Marcus Lumber just celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Leavitt family's running the operation. Many people turned out to wish them well as they ate plenty of ham sandwiches, donuts, cookies and drank lemonade and coffee.
In actuality, the business is marking it's 130th year. Not many businesses have been running continuously for that length of time. The business actually began back in 1880 with Thomas Patton as owner and John Knox served as manager. Forty percent of their business was in selling coal. The first building for the business was located where the present car wash is on the north end of Main Street and Railroad Street.
The first Roger Leavitt, John's and Roger grandfather bought the business in 1920 during the depression while the second Roger Leavitt (their grandfather) managed it. The business was moved to the north side of Railroad Street in the 1930's. The building was added onto more than once and they had six employees during that time. The business then took over the former dance and bowling alley on the south side of Railroad Street which was remodeled three times as the business increased. They kept doubling the showroom as the inventory grew. They kept adding onto these two buildings as the need arose.
In 1950 John Leavitt started in the business and his brother Roger started in 1952. A year later, coal was dropped as more and more were heating their homes with other forms of fuel.
Before the 2004 fire that destroyed more than it left, plans were already being formed for adding onto the business as a foundation had already taken shape. Roger Leavitt noted, "The fire turned out to be a good thing but at the time it was very stressful. We basically started planning our building needs making room for future growth. Our delivery fleet of five vehicles went to eight. As a family of now four generations who has worked in this business, we have continuously kept putting money back into the business. Now our dozen buildings are pretty much new. There have been other changes such as we used to see five to six salesmen a day and now it is more like four to five a week. Our business area has grown into a 50 miles radius."
"What has kept our business strong is having our customers serve as our promotors. We have earned their trust and we have done that by providing them reliable goods and service. Last year, 2009, was the best business year we have ever had. The younger generation likes the slogan, "Where quality and service makes a difference" That's Marcus Lumber.
Robert Leavitt joined the business in 1975 and Jim Leavitt came in 1980, both sons of John. Tom Leavitt, the son of Roger, began in 1987. When asking Robert's sons about joining the business, with a broad smile, "We always knew we would. We never entertained another option. As a young boy, we always played with our lumber delivery trucks just a farmer's son plays with toy tractors. This business is everything to the Leavitt family.
Roger added, 'Each generation comes up with new ideas and we are always willing to make the changes to keep this business where it should be."
Roger plans on retiring at the end of this year.
(photo) - Marcus Lumber employees,from the left - Kent Leavitt (fourth generation, Jim's son), Tom Leavitt (Roger's son, third generation, Roger Leavitt and John Leavitt (second generation), Bob and Jim Leavitt (John's sons, third generation). In back is more fourth generation: Kevin (Jim's son), Grant and Clay (Bob's sons).
Marcus business 125 years old -
Western Cherokee Mutual Insurance is the oldest continuously operated business in Marcus. Jim Smith started running the business in 1964 followed by his son, Steve Smith. The business will be celebrating this coming Aug.7 in the Marcus City Park with food and entertainment for their customers.
To provide some background, the insurance company started with a few farmers meeting back in 1885 to discuss mutually sharing the risk posed by prairie fires to their homes and farm buildings. East coast stock companies either refused to write farm fire insurance or charged way too much for the coverage. Mutuals began to spring up wherever pioneers families had need for protection that was not being met by these profit-minded companies.
The first mutual in Iowa was the American Mutual of Scott County in 1849. By 1882, the 84 mutuals already started in Iowa, formed the Iowa Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. It was Mr. W.A. Rutledge of Iowa who organized the first meeting of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies Convention held in January 1896.
Wind protection was added to fire protection in the 1930. Time has proven that the working relationship between the agent and customer is proven to be the number one factor as the trust element is most important. The agent has to follow the contract as to what it says to build that trust. There are 109 mutuals left in Iowa.
By 1896, Western Cherokee Mutual had over $1 million of risks in force. Since it's beginning in 1885, Western Cherokee Mutual has paid over $22 million in losses. In the first 100 years, the company had paid out $5 million but in the last 23 years, it has paid out $17 million.
The last seven presidents of the Association has been: Clarence Beck, Boyd Kolb, Joe Lundsgaard, James Smith, Royden Rupp, Dr. Bruce Hiller and presently John P. Smith.
The secretaries of this organization for the last 60 plus years has been Clarence Beck, James Smith and Stephen Smith.
One of the biggest changes in running mutuals insurance companies is that most work is done on electronics as most customers like to communicate via a computer. They have dual back-ups in each office. Western Cherokee Mutual employs seven plus three more are employed by Smith Insurance.(photo) - Two of Western Cherokee Mutual Insurance agents, Joe Schlenger, on the left, and Marty Alesch, recently posed outside the business' new sign in Marcus.
New look for Community Center -
The five member Marcus Community Center Board has done much in the last two years to spruce the center up while providing better service to Marcus and the surrounding area. The board consists of Steve Gettner, Tammy Johnson, Laura Letsche, Margaret Rohwer and Steve Hueser as the newest member.
Six years ago, the board had considerable debt to eliminate of around $25,000. They got busy and held fund-raisers, received personal donations as well as receiving $10,000 a year from the Marcus City Council. From all of this, they managed to wipe the old debt away according to Tammy Johnson.
Meanwhile they heard talk that the city council would like to move the senior center to the community building to save on costs but the center needed to be handicap accessible. Also, it was made mention that the center would make a good voting site rather than drive to another town. For this reason handicap access was also needed plus the lighting would need to be better. With all this in mind, the board elevated their ideas to make the Marcus Community Center more suitable for the needs of the community. Throughout all of the remodeling, many volunteered their labor and time.
This was about the time that the Farmers State Bank decided to tear down an old cafe next door to the center and clear it out. They idea came to expand the center space by having an outdoor area where people could go outdoors for a smoke and a drink. They worked the soiled before pouring cement. They built a fence made out of cement block on bottom and added a decorative metal fence on the top to give a more attractive appearance. A new door was added on the south wall with a handicap ramp to the patio which provides added space for overflow crowds. Six tables made by Thomas Mfg. of Cherokee with umbrellas were donated by others for folks to sit at while visiting. The most important issue for all to remember is to keep inside the patio with their drinks.
There is also a wood fence in the back which hides the storage unit on the other side of the fence. Johnson noted that caterers find it much easier to back up to unload their offerings.
The next stage of remodeling was painting the walls inside to come up with a new color scheme. A wall was also built in the northeast corner of the room to develop storage space for tables and chairs. It makes for a neater appearance of the whole room. The door to the back is still maintained for grilling outside. When the MMC gym floor was destroyed by water, volunteers took out much of it after paying the school for it. It was then installed to make a dance floor which was a great way to recycle the flooring. That took much effort. New carpet was then installed for a finished look.
In the last few years, new white tables (which are much lighter) and chairs have been purchased. This year new bright lights have been installed. The last big project was to move the bar across the room to the southwest portion providing a convenient bar space but at the same time making more space for 50-60 people. The manager, Kim Means, appreciates having the bar next to her office which allows all of the alcohol to be locked up when not at use.
According to Johnson, there is also a surveillance camera set up outside for viewing of people. Bar tenders will be able to keep a more orderly situation as drinks need to be inside of the fence area and not out on the street. When large events are held, the former main entrance will be locked for crowd control. That still leaves three unlocked doors if anything drastic should happen for people to get out.
Restrooms have also been repainted and spruced up.
The community center is all booked up for June and most of July. Saturday night in August for the Marcus Fair, the board is going to host open house as a reunion site for returning graduates and have booked Dave Fintel of
Paullina to entertain. They are hoping to make this an annual event with no charge to those who attend.
All in all, around $60,000 in improvements have been made to the center. All of this made possible by fund-raiser, Legacy grant, donations and many hours of volunteers help.
The board is hoping the debt balance will be paid off within the next five years.
(photo) - The Marcus Community Center has been a busy place the last few months, hosting various events. Note the new entry with a patio to the south
Marcus Hardware & Gifts thrives -
Last February, the local hardware store came under new ownership,as Tanya Judge and Gerald Key purchased the business to take on the challenge of getting acquainted with the community.
"We have found it interesting and fun interacting with those who enter our doors and learning what they'd like to buy whether it's certain items or a particular brand. We enjoy working our customers as they are understanding we need to get to know them to get a feel for the business," said Judge.
Like any new owners, they have been sorting through the inventory and making new displays. The community is pleased that they offer a gift registry for showers and weddings plus gifts for anniversaries and birthdays for all ages. They will wrap and deliver them. Gift items include fancy dishes, clocks, frames, photo albums, candles and collectibles. You will find unique gifts like crystal and decorations to sit around the home. There is plenty of household items such as bake ware, pots and pans, casserole dishes, cooking utensils and tea towels. You may pick up your cleaning supplies there too.
Shelves are filled with office and school supplies. Need a child's gift? There are many toys on the shelves in addition to art and craft supplies to keep them busy through the summer.
With summer upon us, you will find what you need to grill on plus chairs to enjoy the outdoors. For your yard needs, they carry hoses to water with, mower, potting soil, planter and other lawn ornaments. You will find camping gear as well as well as fans and humidifiers. They can also help you with replacement parts.
Beyond all of this, you will find the usual electrical and plumbing needs, power and hand tools. and plenty of paint. Right now they are closing out on some of the paint at great bargain prices to open up space for a new brand.
Yes, if you want a copy of a key made, they provide key cutting service.
As Judge and Key work in the store, they are bringing it to life with more attractive displays. Marcus residents are thrill to see the hardware store thriving and comment how accomodating Judge and Key are.
Key added, "We are pleased to make Marcus our home and improve on making this the lcoal hardware store."
New hobby is successful -
Donna Riedemann (photo) has displayed her creative abilities along with a characteristic of determination to make her new business, "Elm street Gardens,"quite successful. She likes working outdoors and working with her hands.
"I was very pleased with the amount of sales we made in the last two months of opening shop. It certainly exceeded what I hope it would do. I sold practically all of my plants with just a flat of filler plants(greenery) left.," said Riedemann. "I have taken some of my vegetable plants and got many growing in a plot to sell produce as it comes on. I've got several tomato plants plus squash, cucumbers, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower to offer for sale late summer and early fall. People like purchasing home-grown produce and I thought, why not?"
In addition to this, she plans on having mum plants for sale by late August. This will follow with pumpkins, painted gourds and her wood crafts. She is hoping to bring in seasonal fruit to make it more of a one item stop.
Riedemann is a talented individual who certainly has energy to burn. She is constantly striving to add and do a good job of it along with some help from husband, Vernon. Since they have made Marcus their home, they have been busy improving it with eye-appealing additions.
The Elm Street Creations is open on Saturday from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m., on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. and on Mondays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and rest of time by chance.
Visitors to the new Elm Street Creations gardens will find healthy plants growing in a clean setting (weed-free) to come along along at a fine pace. Reidemann knows how to tend to plant needs and avoid critters that like to chew on them when given a chance.
New Hope in Marcus -
Another new business began in Marcus a few months ago. Marcia Campbell (pictured)had moved to Marcus a year ago, and in a short time it occurred to her that Marcus could use a thrift or second-hand shop. At the same time, an empty building next to the drug store had a sign in the window saying it was available for rent.
"What really motivated me was having had an aunt that lived in Marcus who had run a second-hand store for many years prior to her death. she made good in the store and help many who needed to watch their budget. It was always fun to go there and find these many good bargains. I got busy and it has seems to work," explain Campbell.
After getting the building she went about handing out fliers explaining that everything has to be clean and in good condition. After 60 days, if the item hasn't sold, she marks it down. In another 30 days if it still hasn't sold, she returns it to the owner or gives it to GoodWill. Periodically, you will find certain items on sales of various percentages on certain items. Her customer base is a 70 mile radius. Once they make a stop, most make return visits.
Many of the better items will come in from estates or from gals just wanting to redecorate. Some examples of items for sale include Fenton dishes that are marked at a third of the price that you would find elsewhere. Porcelain doll collectors will fine this place a dream come true. There are all kinds of pictures of good quality brand-name frames---remember one can take the picture out and use the frame for one of your own photos. I notice Corelle dish set, wooden salad bowl set, teapots for collectors, many fine glasses including goblets and many seasonal items.
On top of all this there are oodles of bake ware, pots and pans, kitchen utensils, towels, sheets and bed sets. One can find clothing and shoes for the whole family from infant to size 3x. Campbell works hard at keeping attractive displays and keeping it organized.
In addition to toys and games, there are many CD's and books. Many enjoy reading the "Chicken Soup" books. She sells all kinds of new books for $1 and less.
When you take the time to make a stop there, don't limit your time as there is much to see walking around the store. It is an excellent way to stretch the family budget and make everyone happy. If one has questions, she may be reached at 712-376-2223 or her cell number 712-360-0057. The store is open on Monday, Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and on Saturday till noon.
'Slats' happy with Marcus -
Hog Slats is an ever-expanding business which provides whatever hog producers need to raise healthy hogs. The business just passed the one year anniversary at their Marcus location along Highway 3. Marcus was quite pleased that they decided to incorporate Marcus into their lineup of locations. It fills in an open area between Storm Lake and Sioux Center. Their customer base comes from a 40-50 mile radius.
The manager, Kathy Hargens of LeMars (pictured), commented that business keeps growing steadily as farmers find their way there. She noted they carry whatever one needs for raising hogs whether it be the feeding system, gating, ventilation or plumbing needs. Whether it's new you are looking for or replacement parts, you will find it here. Hargens was raised on a hog farm but she also has had 7 1/2 years experience with the business. Hargens commented she has gotten acquainted with some area farmers as they discuss their problems and needs for hogs.
In the new building you will find much on display in the showroom but there is much more back in the store room. The store is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. One may get hold of them at 888-376-2558.
Building is the way to go -
Mike Olson (pictured) followed his instincts and stayed with the program, doing what he loved to do. Upon his high school graduation, Mike attended Iowa Lakes Community College for two years, learning about nature and caring for the land. But his heart wasn't into it.
Throughout his high school summers he worked as a carpenter helper while advancing his skills. He loved working outside and he had the feeling of satisfaction of building buildings that pleased the customer. So Olson decided to go with his Dad, Mike Olson senior, plus one employee, to build farm buildings and homes. Olson found what he wanted to do to make a living. Now he has six employees plus his Dad to get the work done under the name of Mike's Construction.
Late last year he built a new building to house his business, a 60 x 80 foot building for equipment as well as space to work in plus a 16 x 36 foot office space. He has a dividing wall in the large area so he doesn't have to heat all of it during the winter months. But they like a warm area to work on smaller projects. He wants the height of the building to accommodate large pieces of equipment. Olson noted that machinery keeps getting larger. The office is rather spiffy with beautiful wood flooring, painted walls with a large oak table and chairs to sit down with customers to discuss their plans. Olson has built hog confinements but prefers building other farm buildings like machine sheds and of course lovely homes. He has done much cement work but prefers working with wood.
During inclement weather, the crew stays busy on inside jobs. The weather last winter was a challenge to get around in but they stayed fairly busy through it all. He said the two months of the year which become a mad rush is in March and then again in late September and October when they know winter is on the way.
Olson likes to finish projects and stand back and take pride in his work. It gives him a positive feedback.
"I never advertise as the best form of advertisement is word of mouth. When I build what the buyer wants and they are quite pleased with my work, they will spread the word. My work will be seen by others and then they give me a call. This summer Mike's Construction has their plate full.
Olson's wife, Darcy, teaches in Cherokee Middle School. The couple has three children: Tristen who is 10, Faith is 8 and Isabelle is 5. The family loves fishing and boating and generally being outside. Mike built his wife a lovely new home west on C38. They also love the country.