Owl, Bill Pauling studied meat

Bill’s Supermarket

Photo by Tom Cherveny / Tribune Tom, Connie and Bill Pauling, from left, pose at their supermarket in Montevideo. Bill’s Supermarket will mark its 20th anniversary this autumn. Tom is a partner in the business with his parents, who have been independent grocery store owners for more than four decades. merchandising at the Pipestone Vocational and Technical School. He returned to work in his hometown. That led to an opportunity for Bill and Connie to join a partnership and re-open a grocery store in Clark, South Dakota. Three years later, the young couple had the opportunity to buy a store of their own in Madison. Four years later, they purchased a larger store in Dickinson, North Dakota. They operated the store there for 13 years, growing the business despite some tough years. When they arrived, an oil boom had just busted. They had over 450 applicants for 28

Son Tom, third-born of the four Pauling children, is now a partner with his parents Bill and Connie Pauling got their opportunity to become the owners of in their Montevideo grocery store, Bill’s an independent grocery store just over Supermarket. The Pauling children were ready helpfour decades ago when they joined a partnership to re-open a store in Clark, ers as the family owned and operated independent grocery stores in Madison, South Dakota. The grocery store has been a family Minnesota, as well as in Dickinson, North affair for the couple, who like to joke that Dakota, and more recently, Montevideo, they raised their four children in grocery as the children were growing. Bill Pauling describes independent grocarts.

positions at the store. During the grand opening, they took in a stack of food stamps larger than they had ever seen. Their opportunity to return to Montevideo came in 1999, and ever since they’ve put their heart and soul into Bill’s Supermarket, remodeling and expanding it. Pauling said he’s always enjoyed people, sales and merchandising, making the grocery business a natural fit for him. He said the most important aspect of the business is this: People want to go to a place where everybody knows their name, just like the theme song from the television show “Cheers.’’ “Make customers feel

good,” he said. The supermarket is part of a cooperative of more than 8,000 stores that buy together to get the best prices and share information on customer wants. The store has also invested in the latest technology and energy-efficient equipment. It offers a large selection, is known for its locally produced foods, and offers home delivery. Pauling said he believes that despite the competition from big box stores and all of the rest, there remains a future for independents. “If you want to go out there and want to work hard, it’s there. You just have to go do it,” he said.

cery stores as the new dairy farms, requiring everyone in the family to pitch in and put in long hours. The Pauling children learned good work habitats and what it takes to make a business go for their efforts, he said. Bill’s Supermarket will mark its 20th anniversary in Montevideo this autumn. The Paulings have expanded and remodeled the building which was originally opened in 1962 as a grocery store.

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