(Photo by Paul Struck)
By Paul Struck, Editor
A 63-year-old Cherokee business, well known on a personal basis to residents throughout the county, has changed hands.
Retaining its long history of local ownership, Stuart's Water Conditioning at 504 W. Elm St. in Cherokee, was recently purchased by Blaine and Donna Burkhardt of Cherokee.
The Burkhardts, long-time Cherokee business people, purchased Stuart's Water Conditioning, as well as its Culligan Water and Sundance Spas franchises, from Stuart and Colleen Smith, who've owned and operated the business since 1985.
Culligan has been in Cherokee since 1942 and will remain at its convenient and efficient location at 504 W. Elm, the former Cherokee RC Cola Bottling Plant.
The newly named Blaine's Water Conditioning will continue to offer reputable and reliable service to its many customers in and around Cherokee. Among those services are Culligan Water products, including rentals and sales of home and commercial water softeners, drinking water systems, and water coolers.
The business also will sell Culligan softerner salt and Culligan 5-gallon bottled water that can be delivered straight to homes or, for client's convenience, picked up at the business.
Among the many other Culligan products are 16-ounce and 24-ounce bottled water and various household soaps highly compatible with Culligan water softeners.
Blaine's Water Conditioning also will continue to operate its route maintenance schedule, including softener salt delivery and drinking water filter replacement.
In addition, the Burkhardts will continue sales and service of Sundance Spas, offering a full line of Sundance Spas and spa chemicals and accessories.
The reliable and dependable service department will continue to be staffed by Bob Wittrock, who has 30 years of experience on the job, Jerry Niemeier, who has worked there for 23 years, and Michael Wittrock with seven years experience. Lola Paeper will continue serving as office manager.
"I've known and been friends with Blaine and Donna since we first moved here, almost 20 years ago," said Stuart Smith of the new owners. "Donna and I have served together on the Sioux Valley Memorial Hospital Board (now Cherokee Regional Medical Center) and know each other well from operating our businesses in this community. This has been a very smooth, seamless transition.
"Blaine is very skilled in many areas, is quite mechanical and is a perfect fit for the business. Culligan was very impressed with the qualities Blaine and Donna bring to the business and changing the franchise over to them was flawless because of that."
The Cherokee operation has in the past and will continue to be a major Culligan dealer from among the 700 dealers nationwide. The business will operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
The Sundance Spa franchise here covers much of Northwest Iowa, west to and including Le Mars, east as far as Emmetsburg, and north to the Lakes area and Minnesota border.
"We consider this an investment back into our community," said Blaine Burkhardt. "We wanted to see the business stay locally owned and from visiting over the years with the Smiths we saw this as a great opportunity for that. We'll work hard to continue the outstanding service and reputation Stuart and Colleen have achieved here."
Blaine has closed Burkhardt Motors, an auto detailing and service facility at 818 S. 2nd St. He and Donna will keep that builiding for personal use.
Donna also will continue in her job as a partner with Burkhardt & Dawson CPAs. Blaine and his staff operating all facets of the Culligan business.
The Smiths say they have no thoughts of retirement and will continue living in their adopted home town of Cherokee, serving on a consultant basis with their son, Michael's Culligan business in Sedalia, Mo., and assisting the Burkhardts when needed. Michael is married to the former Carrie Hauswald of Cherokee.
Stuart is a Le Mars native and wife, Colleen, is from Merrill. They have a daughter, Stacia in Las Vegas.
Blaine is a Cherokee native and Donna is originally from Meriden. They have a son, Weston, age 12, going into the 8th grade this fall.
"We love this community. Cherokee has a lot of good things going for it, from the new downtown to a solid core of good businesses," said Donna. "We want to continue doing our part to enhance our business community and carry on the wonderful tradition that Stuart and Colleen have established."