Sometimes we forget about the businesses and people who sponsor the teams, leagues, and tournaments who play USA Softball in South Dakota. With that being said, we are going to start what I hope is a continuous series about those who are very valuable to this game that we play. As you read this, remember to stop and patronize the various businesses and thank them for their continued support.
Kelly's Sports Lounge Kelly Cotten 825 Jackson Blvd. Rapid City, SD 57702 605-348-1213
Got the pleasure this morning to talk to an old acquaintance Kelly Cotten owner of Kelly's Sports Lounge in Rapid City. Kelly is a Watertown native. My parents and his parents knew each other well from the sale barns of Watertown. Kelly along with his brothers grew up playing at old Sioux Valley Diamond in rural Watertown.
Time flys Kelly, when did you open Kelly's Sports Lounge in Rapid City? "Kelly's is celebrating it's 30th anniversary this year as we opened in 1987. Been at this Jackson Blvd address ever since."
Thirty years already. In the bar business that is a lot of hours? "Yes it is, we are open from 11 am to 2 am 7 days a week."
What besides beverages do you offer at Kelly's? "First we offer a fun, friendly, festive atmosphere. Of course, we have many beer options as well as mixed drinks and wine. We offer both lunch and supper as well as we have a full menu including bar food & appetizers. From the kitchen, we have soups, salads, burgers, wings, sandwiches of many types as well steaks, prime and seafood including shrimp and the Dakota seafood "mountain oysters". We also have video lottery machines, a game room with both pool and darts."
Kelly's is a sports lounge, I have to ask. How many TV's? "We have 25 TV's. Part of each day is just turning them on and off." ;)
Describe your customers. "I am amazed how well our customers get along. We have blue collar, white collar, young and old, construction workers, military, and office staff. Kelly's is a good place to meet, visit, watch a game, have a beer and sandwich. The staff works hard to make sure everyone has an enjoyable experience."
Every business is different with social media and the internet and how well it works for them.How is working at Kelly's? Facebook and other social media outlets are essential with the younger customers. These kids are so much smarter than we were and what they do socail is determined by social media. It is necessary for my business to be aprt of it." Kelly continued "With DUI's now days these young people make sure the have a DD oruse social media for a ride home, whether with friends, taxi, or Lyft."
Lets get to softball. When did you start playing softball? "A long time ago. lol It was the summer between my 7th and 8th grade year at Sioux Valley. We played on a team called Dee's Fabric. Then when I moved to Rapid City, the few fastpitch teams that were still playing were pretty set on their lineup so I started playing slowpitch. I quit playing when I was 52."
I know you are a major sponsor in the Rapid City area. When did you start sponsoring and how many team on an average year? "I started sponsoring in Rapid City when I opened up the bar. Sponsored some teams back east before that though. We probably average 7 - 12 teams a year. Some are full sponsorship, some are part."
Do you feel softball sponsorship is valuable to your business? "Yes definetly. We sponsor teams that our customers play on. Some things have changed. With us being on the west side and the Star of the West in the valley on the east side, we do not see as much after the game business as we once did. But the guys who live on the west side still stop in after games. We get a lot of people on tournament weekends. Softball has been a good fit for Kelly's."
Kelly's has been a good fit for USA Softball of South Dakota. Kelly, we are glad to have you as a sponsor and player over the years. You have been a valuable part of Rapid City Softball and the business community. Thanks for taking the time today to tell us a little bit about Kelly's Sports Lounge. I am definitely stopping this summer when in Rapid for a tournament.
Had the opportunity to talk with Peggy Olson, who with husband Larry, own Larry's Heating and Cooling in Yankton. They just recently moved to their new location on Broadway in Yankton.
How long has your business been in Yankton? "We started the business in Yankton and this is our 37th year of business.
What is your hours of operation? "The storefront is open Monday - Friday from 8 to 5. But we service what we sell, so that makes us a 24/7/52 business with service calls and installation."
What does your business offer? "We are a Lennox dealer but service both heating and cooling for residential as well as business. We also sell new and retro fireplace and installation. We service all sort of systems in the Yankton area and beyond."
How many employees do you have? "We employ 30 service, shop, and office people."
Why Heating and Cooling? "Larry went to school at the Mitchell Vo-Tech. After graduation, we opened the business here in Yankton.
Did you or Larry play, coach, or umpire softball? "No, we did not. But we have 2 girls and when they got old enough to play, we got involved, both as sponsors and with Yankton Girl's Softball league as an officer. We also sponsor a C0-ed team."
Do you feel that softball has a positive impact on your business? "Yes, we do. We feel it is necessary for a small town business to be involved with the youth. Softball was one of the programs we chose and glad we did."
Has technology and social media impacted how you do business? "Absolutely. The growth in Social Media and sales on the web. Today's customers are using the web and social media for more and more services. It is either join the game or get out to survive in today's marketplace."
Peggy thanks for taking the time to visit. Also for your families involvement with USA Softball of South Dakota over the years. Congrats on your move and continued success to Larry's Heating and Cooling in Yankton. If you are in need of their service, do not hesitate to call Larry or Peggy!
Dakota Trailways Bus Company (Dakota Bus) Owner Linda Ladson President Travis Ladson 631 South 32nd St. Spearfish, SD 57783 1-800-499-2652 605-642-2353
When I called for the interview I got to talk to Amanda Rosenau who is office manager/dispatches among other duties for Dakota Bus. Amanda recently had another little ceremony at the ball fields when she married Sheldon Tveidt. Amanda's family has and is very involved in the Spearfish softball community. It was great talking to you Amanda and thanks for the interview.
How long has Linda owned the business? Dakota Trailways is a third-generation, family owned business, with a long-standing heritage of excellence and commitment to our customers. I was established in 1957 by Leo and Irene Erhart, the Dakota Trailways fleet began as five school buses and several Flexible and Spartan charter buses for tours.
Now, more than fifty years and three generations later, Dakota Trailways has expanded to four locations in three states and our team of highly-trained staff manages a full-service fleet of luxury coaches, minibusses, and school buses. We have over 40 coaches and school buses as well as mini coaches and vans and handicap accessible vehicles.
Does Dakota Bus do more that tours? Yes, definitely. Our buses transport sports teams from 4 college and universities, 6 high schools, as well as regional and national tours. We also run bus service to the oil fields in ND and the coal fields in Wyoming. We have a lot of full-time drivers as well as office staff and dispatchers. Dakota Trailways has four office locations: our headquarters in Spearfish, South Dakota, and three satellite offices in Dickinson, North Dakota, Gillette, Wyoming, and Newcastle, Wyoming. All locations actively provide charter bus transportation to all parts of the United States. We are a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week company.
Has the internet and social media been helpful for your business? Yes, I would have to say so. We have people go online and recommend our service. It is a way for us to stay in touch with customers.
I know you play Amanda, but are there others in the company that also enjoy softball? Yes, Travis plays league as well as other employees. We have been fortunate to sponsor some good team in the last 10 or so years. One of our teams went to OKC last year and played in the C Nationals.
Do softball tournaments help your business and the city of Spearfish? With our company involved in transporting college and high school athletic teams, it is important for us to be involved in the athletic community. With leagues offering recreation to the community and tournaments bring in visitors, it is very beneficial. Spearfish softball community is very excited about hosting a co-ed state next fall. Even if I am disappointed that my team can not play in it.
Thanks Amanda for taking the time to visit. It was enjoyable. And thanks to Linda and Travis for sponsoring USA Softball teams in South Dakota. You provide a valuable service to the tourist industry as well as school and the oil/coal industry.
Zoo Bar Lowell and Denise Punt 1017 Main St South, Aberdeen, SD 57401 justzooit.com
While visiting with Lowell, I asked when the business started? "We open the Zoo Bar at this location in 1986. When asked how did he get in the bar business, he said college and a professor. I did not ask and he did not elaborate."
I asked what services the Zoo and Lagers Inn offered? "Other than the obvious, drinks and beer, The Zoo also has a food menu, a shot bar, lottery, DJ's and a dance floor. They offer nightly specials and both have online food ordering. Lagers have a noon lunch menu as they open at 10:00 am. The Zoo also has an outside seating area for the summer months."
When asked about customer base? "As a college town, the Zoo Bar offer specials for both Northern State and Presentation as well as amateur leagues and players. They are willing to host league meetings as well as special events for home games at the 2 universities."
How has the technology, such as social media, had an impact on business? "It has changed in the way the young people stay in contact. Nowadays they text, snap chat, or Facebook to see what everyone is doing. In the 'old' days they would stop down to the bar and see if their friends were there."
Now to some softball questions.
Do or did you play, coach, or umpire softball? "I grew up playing fastpitch in Stickney. Stickney had 2 teams, the singles and the married. If you were single and got married, you moved to the other team ;) When I went off to college I played slowpitch for a few years before hanging it up. I stay involved by sponsoring teams and hosting the Zoo Tournament every year."
How many years have you been sponsoring softball teams? "Started almost immediately when opening the doors for business".
Do you sponsor more than one team a year? "Between the Zoo and Lagers Inn, we either sponsor or partial sponsor around 10 teams every year in softball, as well some basketball and recently curling."
When I asked Lowell if he ever curled? Laughing Lowell told me "No but it does look like fun. But no one will ever convince me that the guy who invented curling wasn't drunk at the time"
Do you feel that softball sponsorship has a positive impact on your business? "It is always hard to tell how advertising helps a business, but I am pleased with the sponsorships that we do at the Zoo and Lager's Inn. Our teams and the players are good about coming in and doing business with us. Softball has been a good fit for us"
Do you see that softball tournament(s) in your town helping your business? Definitely, a benefit for any city but again things have changed over the years. There is so much for people to do on weekends that it has gotten hard to get 11 players to all give up a weekend to play ball. So invitational tournaments anymore consist of 7, 8 guys from one team and 2 or 3 borrowed players from another team make it go. When we host in Aberdeen we just try to make sure the borrowed players are the same class of player as the team they are playing for."
"What I see when players and teams come to Aberdeen for a tournament has not changed though. They like to play the game but they also want to have fun, both at the diamonds and off. Softball is a great way to meet people."
Lowell it was enjoyable to talk to you this afternoon. USA Softball of South Dakota appreciates you, your wife Denise and your families involvement in softball over the years. Thanks for being a great supporter as well as a friend of the game.
Next time you are in Aberdeen stop in for lunch and a cold one, say hi to Lowell at either the Zoo or at Lagers Inn. You will not be sorry that you did.
Ellwein Brothers Dave, Norma, and Jay Ellwein 655 18th St NW, Airport Business Complex Huron, SD 57350
Ellwein Bros. started in March of 1978. The business has steadily grown to be a regional distributorship. Jay, Dave and Norma son is now the company manager.
While visiting with Dave, asked how the business started? "We grew up in the soda business as my father and uncles were the Coke, 7 Up distributors, and bottlers in Pierre, SD".
Can you provide me with a description of what your business offers? "Even though 90+% of the business is still beer as a Budweiser Distributor, we also now sell bottled water, tea, and a variety of energy drinks. The hours of operation are very early in the morning and goes until the trucks get in at night".
Do you have employees? "Ellwein Bros. has 55 employees in Huron, SD. That includes office, warehouse, sales, and delivery drivers".
Can you describe your customers? "When most people think of a beer distributor, they think bars. But our business also supplies to liquors stores, convenience stores, casinos, and concession business. Customers receive the same service whether it is a small casino or a large package store".
Now to some softball questions.
Do or did you play, coach, or umpire softball? I grew up playing softball in Pierre, SD. I played both fastpitch and slowpitch for years with my friend Dan Theilan, who passed a few years ago".
Dave also played fastpitch in Pierre with Kelly's Construction and pitcher John Burchill. Dave was also an active amateur basketball player for years. If you get the chance to talk sports with Dave, take it. He has some great stories to share.
How many years have you been sponsoring softball teams? "Started almost immediately when opening the doors for business".
Do you sponsor more than one team a year? Dave had to think for a minute on this one. "We have sponsored a lot of teams over the year but I would say most years at least 15 teams"'
Do you feel that softball sponsorship has a positive impact on your business? "Like all sponsors, you hope so. It depends on the loyalty of the team and the players. If they come to you looking for a sponsor, hopefully, it is because they use your product. But yes we feel that it has a positive impact".
Do you see that softball tournaments in your town help your business? "Softball tournaments are a benefit to all communities that host. It helps not only the motels and entertainment industry but also convenience stores, cafes, shopping. But I am also worried about the numbers of softball players and teams that do not play in these tournaments anymore. At one time the tournaments were 40, 60, even up to 100 teams, now we see 8 to 20 teams. Encourage the teams to go and enjoy the weekend events"
How has the technology, such as computers and the internet business, had an impact on how you conduct business? "So far it has not had much impact, but with companies such as Amazon, who knows what the future will bring. Their presence has already changed main street and the malls".
Thanks, Dave, Norma and Jay for your support over the years to USA Softball of South Dakota and the players and teams that play this game. If you see one of them or an Ellwein employee, tell them thanks for sponsoring, they will appreciate it.
Sodak Construction Owners Jack and Cindy McMillan 44069 175th St Henry, SD 57201
Started the business in 1977, moved to present location in rural Henry April of 1980.
Sodak Construction offers - Our business repairs Grain Elevators and installs new equipment such as catwalks, legs, distributors, all grain handling systems. We also repair cellular towers.
Visiting with Cindy “Koch” McMillan, we asked her how they decided to start their business. “My husband, Jack McMillan, was doing the same work for others and decided to go off on his own. Money was tight for a few years and at times we never thought we were going to make it. We kept struggling along and finally, things looked up. We have been continuing to offer our service for the last 40 years”
How many employees do you have? “We average 5 employees. The people who work for us are treated like family.”
Why do you think your customers select you? “We do excellent millwright work and they always call us back. We have had some of the same customers since we have started and have gained new customers.”
What are the biggest issues in running a business such as Sodak Const.? “Employees. It is hard to find good millwrights. All the good ones are in there 40’s with families and some do not like to travel. We have a lot of customers around the area but sometimes the customers we have that is a distance away call us and we are there from anywhere from a month to 2 months. Then they are good for a spell because we do quality work.”
Moving on to the softball side of our interview, we asked Cindy to talk about the family involvement.
Do or did you play, coach, or umpire softball? “I started playing softball at the age of 14. I started my own team and pitched women’s fast pitch. When there were no more women’s teams for fastpitch around the area I played modified then went to slow pitch. I pitched for all entities and played for 30 years. I retired playing at the age of 44. Over the years I coached 5 or 6 teams a year, a women’s, 2 means and coed and also JO boys and girls. The last couple of years I coach women and a men’s team”. Cindy continued “I umpired for about 5 years and became women’s area commissioner in 1986 and still am. I received the Distinguished Service Award from the SD Hall of Fame in 2011”.
I know your family has been involved in softball for years, tell us a little out the Koch/McMillan association with the game. “Jack McMillan was in the Navy and started playing in the military in 1969. He then played fast pitch for the Nite Owl in Clark, SD; Sharp’s Chevrolet and was picked up by many. Jack also played slow pitch for a while. He started umpiring in 1980. He umpired league, tournaments and state tournaments.
My daughter Jessica has played slow pitch since the age of 14 and is still playing. She has helped me coach JO. She now has 2 daughters that are playing softball and will start playing JO this year.
My son Shawn started playing at the age of 15. Cindy coached and sponsored Shawn's team. Those teams played both JO and Men's. He is also an umpire and umpired league, tournaments, state tournaments, and national tournaments and received the national umpire indicator award in 2014. Shawn coaches JO boy’s slow-pitch team who played in the USA Softball nationals in Indiana this year. Both Jessie and Shawn have always played for Sodak Construction".
Cindy’s parents are Gerhart and Cleo Koch, both deceased, who was very involved in softball in Watertown and the state. The fields in Watertown were named after Gerhardt and Cleo. Gerhart was one of the movers on starting the USA Softball Hall of Fame. Gerhardt wasinducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984 as an umpire. Cleo was inducted in 1990 as a promoter/officer.
How many years has your business been sponsoring softball teams, leagues, tournaments? “We started sponsoring in 1980 and still sponsor JO, Women’s, Men, and Coed. Last year we sponsored 3 teams but it might be 4 when my granddaughters start 10U JO.”
Do you feel that softball sponsorship is a positive impact on your business? “Yes but not directly as our business deal with grain elevators and farmers but Sodak Construction has made a name for itself in the softball world. We hope our sponsorship and association with softball is a benefit to the community. We are proud to sponsor the great game of softball”.
Thanks Jack, Cindy, and family for choosing to play and sponsor USA Softball.