‘It will always work out’: Patzer Woodworking celebrates 40 years of business, overcoming floods, fires – Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — Tom Patzer has seen it all over the past four decades running his woodworking business.

From a devastating flood that destroyed his equipment and wreaked havoc on his facility, to a fire and an epidemic, Patzer has faced many challenges that have tested his will to succeed as a local business owner. But every time a major obstacle is thrown his way, Patzer always finds a way to overcome it.

His ability in the face of adversity helped Patzer Woodworking reach the 40-year mark in business this year. On Thursday, it was time to celebrate that milestone at Patzer’s new-look facility, which went under the water just three years ago.

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

Reflecting on how far Patzer Woodworking has come since its founding in 1981 as a small garage as an office and manufacturing facility, a big smile grows on Patzer’s face.

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Pictures of former Patzer Woodworking locations and memorabilia about the business are on display at the company’s 40th anniversary celebration Thursday in Mitchell.

Adam Turi / Mitchell Republic

As Patzer put it, starting a woodworking business was a “leap of faith.” Friends doubted he would be in business for more than a few years, and banks were hesitant to provide the credit he needed to get it in the early 1980s. .

“Some of my friends said they’ll give me two years before I’m out of business. They knew it was hard to run a woodworking business, but here I am, 40 years later, still humming along,” says Patzer. “I found a bank in Mitchell to give me a loan and I thought they really had a lot of faith in me. I’m sure they did, because it did.”

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What started as a one-person woodworking business in a 650-square-foot garage is now a company backed by more than 20 employees producing custom cabinets and countertops out of a 32,000-square-foot space in downtown Mitchell.

“I’ve been blessed to have a wife who has stood by me from the beginning,” he said of his wife, Sherry Patzer.

After making a name for himself as a talented cabinet and countertop craftsman, Patzer began accepting large commercial jobs. Acquiring Avera Health and Puetz Construction as a client was a proud moment for Patzer.

Watching the business succeed has provided many fond memories for Patzer, but seeing his son, Ryan Patzer, and daughter, Amanda Naple, join the team is “one of the proudest moments” for the business founder. Ryan and Naple’s decision to work with the company has made Patzer Woodworking a family-owned 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 pleasure to have them both back and make us a second generation family business,” said Tom.

Together, the brother-sister duo handles commercial project supervision, design work and client relations. The addition of Ryan and Neppl has translated into success as the business expands its footprint into neighboring states such as Iowa, Wyoming and Minnesota.

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Although Patzer lost his first building to a fire and has dealt with a once-in-a-lifetime epidemic for the past two years, the 2019 flood that engulfed the business was definitely what the family says was the hardest. challenge ever faced by business.

The Patzer family still vividly remembers the natural disaster. On September 12th of that year, the annual work party was scheduled to be held at Patzer Woodworking’s showroom, but Mother Nature had other plans.


The Patzer Woodworking showroom opened on September 12, 2019, the day a foot of water flooded the headquarters of Mitchell’s custom cabinetry business. (Sam Fosnes / The Republic)

Instead of walking into the showroom with snacks and treats waiting for employees to celebrate another year in business, the Patzers couldn’t even enter their building because the entire space had long since been flooded with more than a foot of water. morning rain 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 with someone floating by the building,” Tom said of his flashbacks of the flood. “We lived with a partial showroom for three years.”


2019 A car drives through standing water in East Havens in Mitchell, Thursday, Sept. 12, after storms hit the region the night before.

Republic file photo

Unlike the structure fire, insurance covered almost none of the flood damage. That forced the family business to pay for most of the damage repairs and equipment replacements out of pocket.

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According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of small and medium-sized businesses never reopen after suffering major damage from a natural disaster. 25% of businesses that reopen after a natural disaster close within a year, according to FEMA.

Patzer’s family business has bucked the trend as they enter their third year in business after the 2019 flood.

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

The flood severely damaged one of the most important pieces of equipment that is the heartbeat of Patzer Woodworking’s production. After the flood, the wood-cutting machine was not working for three days, which stopped the production.

Despite technicians’ estimates of a 40% survival rate for the chopper once brought back to life, the production team managed to repair the machine when it broke down before a new chopper arrived several months later. With damaged equipment and guts, staff at wood craft manufacturers were moving products out the door to customers and back.

Neple praised the dedicated team’s ability to improvise and meet post-flood challenges as keys to helping Patzer Woodworking emerge from the wreckage.

“Each of our employees touches the work. It really takes a team effort to make a business like this successful for so long,” he said. “Without them we could not have overcome the challenges.”

As community members and business leaders gathered in the showroom Thursday to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary, there was no sign that the room was submerged just three years ago.

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

“That’s what he always says when we’re worried about things,” Ryan said of his father. “And it has.”


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