GRANITE?FALLS?-?Most people might think this was a bad time to be thinking of starting a business, but Zach Chapman not only started one in Granite Falls last month, he said it's already taking off.
Chapman runs Minnesota Valley Small Engine out of a room in a building owned by Minnesota Valley Tree Service, which is itself owned by Minnesota Valley Cooperative Light and Power headquartered in Montevideo. Chapman originally started his business in Sacred Heart as Sacred Heart Small Engine, selling and servicing chain saws, weed wackers, leaf blowers, and cutoff saws.
Chapman was in business there barely a month before the Dolmar Power Products sales representative for the region told him Jarrod Schiltz, general manager of Minnesota Valley Tree Service was looking for a small engine mechanic.
Photo by Steve Browne
Zach Chapman started Minnesota Valley Small Engine in partnership with Minnesota Valley Tree Service a month ago and said it’s already taking off.
"I've been a Dolmar dealer for four years and my rep let him know I was looking for a small engine mechanic for the tree service," Schiltz said. "So my rep said, 'Why don't you talk to him?' and I did. We talked for five or six hours and decided to merge. We decided to call it Minnesota Valley Small Engine."
Chapman said he investigated the market for small engine sales and service in the Granite Falls area and found the market was underserved.
"I talked to people around here and a lot of people were taking their stuff to Montevideo or Marshall," Chapman said. "I talked to Jarrod and there really isn't a lot of small engine work in Granite Falls. People are retiring and looking to get out of it."
Chapman decided to go into business for himself this year after a wreck in January ended his career as an independent semi owner/operator. He was originally trained as an auto mechanic and has worked on car engines all his life.
As to why start a business in today's economic climate, "I didn't really have a choice," Chapman said. "It was either that or go to work for somebody else."
The arrangement with Minnesota Valley Tree Service is a little complicated, Chapman said, but basically it's two separate businesses under the same roof. The tree service had the space and some inventory already and owns half the business.
Chapman sells and services small engines, and is available to service the tree service's trucks and equipment. He also services equipment he doesn't sell such as lawnmowers, snowmobiles, and four-wheelers and is planning to expand his equipment sales.
According to Schiltz, chainsaws and other equipment he uses are very picky and need constant care and maintenance.
"I'd been looking for a good mechanic for two years," Schiltz said.
But Schiltz may be out looking some more.
"We figured I'd work on tree service equipment until the small engine business took off," Chapman said. "Well it's taken off so much I can't get back to the tree service."