Category: Success Stories
COVID-19 brought many challenges to people and businesses alike during the past few months. While some stores have been forced to permanently close their doors, many are able to survive, and even thrive, in the face of this adversity. A&W Furniture is one store that remains stronger than ever.
A&W Furniture and Laney Lu’s Boutique
A&W Furniture of Redwood Falls is a family owned and operated 2nd generation store that is continually evolving to meet the ever changing furniture needs of the community. The store was opened over 30 years ago by husband and wife team, Bob Wetmore and Mary Ahrens-Wetmore. It is now owned and operated by their daughter Emily Davis and son-in-law Mike.
A&W Furniture started as a one room showroom and grew into a 100,000 square foot retail space that serves the five state area with a variety of furniture options, professional design consultations and a newly added women’s fashion boutique, Laney Lu’s Boutique.
Despite recent COVID-19 challenges, business is strong. Owner Emily Davis and her team were able to carefully execute changes to better serve the community during the pandemic.
Initially the store was mandated to close in March along with many other retailers, but Davis quickly found other ways to serve her customers.
“A&W Furniture recently invested time and dollars into both the furniture store’s website and the boutique’s website making online transactions more feasible,” she says.
The store was able to carry on with business online until they were permitted to resume face-to-face operations. In addition to performing online sales, A&W Furniture and Laney Lu’s Boutique were able to open for customers by appointment.
“Because A&W Furniture is 100,000 square feet, social distancing was possible from the start and a small staff operated by appointment only until the go ahead was given to resume a more normal form of business operations,” explains Davis.
Community Support During COVID-19
In the midst of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, Redwood Area Development Corporation has provided assistance to member businesses such as A&W Furniture in the form of supplying them with information on COVID related issues and on any type of loans or grants that could benefit the store while normal business was prohibited.
The entire community has joined together to support one another during the COVID-19 hardships.
“Our community, customers and fellow business owners have done their best to provide support and share via social media any promotions that would generate revenue for one another,” says Davis.
Thanks to the tremendous local support, A&W Furniture and Laney Lu’s Boutique have been able to invest in the store’s operations despite the diminished retail presence during the pandemic.
“We continue to market to draw people from the neighboring communities to discover what our store and Redwood Falls is all about,” says Davis. “We believe that we need to spend money in order to earn money, and we have done this by enhancing our storefront, by marketing within a 90 mile radius and by continuing to push ahead despite challenging economic times,” she continues.
Until all operations return to normal for businesses in the area, A&W Furniture plans to continue perfecting the online store.
COVID-19 has brought uncertainty to all business owners, and retail sales have become increasingly difficult for most businesses, especially in small towns. A&W Furniture, Laney Lu’s Boutique and other businesses in the community are working hard to keep their doors open.
“Our motto has always been, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ We continue to operate with that mentality,” says Davis.
Davis considers it a privilege and an honor when she hears that someone has driven from miles away just to visit her store. Supporting local businesses is vital, especially during challenging times, and it does not go unnoticed.
Category: Success Stories
The Lower Sioux Indian Community has seen stellar improvements in tribal health in recent years with the addition of a health care center that offers a large scope of medical services. The Lower Sioux, part of the Mdewakanton Band of Dakota, is a federally-recognized tribe located in Redwood County. In seeking to maintain whole health, safety, and happiness for the community while also staying true to traditional values of the Dakota, the idea for the Lower Sioux Health Care Center was born. The center serves the tribe’s population of nearly 1,000 people.
A Simple Idea Becomes All-Inclusive Care
Darin Prescott, Clinic CEO, explains how the idea became a reality.
“Though it was discussed over the past 20 years by different tribal councils, the idea did not come to fruition until 2013 when a grant was finally written,” he says. “We decided to pursue a large health center, not just a medical clinic.”
What was originally discussed as a simple medical clinic became a thriving, one-stop comprehensive health center that served its first medical patient in 2016. The departments the health care center offers include Medical, Pharmacy, Optical, Dental, Behavioral, Community Health, Nutrition and Social Services. Out of 11 tribes in Minnesota, the Lower Sioux Indian Community is the 10th tribe able to offer extensive medical services.
Improvements in Cultural Competency and Tribal Health Take Place
“The Lower Sioux Health Care Center answers the vital need for improved cultural competency,” Prescott explains.
Through the health care center, more medical data concerning the most prominent health needs of the tribe and community is gained. With this new data, more accessible treatments are made available to improve the overall health and wellness of the area. The Community Health Department, also located in the building, is devoted to the public health side of things, focusing on the prevention of chronic disease and how to counter current prominent illnesses.
“Community Health Surveys are at an all time high of an 80 percent response rate from community members,” adds Stacy Hammer, Director of Community Health.
Because all of the healthcare providers are located in one building, real-time conversations concerning diabetes management and other significant medical problems take place more often, keeping these topics and the development of solutions to them a priority. There are more opportunities than ever before to talk to patients about their state of health and find ways to improve it. Trust in medical providers has grown, and patients are able to visit a provider quickly without waiting months for treatment.
In addition to the expansive services located inside the building, an indigenous garden has been put into place outside. Elders will be able to walk the paths and harvest the plants, and members of the community can be educated on some of the original plants used as medicine. One of the main goals of the health care center is to join the national effort and decrease opioid dependence by training the community in Mind Body Medicine. Learning the traditions of the Dakota is one step toward achieving this goal.
“Signs of a decrease in prescribed medication and individual tapering of doses has already been seen,” reports Prescott.
The health care center even sponsors four different walk/runs at the Powwow grounds every year to encourage community movement and hosts events promoting healthy foods.
More Local Jobs Become a Reality
Not only has the health care center been an important solution to the medical needs of the people, it also fills an employment void. 50 percent of the Lower Sioux Health Care Center employees are tribal members, from entry level up to professional.
“Now many of the tribe’s youth are able to go off to college, knowing they can return and find jobs in the healthcare field right here in the community,” adds Hammer proudly.
To learn more about The Lower Sioux Health Care Center and what they are doing for our community, visit http://lowersiouxhhs.org/. The health care center is located on the northeast corner of County Hwy 2 and 24, just east of Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel.
Category: Success Stories
Redwood County’s Minnwest Bank is one of Minnesota's largest banks. Despite its widespread growth, it keeps its small-town spirit and willingness to listen to and support patrons. The family-owned bank has grown to 33 locations and more than $1.9 billion in assets. It is now considered the second largest Ag lender in Minnesota. Minnwest knows that the support of the local community is the reason it thrives, and it aims to give back.
Minnwest Bank Builds Relationships and Gives Back to the Community
Building relationships has always been a key component of Minnwest Bank’s business platform. They strive to build long term commitments to customers in order to better support the dreams and goals of the local farm and business community.
Sherri Schueller, Sr. Commercial Banker of Minnwest Bank and Treasurer of Redwood Area Development Corporation, spoke to us about the positive impact Minnwest Bank has had on the community.
“Minnwest Bank’s support of the community comes in a variety of forms, including volunteer work hours, philanthropic giving, corporate programs and educational events with a focus on the underserved and underprivileged, including contributing to child welfare and child education,” says Schueller.
She continues, “In 2018 alone, $313,077 was contributed in corporate giving, 738 volunteer hours were performed under our employee program and 150 organizations were served.”
Minnwest Bank Grew From a Desire to Help the Community Thrive
Minnwest Bank was established in 1987 by M. D. “Pete” McVay. It was founded during the Farm Crisis, a period of economic decline in Minnesota that bankrupted many farms from 1979-1987. As the McVay family recognized how important a community bank is for a region to thrive, they developed a better, more community-oriented bank. The family-owned business is still lead by a family member, Todd McVay, Chairman and CEO. The current Bank President is Doug Karsky who is based out of Redwood Falls.
In addition to making “giving back” to the community a priority, the Minnwest Bank, headquartered in our own Redwood Falls, employs 390 people. It is a vital employer for the region.
While Minnwest Bank is always looking for more ways to support the community monetarily and through volunteer programs, the company also strives to make loans more accessible.
“Minnwest Bank responds to community requests with flexibility, creativity, and a commitment to serve their needs, and by extension, to serve our communities,” Schueller remarks.
She continues, “The bank is a family-owned business operation that’s big enough to get large deals done and small enough to truly listen to and work with customers to help them achieve their individual goals.”
Minnwest Bank is one of the many businesses in Redwood County working to improve the community by building lasting relationships. To learn more about the bank, visit www.minnwestbank.com or find it in our business directory.
Category: Success Stories
Schult Homes has been a long standing member of the Redwood community and the Redwood Area Development Corporation. The company opened its doors in the area in 1974, and has been building beautiful homes with superior workmanship in the region since. Scott Thomas, Facility General Manager of Schult Homes, explains how being located in Redwood Falls has positively impacted the business and the area.
Who is Schult Homes?
Schult Homes, an extension of the Clayton Homes family of brands headquartered in Maryville, Tennessee, manufactures HUD and MOD code homes. Clayton Homes is a Berkshire Hathaway company and one of the Nation's leading housing providers. Schult sells its homes through independent retailers located in nine surrounding states.
Schult Homes parent company, Clayton Homes, was awarded Builder of the Year in 2019 as well as Manufacturer of the Year in 2019 for the third year in a row. These awards speak to the high level of quality homeowners are receiving when they choose a Schult Home.
A Major Redwood Falls Employer
The Schult Homes Redwood Falls branch employs more than 200 locals.
Schult Homes team members are all from the Redwood County area, and the business strives to purchase as many construction materials as possible from local sources in order to give back to the local economy.
“We have great partnerships with local companies like Service Enterprises, Inc., through which we hire employees from the area directly,” says Thomas regarding business connections in the area.
The company is currently hiring as many local Team Members as possible to meet an increasing demand for manufactured homes in the region. These homes are also distributed throughout the midwest.
“The members of our team are the most important aspect of our business. Family, safety and personal growth through long term careers are the key components of working with Schult Homes,” Thomas emphasizes.
Schult Homes Gives Back to the Community
A positive customer experience is also a pillar of the business. Schult Homes strives to use only superior products, processes and workmanship to build high quality homes that will last a lifetime. The quality of these homes helps to increase home value in the area as well. In addition to first rate homes and purchasing materials from local distributors, the company gives back to the community through involvement.
“We contribute to the local communities in many ways including through monetary contributions. Hosting Schult Homes functions for our Team Members utilizing local organizations is another way we give back,” says Thomas.
Schult Homes even has an internal committee coined “Pride Team” whose sole purpose is to evaluate requests for donations from the community. Schult Team Members work together to determine the appropriate amount to donate. The funding for this system comes from personal contributions from the Team Member paychecks every week. Clayton Homes matches these personal donations to increase the total donation.
“In 2019 alone, our Pride Team gave over $15,000 to local causes,” says Thomas proudly.
To learn more about Schult Homes and how they are positively impacting the Redwood community, click here.
Category: Success Stories
The Redwood Area Communities Foundation (RACF) is a core community developer. The support offered to the community by RACF is unrivaled in impact. Don Yrjo, Chairman of RACF, gave insight as to what makes the foundation special and vital to the Redwood area.
The Redwood Area Communities Foundation Defined
The Redwood Area Communities Foundation is an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit entity organized for the welfare and benefit of Redwood County residents and organizations. The RACF’s focus is on those who live or have their principal place of business in Redwood County or within a 10 mile radius. The RACF was established in 1988.
The Redwood Area Communities Foundation Impact
Redwood Area Communities Foundation works hand in hand with the Redwood Area Development Corporation to improve the quality of life for local communities and their residents, to benefit public school districts and any charitable organizations operating in Redwood County and to provide scholarships and loans to students living here.
“Looking at all of the diverse groups served in itself is a success story. The groups benefited by RACF include different spectrums across the board, from youth to senior citizens and the healthy to those in need,” says Don Yrjo, Chairman of RACF.
The RACF supports civic, charitable, benevolent, educational and cultural purposes in Redwood County. The foundation has more than 30 subsidiaries and over three million dollars in assets that are managed for these groups. The foundation’s current designated accounts are listed as follows and continue to expand.
- Apple Gourd Project
- Celebrate Redwood Falls
- Country Sno Riders
- Dominick Bruns Memorial Fund
- Ehlers Student Loan Fund
- Erik’s Memorial Fund
- Ernie Werner Ag Scholarship
- Friends of the County Fair
- Friends of the Park
- Giving Back – Redwood Lions & Rotarians
- GRASP – Greater Redwood Area Suicide Prevention
- Hinterland Art Crawl
- Leave a Legacy-SW MN
- LINC Redwood County
- Minnesota Indigenous Women Society
- Minnesota Valley ATV Riders
- Orrin Estebo Foundation
- Friends of Parkview Senior Living - Belview, MN
- Redwood Area Community Youth Foundation
- Redwood Area Hospital Foundation
- Redwood Area Junior Golf Association
- Redwood Chamber Community Partners
- Redwood County Purple Ribbon Club
- Redwood Electric Trust
- Redwood County Warrior Foundation
- Redwood Valley Baseball Association
- Redwood Westside Center
- Share the Spirit
- Technology and Trades on the Prairie
- Wanda Cemetery
A cornerstone program of RACF is the Ehlers Student Loan Fund.The cost of a college education continues to rise, and, for some, those costs can hinder their goal of earning a degree. Those who do pursue post-secondary education quickly discover the costs associated with furthering their education result in taking out loans at a high rate of interest. In an effort to help address those financial realities a program was established in Redwood Falls by a benefactor named Martin Ehlers. The program provides interest-free funds for students living in Redwood County or attending school in Redwood County. Next deadline is May 4, 2020.
These groups are able to receive grants and tax deductible gifts from individuals due to the 501(c)(3) status of RACF. They can receive these grants and tax deductions as both short term subsidiaries and long term subsidiaries. The financial help received by the 501(c)(3) status allows these accounts to put more of their finances into their missions for the community.
The Redwood Area Communities Foundation Future Growth
The RACF plans to continue providing scholarships for youth to adults, encouraging the expansion of community youth activities as well as mental and physical health activities, progressing technology in the area, assisting civic organizations, helping veterans, benefiting the arts and providing leadership. Countless opportunities exist for growth in Redwood County.
“The RACF has been serving many diverse needs for more than 30 years in our communities,” explains Yrjo. “I believe it will continue to grow and serve the needs of many more groups as time and needs change in the future,” he finishes.
To learn more about establishing a subsidiary of Redwood Area Communities Foundation, contact Redwood Area Development Corporation at 507-637-4004.
Category: Success Stories
For years, we’ve heard about “brain drain,” the phenomenon where young folks leave rural towns to attend college and pursue better opportunities in cities. But research into Minnesota’s shifting rural demographics now shows a positive reverse trend of “brain gain” — where young adults migrate back to their hometowns with families in tow and expertise to offer.
Tony Madsen of NewLeaf Financial Guidance is a local case in point. He grew up in Redwood Falls and left to attend college at Augustana University in Sioux Falls. Madsen worked for a number of years in the Twin Cities metro area for a large broker-dealer. Then he became a certified financial planner and worked as a financial advisor at a corporate firm.
Working in a corporate environment helped Madsen gain important experience and knowledge. “It was never about climbing the ladder to make money. It was about learning to be a better advisor to clients,” he explains.
Eventually, Madsen decided to start his own advisory practice. He and his wife, who also grew up in the area, chose to move back to Redwood Falls several years ago to raise their children and be closer to family.
“It was a values-driven choice not an economic-driven choice,” he says. “I can do what I do anywhere. I’m not bound by city limits.”
Although NewLeaf Financial Guidance is based in Redwood Falls, Madsen serves clients around the country. NewLeaf is a fee-only, fiduciary, financial planning firm. As a fiduciary, he pledges to work solely in the client’s best interest. Under the fee-only model, Madsen does not accept commissions or marketing money from product companies, lessening the chance for conflict of interest.
“Transparency is important to me,” he explains. “I never liked the idea of my clients walking to the elevator bay and wondering why I was making a particular recommendation — if it was truly in their best interest.”
NewLeaf also differentiates itself because it seeks to reach a population that’s underserved by the financial industry: people under the age of 50. Madsen wants to help younger clients not just with investments but with developing good financial habits.
He likes to form relationships with his clients. “I’d rather have 100 than 1000 clients,” Madsen says. “I want to know about them. I’m choosy about who I work with and why I work with them.”
Madsen is also community-minded. He’s an advocate for small businesses and growing the local economy. He serves on the Redwood Area Development Corporation board of directors in order to play a role in shaping the area’s future.
The long term health of Redwood Falls is very important to me. I didn’t move back here to see the town die,” Madsen says. “I think it’s important to make wise decisions about how we support business and attract new business.”