Kitchen Solvers officials talk about company’s past, future
By STEVE CAHALAN | La Crosse Tribune
Gerald and Betty Baldner were excited but nervous when they founded La Crosse-based Kitchen Solvers Inc. in 1982, Gerald told listeners Tuesday as part of Viterbo University’s Brown Bag lecture series. But they had faith, and oversaw the continued growth of the national franchising company, which specializes in custom cabinet refacing and kitchen remodeling. The Baldners began selling franchises in 1984.
Their son, Jason Baldner, became company president in 2003 and added the title of CEO in January 2005, when he purchased the business from his parents. Today, it has 139 franchise outlets in the United States and Canada, which together had nearly $17 million in sales in 2005.
Father and son spoke Tuesday about the firm’s history and future. Jason said he hopes eventually to grow the company to 600 to 700 franchise outlets.
Gerald began his career as a school social worker, later was a marriage and family counselor, then was a college instructor. But he always had a “burning desire” to own a business.
He and his wife considered many ideas for businesses before settling on kitchen cabinet refacing. “I just thought to myself, if we could save people money and time and mess in remodeling their kitchen, it just had to work,” Gerald said.
He also mentioned two other businesses he started — The Cabinet Factory in 1982 and Creative Laminates Inc. in 1995. Richard Walz later became his partner in The Cabinet Factory, and eventually purchased Baldner’s interest in the business, now known as WalzCraft Industries Inc. Baldner said his daughter and son-in-law, Jody and Craig Lyon, now own Creative Laminates.
“In each business, I was very fortunate and blessed to find the right people to associate myself with, to partner with, to have faith in,” Gerald said.
Jason said he felt “an overnight change” when he became Kitchen Solvers owner in January 2005. “When I was president of the company from 2003 to January 2005, I was running my dad’s company,” he said, in the way he thought his father would want.
There are new challenges when a second generation takes over a family-owned business, Jason said. “You need to bring some new ideas, you need to keep things fresh,” he said.
Steve Cahalan can be reached at (608) 791-8229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
KITCHEN SOLVERS INC.
WHAT: A La Crosse-based company that specializes in custom cabinet refacing and kitchen remodeling.
WHO: Gerald and Betty Baldner started the business in 1982 in their home near La Crescent, Minn. Their son, Jason, bought it in January 2005.
WHERE: Offices of both the La Crosse franchise, owned by Brian and Suzie Crowley, and the Kitchen Solvers headquarters are at 401 Jay St.
MORE INFO: Check the Web site www.kitchensolvers.com.
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