‘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 a pandemic, Patzer faced numerous challenges that tested his desire to succeed as a local business owner. But every time a big obstacle comes his way, Patzer always finds a way to overcome it.

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

“But we’re still standing stronger than ever,” Patzer said of the past three years of struggling with flood recovery efforts and supply chain struggles caused 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 grows on Patzer’s face.


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

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

As Patzer put it, going into the 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 give him the loan he needed to get started in the early 1980s. .

“There were some of my friends who said they would give me two years until I quit my job. They knew it was hard to run a woodworking business, but here I am, 40 years later, still humming along,” Patzer said. “I found a bank in Mitchell that gave me a loan and I thought they really had a lot of faith in me. I’m glad they did because it worked.”

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What started as a one-man woodworking business inside a 650-square-foot garage is now a company with more than 20 employees making custom cabinetry and countertops in a 32,000-square-foot facility in central Mitchell.

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

After making a name for himself as a talented joinery and worktop craftsman, Patzer began receiving large commercial jobs. Landing Avera Health and Puetz Construction as buyers was a moment for Patzer.

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

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

Together, the brother-sister duo oversee commercial projects, design and client relations. The addition of Ryan and Nepple has led to success as the business expands 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 pandemic for the past two years, the 2019 flood that submerged the business in more than a foot of water was without a doubt, the family says, the most difficult challenge he has faced. company ever faced.

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


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

Instead of walking into the showroom with plates of appetizers and treats waiting for employees to celebrate another year in business, the Patzers couldn’t even access their building because the entire area was flooded with more than a foot of standing water from an early morning downpour that brought 8 to 10 centimeters of rain.

“The water was higher than the windows on the building. We had computers floating. There was even a boat someone had that floated next to the building,” Tom said of the images he remembers from the flood. “We lived through a partial showroom for three years.”


A car makes its way through standing water on East Havens in Mitchell on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, after the previous night’s storms in the region.

Republic file photo

Unlike a building fire, insurance covered almost no flood damage. This forced the family business to pay for much 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 a natural disaster causes extensive damage. Of the businesses that reopen after a natural disaster, 25% close within a year, according to FEMA data.

Family business Patzer has bucked the trend as they are in their third year of business since the 2019 flood.

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

The flood seriously damaged one of the most important pieces of equipment that is the heart of Patzer Woodworking’s production. Three days after the flood, the wood cutting machine was out of order, which stopped production.

Despite technicians’ estimates of a 40% survival rate for the cutter after being brought back to life, the production team was able to repair the machine when it broke down until a new cutter arrived a few months later. With damaged equipment and a destroyed facility, the team of wooden handicrafts producers carried products to customers and returned.

Neppl praised the dedicated team’s ability to improvise and meet post-flood challenges as key to helping Patzer Woodworking emerge from the rubble.

“Every one of our employees touches the business. It really takes teamwork to make a business like this work for this long,” she said. “We wouldn’t have been able to get through the challenges without them.”

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

Through the myriad of 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.”

“He always says that when we’re worried about everything,” Ryan said of his father. “And it is.”


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