Boomers: Out of Business

January 07, 2019 10:37 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- Destination Medical Center is changing the landscape of the City of Rochester. But another change is coming to smaller, surrounding communities; retirement. Many business owners in the baby-boomer generation are getting ready to sell. 
Steve Bahl began his career at the Branding Iron Supper Club in Preston back in 1971. 
"When I turned 15, I heard there were bussers up here so I thought maybe I'll apply and see if I can do that," recalls Steve. 
Eighteen years later, in 1989, he bought the business. He and his wife have owned it ever since. 
"We had four kids and they all worked here. That's something I'll always look back on," said Steve. 
With those memories, comes hard work and the time has come for Steve and his wife to move on. 
"We've talked about moving to Rochester and maybe going to Phoenix a couple months out of the year," said Steve. 
However, trying to sell his business has been a bit of a challenge. 
"As we've talked in two years, I've had it up for sale, I've gotten interested people but nobody to commit. So we, just a month ago, we've said we've got to make up our minds and decide," said Steve. 
So later on this month, if no one buys the Branding Iron, Steve plans to close up shop. It's a fate that could be seen by more and more businesses in the coming years. 
"When you look around, there are a lot of very nice, very well-run businesses that are run by people that will retire in the next ten years," said Jacob Petersen, a business broker in the Rochester are. 
According to the University of Minnesota, 60% of current small-business owner in the country were born before 1964. During the next 17 years, a baby boomer business owner will 
"We've gone through it here and there. It comes and goes. Our downtown, we have empty storefronts," said Gabby Kinneberg, the Executive Director of the Preston Area Chamber of Commerce. 
Attracting new business owners to Preston is something the city has been working on. 
"We have an EDA person on hand. As far as a Chamber of Commerce goes, we're always looking at what can we do to help these small businesses," said Kinneberg. 
The fear with some city leaders is that if they don't find someone to take over businesses in these small, rural communities, that the downtowns could start to disappear. 
Over in Oronoco, Jeff Schuppe recently took over a business that had been owned by a baby boomer; Schad Tracy Signs. 
"We have a lot of larger customers. I describe it as a sign company, but we're really the brand," said Jeff. 
The company makes signs for businesses around the country. Jeff said taking over an established business was his goal, but one of the keys to success was the planning by the former business owner. 
"They didn't want a big business to come and scoop it up and  then all the people are gone and it's just a shell of a company any more. They wanted someone to keep everybody and take it to the next level. They interviewed me as much as I interviewed them,"said Jeff. 
Experts say that can make or break a deal. 
"I think the important part with that is that a lot of these older business owners have to look at what are some things you can do to make sure it is easy for someone to come into the business," said Kinneberg. 
"One thing that I've seen with small town sales is that they do take a little longer to find the right person. That's something that people in smaller towns might consider is that even when you do decide you want to sell it, it might take a little longer to sell than you expected," said Petersen. 
Steve is now finishing out his final days as a business owner with the hopes that someone will step up. 
"I don't want to do another year. I want to move on. Life is short," said Steve. 



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