About the Owner

Pat Bartels

Pat BartelsI am a business owner…

When I was younger, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  All I kept hearing was if you go to college and get a degree, any degree, anyone will hire you and the job is yours.  I, of course, believed every word of that story.  I loved sports, loved to watch sports, loved to play sports, and loved every part of the competition and the camaraderie that went along with playing the game.  How cool would life be if I had a health science degree and was able to be around athletes for the rest of my life?  My friends were all going to school to “be something” a social worker, a doctor, a financial advisor, this was a great idea for my “something”.

I paid for college by working the night shift at Seneca Foods and went to school during the day.  It was hard and my parent’s situation disqualified me for school loans or grants.  I was almost done with school and realized the myth.  Getting a job just because you went to college wasn’t exactly how it worked.   There had to be a position open and I had to be the most qualified candidate that applied.  It was soon clear my health science degree would not cut it in the real world.  So I started taking business classes.  I still had no idea what industry was right for me, but that degree taught me how to think, how to plan, and how to make sound financial decisions.

By this time I was working the night shift driving a spotter truck to make it through school.  I had no extra money and literally lived on Ramon noodle soup some weeks.  While moving trailers in and out of dock doors, I started to see the needs of carriers, companies, and drivers.  They were always talking about their need for equipment and storage.  Always looking for creative ways to remedy the same old problem.  So, in 2006, I took a chance and dove in head first.  I purchased four reefer trailers (once the bank finally agreed to give me the loan).  I repaired the trailers and offered them to customers as an onsite storage option.  Soon thereafter, they needed more trailers and I ended up renting from another company just to meet the need.  Every cent of profit went back into this new trailer rental endeavor.  I soon found I was not able to continue moving trailers around in the yard and move rental trailers around for customers, so I ended up just focusing on my new company, Trailer Rental and Storage Company.
Two years into the trailer rental business, I watched a warehouse in my hometown close.  The building was being sold in foreclosure.  I knew nothing about the warehousing business, had no customers or contracts, but saw this as additional opportunity to possibly resolve the storage needs of my current customers.  So in 2008 I went to the bank again to fund the purchase of 100,000 square feet of storage space.  It was a deteriorated building in need of significant repairs.  I chose to make two-thirds of it refrigerated storage and soon had my first customer, my second, and then my third.  I was now the owner of Minnesota Reload and Freight Warehousing.

All of a sudden I was driving a forklift, I had storage contracts, organic certifications, inventory management, and invoicing all demanding my time.  I solicited a few friends to help me with some of the warehouse work.  I was single, working fourteen to twenty hour days and had no idea what I would be doing from one day to the next.  My head was spinning and I had no time for extracurricular activities.  My friends, now employees at the warehouse, were good people.  They invited me over to their home from time to time for barbecues or bonfires. I rarely went, but sometimes it was nice to just get away.  In 2010, I attended a birthday party at their house and met Amy.  She was kind and something about her intrigued me.  Over the next year, she and I ran into each other at a few more events and finally decided to see a hockey game together in December of 2011.  She turned out to be the best decision of my life.  Soon thereafter, she started to help me with the office work and truly cared about this small business and its constant demands. We now live in the rambler her grandparents built with our two labradors, Lucky and Ruby. They are spoiled rotten, we think we broke them, and we sometimes wonder if it is normal for a dog to review the items in the refrigerator before making their selection.

Meanwhile, my father built a truck wash and repair shop in Gaylord where he already had a diesel fuel island and a state certified scale.   After agreeing to build, he soon realized a new business was all consuming and his trucking company continued to demand his time.  In November of 2013 Minnesota 19 Truck Wash & Repair opened the doors, and in January of 2014, I purchased the new business, as well as the existing Highway 19 Scale and Fuel Company.  At this point, imagine working twenty hour days.  This time as the owner of four small businesses that all revolve around the trucking industry.

It may sound glorious, fun, or maybe like the “easy life” to be in my position.  It may look good at my class reunion to say “I have this” or “ I did that”.  But I can honestly tell you these two businesses would have failed if it were not for our very dedicated and hard working staff.  Our people care about what they do and they care about the drivers they serve.  Being open 24 hours a day, even on holidays, is a whole new world for us.  We joked about putting up cots in the parts room because we literally lived there for the first two years.  Our customers have grown to trust us and our employees are like our family.  We consider ourselves truly blessed to have such an amazing group of people around us every day.

To us, it is simple, we just want to do what is right and take care of people.  We feel like drivers need to have a place to relax, meet their needs before they get back on the road, and maybe even kick back, watch television in a recliner or chat over a hot dog, some coffee, or popcorn.   We want you to experience our humble atmosphere when you come to visit us.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, we are still making changes, but it is our pledge to continue to work hard to make that happen.

Pat Bartels