MITCHELL – Tom Patzer has seen it all over the past four decades when he ran his woodworking business.

From a devastating flood that destroyed his equipment and wreaked havoc on his facility, to a fire and a pandemic, Patzer faced many challenges that tested his will to succeed as a business owner. local company. But whenever a major obstacle stands in his way, Patzer always finds a way to overcome it.

His ability to rise to the occasion in the face of adversity helped Patzer Woodworking reach 40 years in business this year. Thursday was a time to celebrate this milestone at Patzer’s new facility which was submerged in more than a foot of water just three years ago.

“But we’re still stronger than ever,” Patzer said of the past three years battling flood recovery efforts and supply chain battles created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking back on how far Patzer Woodworking has come since its founding in 1981, when a small garage served as an office and production facility, a big smile spreads across Patzer’s face.

Photos of former Patzer Woodworking sites and company memorabilia are on display at the company’s 40th anniversary celebration Thursday in Mitchell.

Adam Thury/Republic Mitchell

As Patzer said, getting into the woodworking business was a “leap of faith.” .

“Some of my friends told me they would give me two years until I went out of business. They knew it was hard to run a carpentry business, but here I am, 40 years later, still humming,” Patzer said. “I found a bank in Mitchell to give me a loan and I thought they really trusted me. I’m glad they did, because it worked.

What started as a one-man woodworking business in a 650 square foot garage is now a business supported by over 20 employees producing custom cabinetry and countertops in a 32,000 square foot facility in downtown Mitchell.

“I’m lucky to have a wife who has been supportive from the start,” he said of his wife, Sherri Patzer.

After making a name for himself as a skilled cabinetmaker and counter craftsman, Patzer began to accommodate large commercial jobs. Winning Avera Health and Puetz Construction as customers was a proud moment for Patzer.

Watching the company succeed left many fond memories for Patzer, but seeing his son, Ryan Patzer, and daughter, Amanda Neppl, join the team is “one of the proudest moments” for the company founder. company. Ryan and Neppl’s decision to work for the company has transformed Patzer Woodworking into a family business that now spans generations, something Tom has dreamed of since the beginning of his journey.

“I always assumed Ryan would come back here, but I never thought Amanda would. It was a blessing to have them both back and making us a second generation family business,” said said Tom.

Together, the brother-sister duo handle commercial projects, design work and client relations. The addition of Ryan and Neppl resulted in success as the company expanded its footprint into neighboring states like Iowa, Wyoming and Minnesota.

Although Patzer lost its first building to a fire and faced a unique pandemic in the past two years, the 2019 flood that soaked the company in more than a foot of water was without any doubt, according to the family, the most difficult. challenge the company has ever faced.

The Patzer family still remembers the natural disaster vividly. An annual work party was scheduled to take place in the Patzer Woodworking showroom on September 12 of that year, but Mother Nature had other plans.

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The Patzer Woodworking showroom was held for an open house on September 12, 2019, the day a foot of water poured into the headquarters of custom cabinetry company Mitchell. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Rather than walk into the showroom with plates of appetizers and treats waiting for employees to celebrate another year in business, the Patzers weren’t even able to access their building because the entire area was flooded with over a foot of standing water since the early morning downpour which brought 8-10 inches of rain.

“The water was higher than the windows of the building. We had computers floating around. There was even a boat that someone had floating near the building,” Tom said of the footage he recalls of the flood. “We lived in a partial showroom for three years.”

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A car weaves its way through seated water on East Havens in Mitchell on Thursday September 12, 2019 following the previous night’s storms in the area.

Republic File Photo

Unlike the structural fire, the insurance covered virtually none of the flood damage. This forced the family business to pay for much of the damage repairs and equipment replacement out of pocket.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of small and medium businesses never reopen after a natural disaster causes significant damage. Of businesses that reopen after a natural disaster, 25% close within a year, according to FEMA data.

Family-owned Patzer has bucked the trend, as it is in its third year in business since the 2019 flood.

“There were a lot of sleepless nights,” Ryan said of the nights after the flood.

The flood severely damaged one of the most important pieces of equipment that is at the heart of Patzer Woodworking’s production. For three days after the flood, the wood-cutting machine was out of order, which paralyzed production.

Despite technicians’ estimates of the woodcutter having a 40% survival rate once brought back to life, the production team managed to fix the machine when it faltered until a new woodcutter arrived. some months later. With damaged equipment and a gutted facility, the team of woodcraft manufacturers transported the products to customers and arranged for a return.

Neppl hailed the dedicated team’s ability to improvise and meet post-flood challenges as key elements in helping Patzer Woodworking emerge from the wreckage.

“Every one of our employees touches the job. It really takes a team effort for a company like this to be successful for this long,” she said. “We couldn’t have overcome the challenges without them.”

As community members and business leaders gathered at the showroom on Thursday for the company’s 40th anniversary, there was no record that the piece had been submerged in more than a foot of water just three years ago.

Throughout the few challenges Patzer Woodworking has faced over the years, Tom has always instilled faith in overcoming obstacles with a saying his family has often heard: “It will always work.”

“That’s what he always says when we’re worried about everything,” Ryan said of his dad. “And that’s the case.”