Bergert, however, feels confident that his customers will continue to be well-served, as he has sold his business to Blaine Burkhardt, the owner of Blaine's Culligan. Culligan's has been in business in Cherokee since 1943, owned initially by Ray Stievers, who sold the business to Dick Matier. Brothers Don and Pierce Green were the next owners, and are credited with really establishing and building up the business during their long ownership.
Stuart Smith maintained and strengthened the business the Green brothers had built during the 20 years he owned the Cherokee Culligan franchise, and Smith, in turn, sold the business to Burkhart in 2005.
Blaine Burkhardt has a very capable staff of four who continue to provide the services which Cherokee area residents have come to expect from their "Culligan Man."
Bob Wittrock, the business' Service Manager, has worked at Culligan for 34 years; his son Mike, a Service Technician, has been there for 12 years; Lola Paeper, who is responsible for Accounts Receivable and other clerical duties, including being the "voice you hear" when you call Blaine's Culligan, has worked at the business for six years; and Jake Gravenish, who is the primary delivery man, is in his third year at Blaine's.
In addition to delivering softener salt, Blaine's Culligan also rents water softeners and drinking systems - both water coolers and Reverse Osmosis (referred to as "R.O." in the vernacular of people in the business) Systems. Burkhardt also sells and services Sundance Spas, and he says that part of the business has gone well, with autumn being the best time of the year for sales. He also said that the service plan on the spas is "great," with a 5 year warranty, and said they have gone as far away as Minnesota to provide service.
Bergert says he has enjoyed being in business, and appreciates all the support and business his customers have given him over the past 27 years. Though the business has been sold, he's not quite done working yet. He will be helping out Burkhardt, his former competitor, for a couple of more weeks with the details of transferring customer files, etc., to help smooth the transition. The monthly rental rates Bergert's customers have been paying, by the way, will not change.
And after the transition is done? Butch said his retirement plans include "hitting the 'honey do' list, and taking it easy." He also plans to do a little fishing and traveling.
Bergert has seven children and 13 grandchildren who are "scattered all over the country," and when the grandkids have come to visit in previous summers, they have usually ended up spending a lot of time riding with Grandpa in his truck, delivering water - an activity which they understandably no longer enjoy as much as they once did.
Some of his grandkids are coming again this summer, and Butch says, "This time I'll be ready for 'em."
And by that, he means the plan for this summer includes plenty of fishing - and NO delivery runs.