‘It will always work out’: Patzer Woodworking celebrates 40 years of business, overcoming floods, fires – Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL – Tom Patzer has seen it for the past two decades in his woodworking business.

From a catastrophic flood that destroyed his equipment and damaged his facility, to a fire and a pandemic, Patzer has faced plenty of challenges that have tested his will to succeed as a local business owner. But every time a major obstacle is thrown 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 the milestone of 40 years in business this year. Thursday was a time to celebrate that milestone at Patzer’s newly minted facility which was submerged in more than a foot of water just three years ago.

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

Reflecting back on how far Patzer Woodworking has come since it was founded in 1981 as a small garage as an office and production facility, a big smile grows across Patzer’s face.


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

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

As Patzer put it, starting the woodworking business venture was a “leap of faith.” .

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

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What started out as a one-man woodworking business inside a 650-square-foot garage is now a company supported by more than 20 employees that produces custom cabinetry and counter tops out of a 32,000-square-foot facility in downtown 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 skilled cabinetry and countertop craftsman, Patzer began accepting large commercial jobs. Acquiring Avera Health and Puetz Construction as customers was more of a milestone for Patzer.

When the business became successful, Patzer has plenty of memories, but his son, Ryan Patzer, and daughter, Amanda Neppl, joining the team and “one of the proudest times” for the founder of the business . With Ryan and Neppl’s decision to work for the company, Patzer Woodworking turned into a family business that now spans generations, something Tom dreamed of from the beginning of his journey.

“I always assumed that Ryan would come back here, but I never thought that Amanda would. It was such a blessing to have both of them come back and make it a second generation family business for us,” said Tom.

Together, the brother-sister duo handle commercial project supervision, design work and client relations. The addition of Ryan and Neppl proved successful, as the business is expanding its footprint into neighboring states such as Iowa, Wyoming and Minnesota.

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Although Patzer lost his first building to a fire and dealt with a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic in the past two years, it was the 2019 flood that left the business in limbo and a foot of water out of the question, according to the family. , the most difficult. the business has always faced a challenge.

The Patzer family remembers the natural disaster vividly. The Patzer Woodworking showroom was to have its annual work party on September 12 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 Mitchell’s custom cabinetry business headquarters. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Rather than walking into the showroom with plates and treats waiting for the employees to celebrate another year of business, the Patzers couldn’t even access their building because the entire area was under water for over steady water score from start to finish. the morning downpour brought 8 to 10 inches of rain.

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


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

Republic file photo

Unlike the structure fire, insurance did not cover much of the flood damage. It forced the family business to pay for many 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 significant damage. Of the businesses that reopen after a natural disaster, 25% close within a year, FEMA data says.

Patzer’s family business has bucked the trend, now in its third year of operation since the 2019 floods.

“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 was the heartbeat of Patzer Woodworking’s production severely damaged. For three days after the flood, the wood-cutting machine was out of order, ending production.

Despite the technicians’ estimates of a 40% survival rate for the woodcutter again, the production team managed to repair the machine when it broke down until a new woodcutter arrived several months later. With damaged equipment and a destroyed facility, the crew of woodworkers was moving products out the door to customers and back.

Neppl praised the dedicated team’s ability to improvise and meet the challenges after flooding as key to helping Patzer Woodworking emerge from the wreckage.

“Every one of our employees is involved in the job. It really takes a team effort to ensure that a business like this can be successful for so long,” she said. “We could not have made it through the challenges without them.”

As members of the public and business leaders gathered at 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.

Throughout the many challenges Patzer Woodworking faced over the years, Tom always inspired faith to overcome the obstacles with a word his family heard many times: “It will always work out.”

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


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