When I was younger, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. All I kept hearing was if you go to college and get a degree, any degree, anyone will hire you. I, of course, believed every word of that story. I loved sports, loved to watch sports, loved to play sports, and loved every part of the competition and the camaraderie that went along with playing the game. How cool would life be if I had a health science degree and was able to be around athletes for the rest of my life? My friends were all going to school to “be something” a social worker, a doctor, a financial advisor, this was a great idea for my “something”.
I paid for college by working the night shift at Seneca Foods and went to school during the day. It was hard and my parent’s situation disqualified me for school loans or grants. I was almost done with school and realized the myth. Getting a job just because you went to college wasn’t exactly how it worked. There had to be a position open and I had to be the most qualified candidate that applied. It was soon clear my health science degree would not cut it in the real world. So I started taking business classes. I still had no idea what industry was right for me, but that degree taught me how to think, how to plan, and how to make sound financial decisions.
By this time I was working the night shift driving a spotter truck at a distribution plant to pay for school. I had no extra money and literally lived on Ramon noodle soup some weeks. While moving trailers in and out of dock doors, I started to see the needs of carriers, companies, and drivers. They were always talking about their need for equipment and storage, always looking for creative ways to remedy the same old problem. So, in 2006, I took a chance and dove in head first. I purchased four reefer trailers (once the bank finally agreed to give me the loan). I repaired the trailers and offered them to customers as an onsite storage option. Soon thereafter, they needed more trailers and I ended up renting from another company just to meet the need. Every cent of profit went back into this new trailer rental endeavor. I soon found I was not able to continue my job of moving trailers and continue with the new rental trailers, so I ended up just focusing on my new company, Bartels Trailer Rental and Storage Company (BTRS).
Two years into the trailer rental business, I watched a warehouse in my hometown close. The building was in foreclosure. I knew nothing about the warehousing business, had no customers or contracts. Yet, I saw this as an additional opportunity to possibly resolve the storage needs of my current customers. So in 2008, I went to the bank again to fund the purchase of 100,000 square feet of storage space. It was a deteriorated building in need of significant repairs. I chose to make it refrigerated storage and soon had my first customer, my second, and then my third. I was now the owner of Minnesota Reload and Freight Warehousing.
All of a sudden I was driving a forklift, I had storage contracts, organic certifications, inventory management, trailers to maintain, and invoicing all demanding my time. I solicited a few friends to help me with some of the warehouse work. I was single, working fourteen to twenty hour days, and had no idea what I would be doing from one day to the next. My head was spinning and I had no time for extracurricular activities. My friends, now employees at the warehouse, invited me over to their home from time to time for barbecues or bonfires. I rarely went, but sometimes it was nice to just get away. In 2010, I attended a birthday party at their house and met Amy. She was kind and something about her intrigued me. Over the next year, she and I ran into each other at a few more events and finally decided to see a hockey game together in December of 2011. She turned out to be the best decision of my life. Soon thereafter, she started to help me and was the first person who truly cared about this small business and its constant demands like I did.
Meanwhile, a truck wash and repair shop was built in Gaylord where a diesel fuel island and a state certified scale were currently operating. In November of 2013, I took the shell In construction opened a new business, Minnesota 19 Truck Wash & Repair, and in January of 2014, I purchased the existing business named Highway 19 Scale and Fuel Company. Again, no contracts, and no customers, so we had to build this from the ground up. At this point, I am the owner of four small businesses that all revolve around the trucking industry.
It may sound glorious, fun, or maybe like the “easy life” to be in my position. It may look good at my class reunion to say “I have this” or “I did that”. But I can honestly tell you these businesses would have failed if it were not for our very dedicated and hard working staff. Our people care about what they do and they care about the drivers they serve. Being open 24 hours a day, even on holidays, is a whole new world with new demands. We joked about putting up cots in the back room because we literally lived there for the first years. Our customers have grown to trust us and our employees are like our family. We consider ourselves truly blessed to have such an amazing group of people around us every day.
Of course, it does not end there. Our customers were bringing trailer door repairs, exterior panel repairs, and DOT repairs to our location with a significant transportation expense. In 2018 we purchased our first mobile mechanic truck, and in 2019, our second. We currently have 7 mobile mechanics operating off site daily. We drive to the customer’s lot to complete DOT inspections and any additional mechanical repairs needed. We are now operating service trucks up to 100 miles away from our shop, and we are fortunate to say the need keeps growing.
46057 State Highway 19
Gaylord MN , 55334