ďIíve known Mike for 30 years. We worked together in Minnetonka,Ē Peteler said. The men have talked about the sale/purchase of the Paynesville Culligan business off and on for two years. Watkins has worked with Culligan since 1977. Besides the Paynesville and Litchfield dealership, they also own the Culligan dealership in Princeton.
ďI enjoy working with Culligan. I like the business and the rural atmosphere of the Paynesville area,Ē Watkins said. Watkins plans on spending a lot of time in Paynesville, getting a working knowledge and learning the day-to-day operation of the local business.
Watkins is busy having the Paynesville office equipped with a new computer system so all three of their operations can be linked together. ďThe new system will offer the consumer quicker reference on their accounts,Ē he said. ďThe operation has some good employees who have been with Grace and Dwight for many years,Ē Watkins said. ďI feel it will be a fun environment in which to work.Ē
Continuing to work at Culligan are Jay Peteler, 25-year employee; Ron Schlangen, 23-year employee; Dennis Schlangen, 21-year employee, Joe Cook, 13-year employee, and Kathy Rooney, a four-year employee.
Peteler started in the Culligan business in 1949, working in Minnetonka. Through a district representative, he heard about the Paynesville Culligan being up for sale in 1964. He purchased one-third of the business with Cliff Heitke and Don Sonstegard. At that time, Culligan was located where the laundromat is today. At one time, Culligan also was located in the Farmers and Merchants State Bank building.
In 1966, Heitke and Sonstegard sold their shares to Al and Gertrude Leibermann. They operated the business until 1971 when Al died of cancer. Gertrude kept her interest in the business but Dwight moved to Paynesville from Minnetonka to manage the business. He stayed with Mrs. Leibermann weekdays and spent weekends with his family. His family moved to Paynesville in 1972. In 1973, Peteler purchased the remaining shares in Culligan from Leibermann and Grace joined Dwight in the business as bookkeeper/receptionist.In 1975, the present site was purchased from Don Revier and Peteler tore down the existing building, erecting a new office. In 1976, he added on a storage and regeneration plant to the facility.
ďThe service area hasnít changed that much from 1964, but the number of customers has more than doubled,Ē Peteler said.
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