As a newspaper, we have an opportunity to bring people together for a common good. To inspire and foster positive news presented by our readers that lifts people up in the communities we serve.
Starting in 2020, the staff at the Fillmore County Journal coordinated the first-ever recognition for the Business Person of the Year.
The newspaper publishes a form to fill out and submit in-person or by mail, along with providing an online option for readers to nominate a business person in the newspaper coverage area to be recognized for this distinguished honor.
The 2020 Business Person of the Year was Todd Jones, owner of Ace Hardware in Spring Valley, Minn. For the 2021 Business Person of the Year, Alex and Jenn Slifka, located in Spring Valley, Minn., were recognized for their revitalization efforts in the downtown area, with their continuous business expansion involving Chateau de Chic Salon & Spa, Chic by Chateau, Some Like It Hot, and Stellar 181 Taphouse.
The 2022 Business Persons of the Year are Jerry and Nancy Kraus, owners of businesses located in Spring Grove and Caledonia, Minn.
While they are humble about any recognition, they certainly deserve it.
They’ve been married for 56 years, working together for nearly 51 years. They celebrated the 50th anniversary of their business in April of 2022.
For anyone reading this who has worked with their spouse, it can be an adventure. They’ve literally grown personally and professionally together over more than five decades, navigating business decisions and serving customers as a dynamic duo.
While both of them grew up in Plainview, Minn., they landed in Spring Grove, Minn., back in 1972, after Jerry saw an opportunity in their local newspaper.
From 1972 to 1978, Jerry and Nancy operated a gas station where the Kwik Trip is now located. They sold the gas station to a company that wanted to turn it into a convenience store, and then moved into the building in which they are currently located at 159 W. Main Street.
Their children have grown up in the family business, with all of them helping out in some capacity. The daughter, Teresa Foster, lives in the Twin Cities. Their son, Adam Kraus, works on the pipeline and helps out on occasion. The other two sons, Michael and Aaron, work full-time for the family business. They are on the road quite a bit, driving trucks and making deliveries to customers.
When Jerry and Nancy started their business venture in 1972, they had two employees. Just Jerry and Nancy. A husband and wife team. In the beginning, just like with any family-owned business, they worked days, nights, and weekends to serve their customers. Jerry would drive school bus in the morning and afternoons to earn some supplemental income, while also running the business.
Today, they have 12 employees between their two locations in Caledonia and Spring Grove.
In Caledonia, they own and operate Kraus Oil & Country Store, with the help of great employees like Brandi Oesterle, Lisa Fultz, Cody Rabuck, John Rabuck, Julie Schleich, and Tricia Shannon. At their Spring Grove location, they have another outstanding team working together to serve customers: Michael Kraus, Aaron Kraus, Truman Tilleraas, Paul Tollefsrud, and of course, Jerry and Nancy Kraus.
Over the years, as they’ve expanded their business, providing diesel fuel, gas, and motor oil to generations of farm families, they serve a footprint spanning Northeast Iowa and up throughout a good portion of Houston County, Minn.
They keep busy. And, while they remain humble, they certainly have every reason to be proud. Jerry, 75, and Nancy, 74, have grown their business to serve customers, which also helped them raise their family, and expand to the point where they employ a great number of wonderful local people. It’s an outstanding success story to share for small town America.
And, their story continues in this week’s Community Progress Edition, a special section included in the newspaper. The article highlights the 50th anniversary of Kraus Oil & Company.
To see the rest of the nominees and what nominators had to say about them, look to page 5 of today’s newspaper. To be nominated is an honor in itself.