CITIZENS OF THE YEAR
"Won't You Be My Neighbor?"
Mister Rogers (Fred) is most famous for using that greeting when inviting television viewers into his neighborhood for many years.
Being a good neighbor is an imperative part of being successful in the business and industry world, claim the father and son duo of Dick and Craig Kruckeberg.
The Kruckebergs whose name is synonymous with Minimizer and Kruckeberg Industries will be honored Thursday night as Blooming Prairie Citizens of the Year for 2017.
The event at the BP Servicemen's Club begins with a social hour at 6 p.m. and dinner following at 7 p.m. It is sponsored by the Blooming Prairie Area Chamber of Commerce.
Craig and his wife Robyn will be in attendance to accept the award. It is unlikely Dick and Lorraine will attend since they are wintering in Arizona. "The doctor shook his head 'no' when we talked about returning to Blooming Prairie for the chamber event," Dick said.
Minimizer was founded by Dick Kruckeberg in 1984. A former truck driver, Dick started Minimizer with the invention of a poly fender. Craig purchased the company from his father in 2008. He is currently the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Visionary of Minimizer.
The company currently manufactures more than 300 styles of fenders and also markets many other truck accessories.
Neighborhoods are what makes communities grow and that's what Blooming Prairie is, says Craig, "one great neighborhood."
The Kruckebergs credit one another with making Minimizer and Kruckeberg Industries a vital part of the Blooming Prairie neighborhood.
"Dick was a serial entrepreneur," Craig says with honesty. He traces his father's involvement with a service station in Rochester, his dedication to a snowmobile/camper dealership, his years as a truck driver and his time managing a restaurant with wife Lorraine.
"Minimizer is Dick's; I'm just a place holder. Minimizer is his baby and we just dressed it better."
Both Kruckebergs are proud of their family businesses. Craig says all his kids are entrepreneurs.
Even though they both pass credit to one another, both are also in agreement that Minimizer and Kruckeberg Industries employees are the "real" reason both entities continue to grow.
"We had a good product from day one and have been totally customer orientated," Dick believes. "There are times when there might have been something wrong with our products but we always made changes to make our end result better," he added.
Dick and Lorraine both grew up in the Blooming Prairie area. They tip their hats to the people of their neighborhood who continue to support one another and make the neighborhood grow.
Dick points to the 4th of July celebration as being a hallmark of the community. He also said the Blooming Prairie Cancer Group, the BP Education Foundation and the BP Youth Club have been successful because of people coming together.
"There are lots of people who have helped us and I would like to mention and thank them," Dick points out, "but I don't want to miss anyone.”
Dick emphasizes, "It's all about how you treat people and I think you should treat people like you want to be treated. The town itself is great and we need to keep it going. If it falters for a short time, someone steps up and here we go again."
Both Kruckebergs exude humility when speaking of the chamber recognition.
"There are a lot more deserving people in this community," Craig said. "I just go to work every day," he acknowledges. Both said that their companies would not be where they are today if it were not for their customers and employees.
The ability to work together and get along results in getting along and working together, Dick reasons.
Their career paths
Taking a few steps into history, let's review the careers of Dick Kruckeberg and Craig Kruckeberg.
"It's my hometown," Dick affectionately labels Blooming Prairie. In his younger days, he said few attended college. Dick recalls delivering milk for a dairy for a few years and then working for the Owatonna Public Schools and for Dan Gainey, owner of Jostens.
Dick's work with Jostens was split between Arizona and Owatonna. He then went to Rochester and started a service station, which he ran for about 15 years.
Truck driving came next for Dick and that's what led to creation of Minimizer. The story is well known to many how Dick came up with the poly fender idea. It happened when Dick carefully analyzed how a poly trash can his wife backed over returned to form. The idea of making a poly truck fender thus evolved.
A very unassuming person, Dick said he "had a dream" of building a functional product but never thought it would be "that good."
Pointing to his son Craig's strong marketing of the Minimizer firm and other family ventures, Dick says, "Craig has done a fantastic job."
Craig was born in Rochester and moved to Blooming Prairie with his parents in 1977. He is a 1983 graduate of Blooming Prairie High School.
Not mincing any words, the younger Kruckeberg says he has yet to achieve the level of success he desires for Minimizer and Kruckeberg Industries.
His early working days circled around three jobs at one time to make ends meet, Craig relates. "I'm working harder now than when I was younger holding three jobs," he confesses.
Following high school graduation, Craig attended a nine-month cooking school in Rochester. Cooking was his main forte for some time, working in Rochester at various restaurants, including working for the Marriott, which provided food service for the Mayo Clinic.
Craig's employment history continued with a management job in Faribault. With his oldest daughter Jessie soon to start school, Kruckeberg and his family decided to move back to Blooming Prairie.
The other Kruckeberg children are: LeAnna and twins Tyler and Trevor. The twins are both part of the Kruckeberg family businesses. Four grandchildren are in the fold.
Living in Blooming Prairie again, Craig commuted to his job in Faribault and also worked with Kevin Hart at the BP Dairy Queen in Blooming Prairie. He also helped his father at Minimizer, working at the plant, a converted hog barn, grinding up scrap and boxes and working in shipping.
Craig officially joined Minimizer on March 9, 1990. He admits he was late the first day of his new job. "It's even in my will that I will be late for my own funeral," Craig laughs.
The manufacturing business continued to grow at Minimizer and Craig became president in 2002.
Minimizer is the aftermarket solution for the heavy truck industry, whether a driver, owner/operator, fleet manager or technician. Over the last three decades, Minimizer released custom molded floor mats, slick plates, work benches, tool caddies, the Long Haul Series of heavy duty truck seats and truck mattresses. Steering wheels will soon be added to Minimizer's product lines.
Tested and Tortured has become the brand and standard operating procedure at Minimizer. A lifetime guarantee on Minimizer products is offered.
Minimizer has over 1,000 items on the sku. "You don't have enough paper to mention them all," he jokes.
Often on the road traveling, Craig says he stays linked to his neighborhood through his employees. "Blooming Prairie is ever changing but always the same," Craig says, further explaining that the small town's friendly nature continues.
The future of Minimizer, home for over 100 employees, is endless, Craig believes because of the fact that 3.5 million trucks are currently on the road and in the last three months, 330,000 Class 8 trucks have been manufactured.
Craig said he wears his politics on his sleeve and openly supports President Donald Trump.
"God Bless President Trump: Crack that oil; cut them trees; lay those pipes; build them tanks; haul that coal; fix them bridges and build them roads."
Craig said he lost half of his friends because of his politics. "People read what they want to believe," he said.
Dick and Craig Kruckeberg have been increasingly involved in supporting Blooming Prairie causes. Craig, a Blooming Prairie Youth Club board member with his wife, says the Youth Club is an organization that holds their priority.
In addition to running two huge enterprises, Craig has time to focus on other interests. He is a licensed and bonded auctioneer and says he loves to shop the clearance section at Target Stores. He is also quick to point out that he widely supports other Blooming Prairie based businesses.
Life and business
Craig Kruckeberg is not remiss in being analytical and philosophical about life and business.
"If success comes overnight for someone, they may be going to jail; you have to grind it out.
"Our processes are good and with new products constantly introduced, it's like watching corn grow,” Craig said.
Minimizer may outgrow Blooming Prairie but Kruckeberg Industries will stay because of its family of workers, Craig says.
Craig says the community "needs to understand" that no one will come in and immediately start a company employing 50 or more employees. "Keep harvesting and grow those small companies," he said.
Craig saluted the success of Metal Services, NAPA and Darrick’s Auto to name a few.
Kruckeberg Industries, another entity, has over 60 employees. Its driving parts include KIK Grahics, Steiner, Bandit Big Truck Series, Kruckeberg Motor Sports and Lee's Liquor in Minneapolis.
The bar is located in the warehouse district near Target Field. Kruckeberg said he has rented the bar to a private party for the three days of Super Bowl weekend, Feb. 2-4.
"What we have become is a marketing company, manufacturing being a necessity," Craig says. Minimizer is the No. 1 brand in heavy duty after market accessories for trucks, he reveals. "That's all here in Blooming Prairie," he says proudly.
Minimizer product distribution goes world wide including points as far away as Israel and South America. Canada claims 13 percent of Minimizer's business.
The future for Minimizer and Kruckeberg Industries may be unknown but growth is certain to be a goal for the future. He said Minimizer has been asked to carry fuel additives.
Supporting the neighborhood
Both Craig and Dick strongly believe in paying it forward by supporting their neighborhood/community. They praise the many volunteers who strive to make their community better.
"Find those loyal volunteers and put them to work," Craig challenges. "The most valuable thing is the time of volunteers. You won't get time back. Volunteers are worth a lot more than just writing out a check."
For example, Craig applauds the volunteer work of Cheri Krejci of the Blooming Prairie Cancer Group. "Time is her passion," he says.
As his father says, people must come together. Craig concurs. "We've seen many people come back to Blooming Prairie after swearing they would never come back," he commented.
"I need the world to stop so I can catch up. . ."
Trying to catch up, Craig Kruckeberg is writing a book. What's the theme? It's marketing, of course.
He also started racing trucks last year. "It's wonderful, a time to shut off my brain," he said. The 2018 season begins March 10 in Mobile, Ala.
Nothing is the same in the Kruckebergs' neighborhood. Dick and Craig communicate often but don't always see eye to eye, says Craig. "I've quit 100 times and he fired me 200 times," Craig grins.
A strong legacy has been created and is still being carved by the Kruckeberg family.
Dick spends considerable time at his shop north of town when he is back in BP. Some day, he hopes a museum might be created. Craig agrees and said with the racing history, the bootlegging history and the agricultural background of the Blooming Prairie area, a museum is appropriate.