Business park brothers
|Mark Doughty, left, and his brother Paul, talk with a plumbing contractor at the construction site of Dick’s RV in their new business park northwest of Durand. Photo by Justin Arnold.
By Jeffrey Hage
Dick Doughty looked at an empty wall in a small-town barbershop and saw the future. Fifty years later, his sons Mark and Paul see the same future in a cornfield west of Durand.
Sons of a one-time small-town barber, Mark and Paul Doughty are bucking a national trend. They're investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in small-town America by developing a business park on the outskirts of Durand.
In the process, they are relocating to the park one of the region's largest dealers of recreational vehicles — their family business, Dick's RV.
The move has provided them with some sleepless nights. But at the same time, it has put the brothers on the map as two of the movers and shakers of Pepin County.
"The Doughtys found a niche, and being smart businessmen, they made that niche work," said Terry Mesch, economic development coordinator in Pepin County. Dick Doughty uncovered that niche back in the 1960s.
As a young man, Dick Doughty stood behind a barber chair in a small shop operated by his father on Main Street in Durand. It was his window to the world, and he paid close attention to the tales being spun by the men visiting his chair as they talked about fishing, hunting, and other forms of recreation.
Thousands of people crowded into the parking lot of Wissota View for the nightly weigh-ins during the Bassmasters Elite 50 tournament. The attendance exceeded organizers’ expectations. Photo by Jeff Jackson.
Dick had an idea.
Knowing he had each customer's undivided attention for at least 20 minutes, he filled the walls of the small barbershop with sporting goods.
"People would get their hair cut, and then pick up a couple things," Paul said.
Business was brisk and before long, Dick was forced to rent a storefront adjoining the barbershop. Customers would make appointments to shop at the store between haircuts.
"It wasn't long before Dad saw the future," Paul said. "He was making as many appointments at the store as he was for haircuts."
Before long Dick had hired someone to work his barber's chair and he began peddling sporting goods on a full-time basis. It was the foundation of one of Durand's largest businesses — Dick's RV and Sports Shop.
Mark and Paul both smile when they think back to the late 1960s and the day Dick's grew beyond a Main Street sports shop and into the big world of recreation.
"We went on a camping trip one summer to Balsam Lake and it rained and rained," Mark recalled. "Dad went into town and bought a small Starcraft pop-up tent camper. Within a year he had bought a load of them and they were delivered to Mom and Dad's front yard."
Dick Doughty rented a larger building in downtown Durand, and eventually expanded his business to include mini-bikes and snowmobiles, too. In 1976, Dick bought one of Durand's two liquor licenses and set up a liquor store in the shop, and in 1978 a Sears Catalog Store franchise was purchased. In the 1980s. Alumacraft boats and motors joined the family business.
By the late 1980s, the business was streamlined to include just sporting goods, the liquor store and recreational vehicles. A 1990 expansion included NorthPoint RV on Highway 53 in Lake Hallie.
Dick's sons took the reigns of the business in January, 2004. When they took a close look at the future, they were faced with a harsh reality: To remain a player in the 21st century world of RVs and sporting goods, an expansion plan was necessary.
"Our biggest issue was space," Mark said.
As most residents of Durand can attest, the display lots of Dick's RV were scattered over a four-block area. On a drive through the southern half of downtown Durand, it appears that RVs are everywhere.
"We literally beg, borrow and steal space from our friends to hold all our inventory," Mark said.
The business had grown to a point where the one-bay service garage was struggling to meet the maintenance demands of customers. A lot of maintenance work was being done outside on the street. Inside the retail store it became difficult to tell where the sports shop ended and the liquor store began.
So the Doughtys purchased a tract of land a few miles west of town near the intersection of Highway 10 and Highway 25 that has emerged as one of the most flourishing commercial-industrial areas in Pepin County. They drew up plans for a six-lot industrial park called the Durand Business Park, and planned to move the RV business to the development. The move would allow the sports shop and liquor store to embark on a much-needed expansion in the space occupied by the RV business.
"Loyalty, that's what the Doughtys have," Mesch said. "The guys were born and raised here and that loyalty is heartfelt."
Of course it is, Paul Doughty will tell you.
"We like to see the county grow. If it grows, it brings more businesses and employees and will give people a reason to settle here," he said.
What better way to grow and expand the community, Mark says, than to develop the business park and open up an area for as many as six new businesses.
"Buying the property and turning the farm into useable land cost a lot of money, but it fits with our goal of bringing in businesses from out of town and showing them what we have to offer," he said.
"They could have taken Dick's RV and relocated it anywhere," Mesch said. Being one of the largest RV dealers in the region, there would have been demand from communities all around.
But the Doughtys never thought of leaving home. Durand is where the business was born, where it grew, and where the Doughtys count on it continuing to flourish.
And in the process, the brothers will help generate revenue for Pepin County and Waubeek Township, where the business park is located. The property will now be valued as commercial property and will generate higher property taxes. Additional revenue will be generated on all sales from future businesses in the park through a local county sales tax.
The Doughtys' loyalty to the Durand community also helps dispel the stereotype that Durand is whittling away, say county board member Patrick Milliren.
"What they're doing is great for our county,” Milliren said. “It's not a thousand-job business, but it is a great victory for us to have the Doughtys expanding in Durand.
"It's a real positive for our community, especially when it’s this small, to have younger people involved in development, whether it's a new business or the expansion of an existing one," he said.
Mesch agrees. He says it's the Doughty brothers' generation that will make a difference in the Durand area in the next 15 to 20 years.
"They have already risen to the role as leaders in our community," he said. "They are honorable gentleman, friendly, have great smiles and always treat you with respect."
Durand and the Doughtys are both destined for a bright future, Mesch predicts.
"They are good business managers and have good business foresight. There is no doubt that the Durand Business Park will be another Doughty success," he said.
Jeffrey Hage is a reporter for the Chippewa Herald. He can be reached at (715) 738-1608 or at email@example.com.
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