‘It’ll always work out’: Patzer Woodworking celebrates 40 years in business, weathering 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 many challenges that tested his will to succeed as a local business owner. But every time a major obstacle comes his way, Patzer always finds a way to overcome them.

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

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

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

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

Adam Turey / Mitchell Republic

As Patzer put it, starting 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 provide the loan he needed to get started in the early 1980s.

“There were some friends of mine who said they would give me two years until I stopped working. They knew it was hard to run a woodworking business, but here I am, 40 years later, still humming along,” Patzer said. “I got a bank in Mitchell to give me a loan and I thought they really believed me a lot. I’m certainly glad they did because it worked.”

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

“I’m blessed to have a wife who has been there for 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 clients 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 Neppl, join the team is “one of the proudest moments” for the business founder. Ryan and Naples’ decision to work for the company has turned 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 come back and make us a second generation family business,” Tom said.

Together, the brother-sister duo oversees commercial projects, design work and client relations. The addition of Ryan and Neppl has led to success as the business expands its presence into neighboring states such as Iowa, Wyoming and Minnesota.

Although Patzer lost its first building to a fire and 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, according to the family, the most -the toughest challenge business has ever faced.

The Patzer family still remembers the natural disaster vividly. An annual work party was supposed to be held at the Patzer Woodworking 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 Mitchell’s custom cabinet business. (Sam Fosnes / Republic)

Instead of walking into the showroom with plates of appetizers and treats waiting for employees to celebrate another year on the job, the Patzers couldn’t even gain access to their building because the entire area was flooded with over a foot of standing water from the early morning rain. which brought 8 to 10 inches of rain.

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


A car makes its way through the sitting water of East Havens in Mitchell on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, after storms hit the region the night before.

Republic file photo

Unlike a building fire, insurance covers almost no flood damage. This forced the family business to pay much of the damage repair and equipment replacement out of pocket.

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 percent close within a year, according to FEMA data.

Patzer’s family business has bucked the trend as they enter their third year of operation following the 2019 flood.

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

The flood left one of the most important pieces of equipment that is the heart of Patzer Woodworking’s production severely damaged. For three days after the flood, the wood-cutting machine was not working, resulting in a complete stoppage of production.

Despite the technicians’ calculations that the woodcutter would have a 40% survival rate after being brought back to life, the production team was able to repair the machine when it failed until a new woodcutter arrived several months later. With broken equipment and a dilapidated facility, the team of wood craft makers moved products from the door to the customers and back.

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

“Every one of our employees touches the work. It really takes a team effort to make a business like this successful for so long,” she said. “We couldn’t meet the challenges without them.”

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

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

“That’s what he always says when we’re worried about anything,” Ryan said of his father. – And there is.

Leave a Comment