Family members in the business: 10
Cousins Doug and Perry Firkus originally specialized in flooring installation, which soon evolved into a full array of home installation services. Within nine years, the Firkuses’ company partnered with Home Depot installing flooring in the Twin Cities region; Home Depot later expanded the partnership to 17 states. Crew2 now provides water heater, kitchen and other installation services to nearly 300 Home Depot stores nationwide. It operates through five hubs in the Upper Midwest and the Northeast.
In 2002, Crew2 added two more family members, who brought key skills to the company: Denise Firkus, with a career in operations, and Steve Firkus, whose background is in sales and finance.
Family values: Crew2 supports several local nonprofit organizations and encourages its employees to pursue volunteer opportunities.
Headquarters: St. Paul
Family members in the business: 6
Peter and Mary Deneen opened their pottery business in the garage of a home they were renting near the Mississippi River. The first big sale was to J.R. Watkins, a Minnesota-based manufacturer of gourmet food, food extracts, and home and personal care products. The Deneens were swamped with tens of thousands of spice jar orders for the local manufacturer, which marked the birth of the family’s large-scale pottery production company. Deneen Pottery now manufactures handmade logo mugs with a custom stoneware body. The company produces 5,000 to 6,000 mugs per week, each starting as a ball of clay and touched by more than 24 pairs of hands throughout the mug creation process. Deneen Pottery mugs can be purchased nationwide in several retailers across all 50 states, as well as online.
Family values: The Deneens have traveled with Habitat for Humanity over the years, and have recently partnered with New York-based Death Wish Coffee Co. to help raise $10,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Family members in the business: 5
Starting from a 5,000-square-foot warehouse 22 years ago, Discount Steel is now a national supplier of industrial and construction-related metal products and services nationwide. It distributes steel, aluminum, copper and brass in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and grades, as well as hardware for tools and saws. It has processing centers in Minnesota and Texas, both of which offer shearing, sawing, laser cutting, machining, forming, welding and other production capabilities. Discount Steel works with Fortune 500 companies and do-it-yourselfers (including artists), thanks to its lack of a required minimum order.
Founder and current CFO John Dormanen started working with steel when he was 16 years old. In 2012, his wife, Diane, took over as CEO. Under her leadership, Discount Steel now has several women managing different departments, including sales, warehouse and office; half of the members of their business’s board of directors are women, a relative rarity in the male-dominated steel-products industry.
Family values: Discount Steel hosts customer and employee appreciation days, with refreshments on the house. The company also helps raise funds for several organizations, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Family members in the business: 6
Brothers Frank and August Grazzini started their company as an installer of concrete sidewalks. Within three years, August and Bill Marcantalli Sr. joined the business, adding terrazzo installation to its capabilities. Grazzini Brothers’ early terrazzo work can be seen today in the Foshay Tower and Minnehaha Academy. The company has also done numerous projects outside of Minnesota. Among the more notable structures Grazzini Brothers has worked on are the Seattle Space Needle and the Mall of America.
Family values: Grazzini Brothers supports several local and national organizations, including Minnesota Workforce and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Family members in the business: 2
Judith Brown created a firm that specialized in providing financial planning and money management advice, at a time where commission-based companies were the norm. She wanted to give advice based solely on her clients’ needs. Her son and daughter-in-law now work at JNBA Financial Advisors, which boasts a 95 percent client retention rate.
Family values: The family participates in fundraising, volunteering and outreach for various causes, including participation in the Special Olympics’ Polar Plunge, raising money for the annual Angel Foundation benefit gala, and sponsors a Salvation Army family during the holiday season.
Its growth has nurtured five generations.
A strong family has built a strong business, overcoming personal tragedy and financial setbacks.
The company may no longer make Maud Borup’s famous chocolates, but the new family ownership reflects her entrepreneurial spirit.
An entrepreneur prepares to pass on his company to a new generation with new approaches.
Go overseas to make its products? The family behind the Bundt pan never considered it. And their company’s thriving.
Tom Hubler, who founded the Minnesota Family Business Awards in 2008, helps families pursue their financial and emotional future.