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

MITCHELL — Tom Patzer has seen this for the past four decades running his lumber business.

From a devastating flood that destroyed his equipment and destroyed his facilities, to fires and epidemics, Patzer faced many challenges that tested his will to succeed as a local business owner. But every time a major obstacle comes his way, Patzer always finds a way to overcome them.

His ability to rise to the occasion in the face of adversity has helped Patzer Woodworking reach the 40-year business milestone this year. Thursday was Patzer’s time to celebrate that milestone at the new-look facility that was submerged in more than a foot of water just three years ago.

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

Reflecting on how far Patzer Woodworking has come since it was a small garage office and manufacturing facility in 1981, Patzer has a big smile on his face.


Photographs of the former Patzer Woodworking location and business memorabilia are on display Thursday in Mitchell to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

As Patzer puts it, starting a lumber business was a “leap of faith.” Friends doubted he would stay in business for more than a few years, and banks were hesitant to give him the loans he needed to get rolling in the early 1980s. .

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

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What started as a one-person woodworking business in a 650-square-foot garage is now a company supported by more than 20 employees, making custom cabinetry and counter tops in a 32,000-square-foot facility in central Mitchell.

“I’m blessed to have a wife who’s been by my side from the beginning,” he said of his wife, Sherry Patzer.

After making a name for himself as a talented cabinetry and countertop craftsman, Patzer began welcoming larger commercial jobs. Gaining Avera Health and Puetz Construction as customers is a proud moment for Patzer.

Seeing the business succeed has plenty of memories for Patzer, but having his son Ryan Patzer and daughter Amanda Naples join the team stands out as “a proud moment” for the business founder. The decision to work for Ryan and Naples’ company has turned Patzer Woodworking into a family-owned business that now spans generations, something Tom has dreamed of since the beginning of his journey.

“I always assumed Ryan would come back here, but I never thought Amanda would. It’s been a blessing to have them both come back and make it our second generation family business,” Tom said.

Together, the brother-sister duo oversees commercial projects, design work and client relations. The combination of Ryan and Naples has translated into success, as the business expands its footprint into neighboring states such as Iowa, Wyoming and Minnesota.

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Although Patzer lost his first building in a fire and has dealt with a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic in the past two years, the 2019 flood that soaked the business in a foot of water was without question, the family says, the toughest challenge the business has ever faced.

The Patzer family still remembers the natural disaster vividly. Patzer Woodworking’s showroom was supposed to have an annual work party on September 12 of that year, but Mother Nature had other plans.


The Patzer Woodworking showroom was set for an open house on Sept. 12, 2019, the day a foot of water poured into Mitchell Custom Cabinets’ business headquarters. (Sam Fosnes/The Republic)

Instead of employees heading to the showroom hungry and with plates of treats to celebrate another year in business, the Patzers couldn’t even enter their building because the entire area was inundated with more than a foot of standing water from the start. A morning shower brought 8 to 10 inches of rain.

“The water was higher than the windows of the building. Our computers were floating. There was even a boat that someone floated next to the building,” Tom said of the flood photos. “We lived through a partial showroom for three years.”


A vehicle plows through standing water in East Havens, Mitchell on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, after the previous night’s storms in the area.

Republic file photo

Unlike a structure fire, insurance does not cover any flood damage. This forces family-owned businesses to pay out-of-pocket for most damage repairs and equipment replacements.

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According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 40% of small and medium-sized businesses never reopen after suffering major damage in a natural disaster. According to FEMA data, 25% of businesses that reopen after a natural disaster close within a year.

The Patzer family’s business has pushed the trend into their third year of operation since the 2019 flood.

“There were a lot of sleepless nights,” Ryan said of the nights after the flood.

One of the most important pieces of equipment, the heartbeat of Patzer Woodworking’s production, was severely damaged by the flood. For three days after the flood, the wood-cutting machine was not operational, which halted production.

Despite technicians’ estimates of a 40% survival rate of woodcutters once brought back to life, the production team was able to repair the machine when it broke down several months later until the arrival of a new woodcutter. With damaged equipment and a destroyed facility, crews from wood craft manufacturers were moving products out customers’ doors and mounting a comeback.

Neppl Patzer credits the team’s expertise in improving and addressing post-flood challenges as key to helping Woodworking emerge from the rubble.

“Every one of our employees touches the job. It really takes a team effort to make a business like this successful for so long,” he said. “We wouldn’t have made it through the challenge without them.”

As community members and business leaders gathered at the showroom Thursday for the company’s 40th anniversary, there were no signs that the house was submerged in more than a foot of water just three years ago.

Among the handful of challenges Patzer Woodworking faced over the years, Tom always instilled faith in overcoming obstacles with a saying his family often heard: “It will always work out.”

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


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