Program honors local businessesBrief speeches and a respect for the area marked the second annual Superior Business Awards on Thursday at Barker’s Island Inn.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Brief speeches and a respect for the area marked the second annual Superior Business Awards on Thursday at Barker’s Island Inn.
After winning the Small Business of the Year Award, Rob Peterson of Peterson’s Custom Millwork & Drawers said he was humbled.
“There’s a lot of people in Superior that are here because we love this town and that’s always been my motivation,” he said.
His business opened its doors in 1980 with one employee and has since grown to 22 employees. The company has shown a positive profit margin in 27 of its 30 years and pulls in 35 percent of its revenue from outside the area.
Peterson thanked his wife, Carol, for her role in keeping the business going.
“I am a little pessimistic … and my wife would never let me quit and I owe her everything,” Peterson said. He also thanked his sons, Paul and Phil, for providing motivation.
Fraser Shipyards was presented with the Large Business of the Year Award. President James Korthals accepted the honor on behalf of the employees at the 120-year-old business.
“We can’t do it without our employees, everybody needs to know that,” he said. “It’s not me that makes it work, it’s the employees back there that are working today that make it work.”
A local business that elevated pizza and beer into an art form, Thirsty Pagan Brewery, was recognized with the Emerging Innovative Business Award.
Owner Steve Knauss, accepted the award. He thanked the Northeast Entrepreneurs Program for helping the business, launched in 2006, to grow.
“We started out with six employees, most of them are being paid,” Knauss said with a chuckle. “Now we have 23 employees.”
He said the Twin Ports is a great place to launch a business.
“It’s about providing quality service to good customers with good employees and there’s enough of that in the Duluth-Superior area that we’re very lucky to be here,” Knauss said.
Andy Saari’s plan to build an Express Lube in Solon Springs won the 2010 Business Plan Competition. The business would serve a rapidly growing need in Douglas County, announcer Pat Kelly noted, and could be profitable in its first year with the right mix of quality service and effective marketing.
In addition, two Superior businessmen were inducted into the Business Hall of Fame. Lyman T. Powell, who left a legal legacy that spanned more than 100 years, was entered into the Historical Business Hall of Fame. He founded the law firm Powell & Downer in 1892, serving as a partner until his death in 1941. Today, that firm is known as Knudson, Torvinen, Jones & Kirk.
Henri W. Kari, founder of Kari Toyota, was also named to the hall of fame. Starting as a bicycle repairman, he built one of Superior’s finest auto dealerships, Kelly noted.
Kari’s start in business began with repairing bikes with his father and brother in the family garage, pumping gas and repairing automobiles on the side. They opened their first garage in 1933. A chance meeting with Henry Ford in 1937 gave Kari the idea to open a car dealership. Two years later, the family opened their first Studebaker dealership. In the 1960s, Kari took on the Toyota car line. By 1987, increasing sales led them to move to a larger showroom. Although Kari passed away in 2001, the company he helped build still adheres to his philosophy: “If you give the customer a fair deal and take care of them after the sale, they will come back to do business with you again.”