WISHEK, N.D. - On the 92nd annual Sauerkraut Day in Wishek, sauerkraut cooked with speck (pork fat) and the fixings were served to record attendance while German folk music and polkas were sung and played in the background.
Following, the event that is held annually on the second Wednesday of October, we hosted a 40th anniversary open house for Pinke Lumber. My in-laws, Carol and Eldon, moved to Wishek in January 1977 after purchasing the lumberyard. They are just the third owners since it opened in the early 1900s.
Operating a small business for 40 years is an accomplishment in itself. Anyone who works in business, day in and day out - or night out as is the case for my father-in-law and husband most evenings - knows the grind of small business life. Despite a dwindling rural population and lumberyards closing in all towns surrounding Wishek, Pinke Lumber has thrived and grown with the addition of Pinke Homes. It has, over the past ten years, transitioned to second-generation owners, my husband and myself.
But no matter how many long hours business owners or employees work, it's not lost on me that there wouldn't be an anniversary celebration if we didn't have our customers, suppliers and contractors.
We served 247 pieces of Morning Joy Farm's blueberry or peach kuchen (made by my friend, Annie), a German heritage pastry with custard and fruit. More people who attended didn't eat kuchen because they were stuffed from Sauerkraut Day feasting. The most common thing our guests told me was, "We're glad you're here."
The first time someone said it, I teared up. In the hustle and bustle of preparation, I had never thought about Pinke Lumber not being "here" on Highway 13 through Wishek. The next time I heard, "We're glad you're here," I paused to thank the woman, our customer of 40 years. As the front door opened, I looked at every customer, contractor and supplier differently.
We are here because they are here. The customers choose to work with a small-town lumberyard for their remodeling and building projects when driving 100 miles to a big box store might seem easier, and, of course, cheaper.
We are here because the contractors who have trade professions make their work and home here. Not only do we work with them - they are our friends.
We are here because the wholesale suppliers are willing to truck more than a dozen loads a week of building supplies to us.
I could not say it without bursting into grateful tears at the open house, but I should have said, "We're glad you're here," to each of them.
My husband has told me many times he dreads the day he unlocks the lumberyard and his dad is no longer there. I do too. We are here because my in-laws were here first, as were the people before them, Art and Marie Sayler.
In December we'll host our annual Pinke Lumber Christmas party at our house for employees, customers and contractors. My greeting to each will be, "We're glad you're here."