Minitman, Minitman, Too, in Spearfish pass to new owner
SPEARFISH — It started with his desire to have a place on the east side of Spearfish to get gas, and after 33 years after opening the Minitman Food and Fuel gas station at 820 E. Colorado Blvd., he handed over the keys to the new owner Thursday.
Hess, current Black Hills State University psychology professor and chair of the School of Behavioral Sciences, sold the Minitman Food and Fuel and Minitman, Too, at 611 E. Jackson Blvd., to Tate Schipporeit, of Ainsworth, Neb.
Hess explained that when he moved to Spearfish in 1980 and began building a house in Mountain Plains, he was doing consulting work in Rapid City and driving there every day. He described that the edge of town was the building to the west of the Minitman on Colorado Boulevard and that there were no gas stations on that side of town at the time, which was a pain while he was commuting.
Hess attended a reunion with college friends in Las Vegas a couple of years later, and he described his desire to get someone to build a gas station closer to his home, and two days later they asked him why they couldn’t do it. He laughed, remembering that they had no experience with anything close to building and running a gas station — but before he left Vegas, they had a plan for starting the business.
The friends and other investors formed a corporation, did a lot of the building themselves, and opened the gas station — though a couple of months later than they intended, Hess said.
Other opportunities came up through the years, and Hess acquired other businesses, including the former Buck Stop gas station on Jackson Boulevard that is now the Minitman, Too, Rocket Lube, 1718 North Ave., and the Conoco truck stop in Belle Fourche. He will keep Rocket Lube but sold the truck stop, and most recently, the Minitman stores.
“Timing is really well for both of us, business-wise, so it’s just time to do something different for me, and he’s (Tate is) going to expand what he’s been doing,” Hess said, adding, “I’ve had some really clever people that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know and work with. … That’s what has made it worthwhile.”
Hess said that in business, there are ups and down, but overall, he’s had great customers, many of whom have become friends over the years.
“It’s been an interesting journey,” he said, describing that he wouldn’t have been able to do what he did with the businesses without Doris Deis, who has been the chief financial officer for the last 17 years, which has allowed Hess to keep teaching. He’ll celebrate 40 years of teaching in South Dakota in May.
In addition to building the business, Hess also built a landscaping area that is home to a statue he commissioned artist Tony R. Chytka artist to create. Hess said said he wanted to build a statue for Spearfish, Chytka came up with a couple of prototypes, and Hess described that he “spent a lot of time scraping every dime I could to pay for it.”
The funniest part, Hess said, is that the statue has been out there a long time, but everyone thinks the city owns it, though it has always been owned and maintained by Hess.
“It didn’t matter to me; I built it for the city,” he said of the misconception.
As the business transitions to the new owner, staff said that customers won’t likely notice any changes.
“For us, it’s pretty seamless,” Hess said.
He added his confidence in the new owner, describing that he is very comfortable with Schipporeit’s plans are for the business.
Schipporeit is “Truly looking forward to the awesome staff that Jim has put together,” as well as having another reason to be drawn back into the Black Hills more often than not. Schipporeit also owns the Sundance Travel Center in Sundance, Wyo., and has ties to the Black Hills, living in the Northern Hills after college, as well as having a house by Johnson Siding out of Rapid City for a number of years before moving to Wyoming and then Nebraska.
He is excited to take the reins and thanked the Minitman customers.
“I sure appreciate their past business and totally look forward to their future (business),” Schipporeit said.
“I’m looking forward to see the great things Tate will do with the business,” Hess said. “He kept all of my staff, and that was important to me, because again, those people have become very close friends.”
And when asked if he will continue to get gas at the station he opened all those years ago, he said yes, since he still lives on that side of town and it is still in a convenient location, even with the growth of the community.
“Old habits die hard,” he said.
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