Family Business Awards Finalists

Twin Cities Business and its sponsor partners also recognize these successful Minnesota family businesses and the values they perpetuate.

W. P. & R. S. Mars Company

Founded: 1924
Location: Duluth/Bloomington
Family members involved in the business: 5
Employees: 96
In 1924, W. P. Mars and his son Robert began selling industrial tools and equipment to the mining, timber, and railroad industries in northern Minnesota out of an office in Duluth. Mars Company, which had record sales in 2011, now sells throughout the Great Lakes region, with conveyor belt installation and repair a notable specialty.
Family values: “Ever since my great-grand- father founded the business back in 1924, our mission has been to be considered by our employees, customers, and suppliers as an organization that people can depend on.” —Robert Mars III, president

Orion Associates

Founded: 1980
Location: Golden Valley
Family members involved in the business: 6
Employees: 2,650
Orion was founded to provide administrative support to three associated companies that help people with developmental disabilities and related conditions; it now also provides services such as accounting, finance, and human resources functions to other social services organizations, including county governments. Since Rebecca Thomley, daughter of founders Orval and Marya Hage, became CEO in 2000, company revenues have grown tenfold.
Family values: “Marya and Orval Hage . . . founded an organization based on the socially conscious principles of service by which they lived their lives and upon which they had raised their family.” —Stephen Hage, chief administrative officer.

Peters Billiards

Founded: 1957
Location: Minneapolis
Family members involved in the business: 14
Employees: 40
Greg Peterson purchased K. E. Peters Billiard Supply store in 1972. Four years later, Peterson moved the business to Lyndale Avenue; it remains the Twin Cities’ oldest single-store retailer of in-home games and recreation equipment. The store is owned by Greg and wife, Carol, with all three daughters and nine other family members involved in the business.
Family values: “We are extremely proud of the family-like connections we’ve built between our team and our customers. This is the result of consistently living out our family values of being trustworthy, friendly, and fun.”

Rayito De Sol Spanish Immersion Early Learning Center

Founded: 2001
Location: Minneapolis
Family members involved in the business: 3
Employees: 20 full time, 3 part time
In 2001, Luisa Fuentes, a native Peruvian, opened the Rayito del Sol Early Childhood Education Center, which offers a combination of early childhood bilingual education and child care services. The center, which has opened a second location, is intended to foster a better understanding of American and Latino cultural heritage, social values, and common interests. Fuentes and her brother Luis, who joined the school leadership in 2006, often consult with their mother for practical advice and fresh perspectives.
Family values: “We are an extremely cohesive family, and [we] know that as business owners we want that cohesion to be a part of how we operate. Along with that, we believe in being honest, tenacious, working hard to earn our keep.” —Luisa Fuentes

Walser Automotive Group

Founded: 1954
Location: Bloomington
Family members involved in the business: 8
Employees: 1,060
In 1954, Jack Walser bought Peter’s Oldsmobile in St. Paul, which would become the first of several automotive acquisitions and franchise moves under the Walser name. His sons Paul and Andrew now co-own the family business, which oversees 15 auto dealerships and nine affiliated businesses. Walser Automotive Group also offers national commercial leasing, vehicle sales, and collision and glass repair. Customer-facing employees must participate in at least four paid hours of community service a year; the company donates 5 percent of its net income to charity.
Family values: “Our vision is to build a legacy based on customer and employee satisfaction. We work to strengthen our business by upholding values grounded in integrity and transparency.”


The Hubler Award for Excellence in Service to Family Businesses acknowledges professionals serving family businesses for their superior practice, support, and dedication to the success of family businesses and the people behind them.

This is the third year that Minneapolis-based consulting firm Hubler for Business Families is sponsoring the award, which will be presented at the 2012 Minnesota Family Business Awards event November 8. This year’s honoree is Margaret Cronin, an attorney with the Minneapolis law firm Leonard, Street and Deinard. Cronin is a shareholder in the firm’s estate planning practice, representing and advising closely held businesses and entrepreneurs, from formation and partnership development to succession planning.

This award recognizes, among her other achievements, her work on the board of advisors of the University of St. Thomas Family Business Center and the university’s Family Business Advisors Network.