Situated in the Center for Technology, Innovation and Manufacturing’s atrium is a Reading Wheel that underscores the theme of the new building. As much art as it is machinery, the prototype was designed in 1985 by award-winning architect Daniel Libeskind, who in 2003 won the competition to be the master plan architect for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site.
The design was based on a reading wheel built by Agostino Ramelli in 1588. The instrument was designed to allow scholars to peruse several tomes at once, without losing their place.
In 2008, Libeskind commissioned Holland Industries of Huntingburg to bring his design to life for a client and a potential distributor. Using Libeskind’s design, they built the desk from solid maple and then traveled to New York to present it to Libeskind.
Libeskind was immediately impressed with the fine piece and scheduled a meeting with a group interested in distributing the desk. Unfortunately, as these things sometimes go, two days before the meeting was to occur in Baltimore, it was inexplicably canceled.
The meeting never took place and the beautiful piece of art and craftsmanship built by Holland Industries was brought back to the company’s headquarters.
According to Steve Collett, one of the owners of the now closed company, the piece was something Holland Industries was very proud to have manufactured.
The company was started in 1945 by Collett’s father, A.M. Collett, and three employees in a little tack and harness shop in Holland. In 2009 the Holland Industries closed its doors but the desk remained in Collett’s possession until a connection was made with VUJC concerning the university’s newest endeavor, the Center for Technology, Innovation and Manufacturing.
That connection came from Collett’s wife, Sheila, the Department Chair of Business and Technology at the Jasper Campus, who recommended the desk be donated for use in the impressive and beautiful new building. For Steve, the connection made sense and the desk was donated to the new facility.
“Of all the things we ever made,” Collett said, “this was something we were really proud of. This was built by true craftsmen. We had a lot of fun building it. I wish we could have seen what it could have been if it had got to market.”
Jesse Summers, of Lamar, has worked in the meat industry for years. He managed retail meat markets, worked in packing houses and, “made a lot of sausage,” he grins.
Four years ago, Jesse and his wife, Debbie decided to start an online business to sell butchering, sausage-making and meat processing supplies. Much of their high-quality merchandise catered to professional butchers, but some was geared toward the average consumer.
Southern Indiana Butcher Supply took off.
“We ship all over the country,” Jesse grins. “We ship halfway around the world, actually.” They even have some loyal customers in the Philippines.
The business was so successful that it outgrew its space.
The couple began looking at buildings.
When the former Dollar General Store at 131 East 10th Street became available, Jesse decided, “We’d like to be in Ferdinand.”
Much of the space houses the online part of the business. Shelves upon shelves of everything from meat grinders and slicers to band saw blades and knives to aprons and seasonings stand at the ready to be packed for shipment.
The new retail area is located in the front of the store.
Now, Jesse Summers is a member of the Kansas City Barbecue Society and loves to barbecue.
So, he decided to offer equipment, sauces and seasonings for that as well and Southern Indiana Butcher Supply became Southern Indiana Butcher and BBQ Supply.
The result is a virtual “candy store” for the do-it-yourself-er. High quality seasonings, rubs and sauces not widely available are offered, at very reasonable prices. Some are made by competition barbecue chefs.
“We’re always looking out for new and different stuff,” says Summers. “Stuff that’s not available just anywhere.”
Seasoning and directions to make nearly any type of fresh or smoked sausage imaginable is offered, by the case or in single batch units.
The shop is also a venison-lover’s paradise. Everything needed to process deer is available including summer sausage and salami kits — seasonings, cures and casings to make a perfect 25 pounds of deer sausage.
Durable precision forged knives are in stock, all either German or Swiss made and all top-of-the-line.
“We sell a lot of band saw blades, in just about any size. And, not only for meat processing,” Jesse relates. Leather, plastic, corrugated product and wood industries have all ordered replacement band saw blades, he says.
Meat bags to make chubs and vacuum freezer bags are offered at terrific prices.
Absolutely anything necessary for meat processing can be found at Southern Indiana Butcher, Brew and BBQ Supply. He has even added grinder knife and plate sharpening services.
The retail shop, Summers notes, is a work in progress. After having purchased wooden shelving and a huge wooden conference table from the Jasper Library (along with a poster proclaiming “I geek barbecue”), he is hard at work creating attractive displays.
That is, when he isn’t answering the phone. The online business is hopping.
Some fellows stopping in to browse made a suggestion. Why not offer beer and wine-making supplies?
“I thought the correct response was, Sure!” Jesse chuckles.
Jesse took his customers’ requests to heart. After all, what’s a great barbecue without a great beer?
So, Southern Indiana Butcher and BBQ Supply is now Southern Indiana Butcher, Brew and BBQ Supply (SIB3).
Now, Summers never does anything half way. When he said he’d stock beer and wine-making supplies, he found the very best.
From beer kits to wine test kits, SIB3 offers everything needed to make marvelous libations, for both the novice and the professional microbrewer.
Twenty-seven different kits are offered for ale, stout, lager and pilsner, as well as fruit and spice flavorings. Wine kits include unusual varieties such as pomegranate zinfandel, green apple riesling, blackberry cabernet and strawberry merlot.
For the true do-it-yourself-er, whole grains, hops, malt, malt extracts (hopped or unhopped) and yeast are offered, along with high-quality fruit juices and extracts. A selection of reference books is also available, as well as equipment. SIB3 is the local Blichmann Engineering dealer.
Great beer and wine deserve good packaging, so Summers also stocks bottles, caps, corks and glassware.
Check out Southern Indiana Butcher, Brew and BBQ Supply. Hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.on Saturdays. Visit www.butchersupply.net.
“This is my source of entertainment,” Braun says as he walks through the woodland that surrounds his residence.
Like a third grader trapped in school on a warm spring day being released onto the playground, Braun’s personality change is invigorating. He becomes almost giddy as talks about working in the dirt, planting new trees and finding natural treasures throughout his land. “A woodland is just full of things to do,” Braun laughs.
Under Braun Family Properties, he has acquired and maintains acres of forestland throughout Martin, Orange, Perry, Crawford and Dubois counties. He’s been purchasing this land for his forestry passion since 1987. “My rule is the land has to be within a 60 mile radius,” Braun explained. “I started with the 100 acres I bought back in ’87 (where he currently lives); that has now expanded to a couple 1000 [acres].”
The land is an investment for Braun. “If you take a woodlot and manage it by species and by spacing, it is three times the return you can get on a stock market portfolio with a whole lot less frustration.”
He acknowledges the return on his investment in trees and forestry is years and years down the road. He stands by the fact that the payout is experienced through the satisfaction of seeing its growth and development as well as the hard work that is involved.
One experience is the family tree planting ritual that occurs each spring. Mike and his sons plant hundreds of trees on the family’s property near Jasper. Conversation is easy going as they move around; Mike picks the site for each tree and meticulously trims back branches from surrounding trees. Jeff and Jason then dig, plant and tamp the saplings, finishing the process with a ribbon to mark the new addition.
Mike returned to build his business and now Jason has returned to continue in the family business and raise his own family. The youngest son, Jeff, lives in Chicago and travels a lot for his job (he manages new growth for the company) but even he plans on returning to Dubois County to raise his family.
Over Easter weekend this year, Jason and Jeff were joined by Jason’s young son as they planted the trees. The three generations moved among the trees — planting, exploring and laughing. Two of those generations know the importance of home and the newest generation will grow to know it as well.
You’ll never catch Mike Braun checking his cell phone at a tedious business meeting. The CEO of Meyer Distributing doesn’t even own one of the attention diverting devices.
It’s hard enough imagining a CEO in today’s world who isn’t connected to his company 24/7. Much less the CEO of a company that has averaged 18 percent yearly growth since 1981 and is currently in the midst of a multimillion dollar expansion.
“Up until about seven or eight years ago, I took all the calls including the 3 in the morning calls when a truck would break down,” he explains. “When I got my executive team put together, that’s the first thing I delegated.”
His aversion to cell phones and the spectacular growth of his company aside, Braun still takes time to speak with customers he has known since he started working with the original Meyer company, Meyer Body, Inc., in 1981.
Braun’s two passions are business and forestry management, but the difference in his demeanor belies the fact that, although he loves business, his heart these days truly belongs in the acres of land he has acquired over the years.
Hard to believe from the massive expansion his company is currently experiencing. A $23.32 million construction project is on schedule at company headquarters on Cathy Lane and East 25th Street in Jasper. When it is finished Meyer Distributing will have added 266,039 square feet of warehouse space – increasing the overall size to 500,000 sq. ft. – and moved its headquarters across the street to a building purchased from Stens Corporation in 2012. It will also add over 100 jobs to the region.
Since the turn of the year, expansion across the country continues. The company has created four crossdocks — distribution points designed to quickly serve an assigned region — in four states and acquired a California distributor to expand into the west coast market. The California expansion makes the company a nationwide contender in the growing third party logistics business carrying freight from the west coast to the east coast.
It’s a huge expansion for a company started by Leo Meyer in 1937 as a truck bed manufacturer in Haysville.
The company changed hands in the late 40s or early 50s when Marty Renner purchased it from Meyer.
Renner operated the business until 1959, when Braun’s father, Amos, joined Jerry Habig and together they purchased it.
Meanwhile, Braun graduated from Jasper High School in 1972, where he lettered in football, basketball and track. He then attended Wabash College where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Economics in 1976. He married Maureen Burger and was accepted into Harvard Business School that same year.
Attending Harvard solidified a few things for Braun. He knew he didn’t want to live in a big city.
“In deciding what to do at that time, many of my cohorts were either going into investment banking, management consulting or joining a big corporation,” he explained. “I would have been one of the few that moved back to his hometown and I have never regretted that.”
So, after graduating from Harvard with his MBA in 1978, Braun moved back to Jasper and accepted a position with Aristokraft, where he worked for three years. He then transferred to Meyer Body Company in Haysville to work in sales. Unfortunately six months later the economy tanked.
“Interest rates shot to above 20 percent,” Braun recalls. “It eliminated almost 70 percent of our business. I left a good job to take the position there and I thought at the time it may have been the dumbest thing I ever did.”
Fortunately the company survived through diversification. Two companies were created by expanding into used truck sales and auto parts distribution. These new concerns supported the original company through the first few years of the economic downturn in the early 80s.
By 1986, Braun and a partner, Daryl Rauscher, had purchased the company. Rauscher continued with the original business along with the used-truck sales under the moniker Tri-State Trailer and Truck.
Braun continued to expand the distribution network from their Haysville headquarters until 1998, when company growth necessitated a move to a warehouse in Jasper.
The structured way the business expands has evolved over the years through the interplay of competition and acquisition of other businesses.
In 2004, Meyer Distributing began to purchase and consolidate several other companies. “Luckily we were finished with that process by the time November 2008 hit.” Braun explains the company came out of the most recent recession even stronger. “By then we were operating very efficiently. When we looked up in early 2009, we were stronger rather than weaker, which was very different than what a lot of other businesses went through.”
The company made it through this trial by fire strong and efficient and has averaged 24 percent growth yearly since 2009.
Braun continues to invest in Jasper. Faced with the decision to expand his warehousing in Dallas — the southwest is a large market for the company — and expanding in Jasper, Braun chose to invest heavily in Jasper.
During the groundbreaking for that expansion Maureen echoed Mike’s sentiments about his continued belief in growing the company in his hometown. “There were so many times we were unsure the direction to go and how well it would do. But we are so happy to be able to offer jobs and to be able to expand. We chose this community from day one and it’s important to us because we wanted to be around family and we love the community. We took risks in that decision and we feel really good with where we have come from. It was not an easy path and there has been a lot of uncertainty and a lot of things that didn’t go well. Now we are at a great point,” she adds.
Owning a rapidly expanding logistics business in Indiana is a great place to be according to Braun. Conexus Indiana, an Indiana think tank concentrating on combining advanced manufacturing and logistics (of which Braun is a member), has reported the logistics industry will grow considerably as freight movement across the U.S. is expected to double by 2035.
Indiana’s geographic location and abundance of major highways compounds the state’s importance to logistics companies. Within a day’s drive of Indiana lies 52 percent of the population of the United States and Canada; within two days is 76 percent. This has Indiana poised at a great crossroads for the expansion of logistics-based companies like Meyer Distributing.
Besides location, Braun feels logistics is something relatively immune to the struggle U.S. manufacturers face against foreign competition. “You can’t outsource logistics,” Braun said. “As the logistics business grows, in my opinion it will be a much bigger driver of commerce in the state than manufacturing.”
Braun and his sons, Jason, who is head of IT, and Jeff, chief of operations, agree that the joy of the business is in the competition and growth they experience daily. Completing the coast-to-coast distribution points in April has them poised to distribute anything. “In ten years we’ll be distributing as much of other items or other markets as our own stuff,” Braun said. “We like to transport big bulky stuff that has a significant freight factor to it because we have our own fleet. In our skill set it doesn’t matter what we distribute, it’s more about the system and the process.”
The future doesn’t worry Braun, he has a few thoughts on expansion and change for companies looking to remain viable. “You need to change before you are forced to change,” he said. “You need to look at opportunities that are out of your wheelhouse before you have to. Because when you have to, you hardly ever have the flexibility and opportunity to do it right.”
And maybe this is a reflection of the work ethic of Dubois County but Braun doesn’t have an exit strategy from his business. “I’m never going to stop working because I enjoy it too much. Every day is fun and a challenge,” he explains. “And through the forestry, I have the perfect escape and its right out my front door.”
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Welcome to dcForward — a collaboration of DC Free Press and the Ferdinand News.
We can’t say it’s “hot off the press” because dcForward is a tablet magazine — a first for the area. In fact, it’s really no more of a magazine than the chair you are sitting on. Oh what you have is full of words and pictures, but in a wholly unique interface.
The partnership is a unique one as well.
The Ferdinand News was founded in 1906 by the Commerce Club, predecessor to the Chamber of Commerce. Within two months the vitriolic editor was fired and the pressman, Henry Haake, bought the publication.
It stayed in the Haake family for the next 84 years — run by Henry’s two sons after his death. In 1990, the Haake brothers sold the traditional community newspaper to another pair of siblings, brother Richard Tretter and sister Miriam Ash and their spouses.
The Tretters bought the Ashes out after they retired in 2009, continuing a 108-year-old tradition of quality, award-winning community journalism.
The DC Free Press was launched two years ago by Matt and Amy Crane.
Seeing a need in the community for an online media venue, Matt, a writer, a Navy veteran, a diver, a kayak guide and an internet entrepreneur, launched the DC Free Press in the spring of 2011 with considerable help from his multi-talented wife.
Fate stepped in and 2011 became an event-filled year of record-setting weather, a gymnasium collapse, and biomass and library debates; all before ever reaching an exciting election season.
Their unique coverage and voice catapulted the Freep to the forefront as a news source for the county.
Two years later, it is hard to find anyone with ties to the county who doesn’t visit the Free Press site frequently.
When Richard and Kathy Tretter and Matt and Amy Crane got together for the first time, something clicked; the four knew they could create something special and unique that would serve the community in creative ways.
Recognizing the impact of Dubois County’s dynamic business and industrial community, we decided the first issue of dcForward would exemplify the work ethic, the ingenuity, and the entrepreneurship of the people of this county.
Essential old-style methodology and cutting edge technology have joined forces and this publication is the result.