Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bucking a Trend--Changing a Town

In 1952, twenty-three year old Marvin Schwan bought a 1946 Dodge Panel Truck for $100 and on a slow day in March at the Marshall Creamery he loaded 14 gallons of ice cream into it and went out to try to sell it door-to-door. He returned later that day, having sold all of the ice cream and that is how the Schwan Food Company began. At the time, door-to-door milk delivery was being replaced with purchases at self-serve grocery stores. The trend wasn't toward more home delivery but away from it. But, young Marvin Schwan probably didn't know that.

Today, Schwan’s has 2,500 employees in Marshall, MN with 24,000 in the USA and Europe. The company has given back greatly to its hometown and helped to shape the community into an incredible town.

Marvin Schwan was a first generation American. His dad, Paul, immigrated to the USA from Germany in 1921 and went to work at the Marshall Creamery in 1922.

Schwan’s has been very generous to the town, giving generously to the many projects that I discussed in my post yesterday: $5 million and 60 acres of land for the new high school, $5 million for the YMCA and help for many other major projects in the town.

Schwan’s has the Red Baron Museum at the Marshall Airport, where they showcase their fleet of Red Baron airplanes and Red Baron NASCAR race cars. Schwan’s launched the Red Baron pizza brand in 1976 and began the Red Baron biplane Squadron in 1979. The Boeing Stearman biplanes were used in WWII as the primary training aircraft for fighter pilots. Susan Mory, the curator for the Red Baron Museum told me, "The planes that we own were built between 1941 and 1943, the newest engine was built in 1953. It takes us 2,500 man-hours to rebuild one of these planes. We have the longest serving civilian air squadron in the world. We do about 17 air shows/year."

Many people in Marshall thank their lucky stars that Marvin Schwan didn't know that home delivery was a dying idea when he started Schwan’s.

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