Whoever is in the market for a garage door will be amazed at the incredible amount of colors and finishes offered, but it wasn’t always this way. Gwen Stier of Spring Valley Overhead Doors remembers how business changed and evolved. “Years ago, the color choices were so limited, and now they’ve come so far with that!” According to Gwen, “The first doors we ever put in were wood flush, then non-insulating steel, and you had to put the insulation in. Now they come with steel front and back. They come in so many different colors and oak finishes that it has taken the place of wood doors.” You can get one that looks like wood, and best of all, “you don’t have to paint it anymore!”
In 1983 Gwen Stier and her (now) ex-husband decided to start their own business, Spring Valley Overhead Doors. The business sells Clopay doors and Liftmaster openers. As business needs grew, in 1989 they started a second business, Minnesota Metals, where they make punch, angle and struts for all their overhead doors. Gwen has been the sole owner of Spring Valley Overhead Doors since 1999, but has been working there for 37 years. When asked about what it took to start a business, Gwen replied, “In the beginning it was a lot of business first, but you had to take time for family too.” She has two sons, Gabe and Chris, and four grandchildren, ages 21, 17, nine and five. She remembers fondly a dinosaur quilt she made for her oldest grandson when he was young. “I loved it, it was fun to make.”
Her business employs 12 employees, and Gwen keeps busy making the schedules for overhead door install. “As the doors come in, we try to put them in as fast as we can. From start to finish, on a normal time frame, it usually takes two weeks to get the door here, and we get it in as soon as we see it. Openers I normally have on hand, but with COVID we are backed up.” Gwen explained that fall business has picked up earlier than usual because more people are working on their houses. “Fall and winter are usually our busy season. A lot of people don’t think we install doors in winter, but we do!” Gwen laughs. Truth is, with COVID-19 this year, a lot of businesses had to shut down or slow production because of state guidelines and social distancing requirements. “We’ve been waiting for some openers that arrived today. We’ve still got some we’re waiting for and because they were closed down for COVID now they’ve gotta play catch up.” Good news is production is starting to get picked up again, which is sorely needed during their busy season.
After working at Overhead Doors for 37 years, Gwen shared two life lessons she has learned from her business and lives by. Gwen said first, “I feel that you have to treat your employees like you would like to be treated, if you worked for somebody else.” Second, “I have a philosophy that you can’t expect your employees to do what you wouldn’t do.” Admittedly Gwen said, “I have never totally installed a door, but I have helped. I have helped put up openers, wired wall buttons, and I’ve changed gear kits and openers. Years ago, I used to help unload the semis when we would get a full load of doors. The truckers would come in, and say to one of the guys, ‘Can she handle this?’ They’d say, “Oh, just watch her!’”
When Gwen has time off from work, she enjoys fishing and snowmobiling, She owns a beautiful cabin in Hayward, Wis., where she enjoys catching fish in the summer. “I like to catch anything, but my favorite is crappy. Northerns are fun to bring in, I like walleye but I don’t know enough to catch one on purpose. I’m just happy to get a fish.” Her other two favorite hobbies are quilting and bowling. Gwen showed off pictures of her completed quilts, and said that she has “a couple in the works.” Gwen explained, “I try to have a couple baby quilts just in case you get invited to a shower, you have something to grab right away.” Gwen also makes time for Bowling League at Valley Lanes. On her team there are several that go on to national bowling tournaments, and in 2019 they won the state championships.
On her desk, Gwen has a photo booklet with pictures of different client’s installed overhead doors. When asked what is her favorite part about the job, Gwen immediately replied, “The customers and meeting people. I’m thankful for all the customers we have.” Gwen knows doors and remembers the many people she has served.