Family makes home their businessThousands of drivers pass Lund Builders at 1010 N. Main St. each day and never know the building houses a multi-generational home-building and remodeling company that in 2012 celebrates 50 years in business.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Thousands of drivers pass Lund Builders at 1010 N. Main St. each day and never know the building houses a multi-generational home-building and remodeling company that in 2012 celebrates 50 years in business.
Local couple Todd and Tami Kuchera own the company -- her sister, Dana Murray, manages its accounting.
They are three of Lund’s 12 total employees, which now includes one of Tami and Todd’s sons -- a third generation to work in the business.
Todd says a lot with few words, “These days we’re doing a lot more remodeling with the economy.”
Tami says Lund has built 422 custom homes, “At least 300 of them are in River Falls.”
The two agree that in the “good days,” their business -- which includes remodeling, and additions as well as designing and building custom homes in all price ranges -- would see about 20 new houses get built each year.
Last year Lund built just three houses.
After 30 years in River Falls, the Kucheras appreciate return customers who now want to add a room, build a deck or remodel a space.
Asked about their ‘secret to success,’ Tami says Lund builds “to the Nth degree and does it for all price ranges.”
She helps people through the complex process of building and characterizes it as intimate.
Tami must learn about people’s lifestyle and how they’ll use a space in order to advise them well about design and features.
Lund prepares them for each decision from the floor plan and foundation to the doorknobs and light switches.
Todd said he listens carefully and enjoys building trust and relationships with people. He takes pride in helping them plus likes mastering technical challenges.
Dana adds that Lund doesn’t turn away from a tough job, a philosophy that started with Roy’s first customer.
The woman wanted a custom closet built and began their conversation with, “Don’t tell me this can’t be done…”
The group mentions it was honored to receive the St. Croix Home Builders Association’s 2011 Builder of the Year award.
Tami explains that she and Dana grew up in the Twin Cities and moved from home to home as their dad remodeled and sold them.
Tami said, “We didn’t move into our own first home until we were teenagers.”
Roy had done some work in River Falls, and Thora explains about when they came to River Falls, “We bought the farm here in 1980.”
When Tami and Todd became engaged, he opted to work the family farm. An acquaintance saw him building a horse stall one day and offered him a construction job.
Todd’s new career direction converged with Roy’s decision to retool Lund and move it permanently to western Wisconsin. Todd and Tami took charge of the company in 1982.
Dana says to her dad about Todd, “You gave him a chance to sink or swim, and he swam.”
Building a home for his in-laws for the first time may have been the Lund owner’s biggest test.
Thora remembers it as job #12 --Tami remembers being pregnant when it was being built. Todd recalls putting stress into perspective each time he said it: “I’m building a new home for my home-building in-laws.”
Roy and Thora remember being flat broke in 1962.
He worked as a carpenter and had trouble wrenching his pay out of the hiring contractors, so they wondered: “What’s to stop us from being a contractor-builder ourselves?”
Roy carried construction materials on top of his car, finally buying a well-used 1956 Ford short-box truck that had holes in the floorboard. Later he began buying and repairing repossessed properties.
Roy recalls the first custom-home job, which he built by himself -- a three-level in Coon Rapids, Minn., along the Mississippi River.
He eventually partnered with others to form a company separate from Lund -- Rottlund Homes. It grew to be a large nationwide company but is now dismantled.
In River Falls, Lund built homes in the Collins subdivision near Pine Ridge Terrace, as well as near Cemetery Road and various condominiums and townhomes.
Roy said local real-estate professional Ken Lee was “pivotal” in getting Lund started locally, encouraging it to build model homes here.
The family patriarch feels proud of what his kids have done with the company and comments how special it is to have multiple generations involved.
“There’s only one in five family businesses that are successfully passed onto even one generation,” said Roy.
Tami says Roy and Thora never pressured them to get involved in the business. She was going to be a fashion buyer, Dana was taking after her mother in singing and playing guitar -- and when Todd came into the family, he was bent on farming.
Dana says the other employees who help run Lund are like family -- most have been there 20 or more years.
Roy and Thora nod in agreement that the tough times they faced with interest rates above 20%, were not nearly as bad as this downturn. They think the kids have been ‘tempered’ by this economic storm and will emerge from it stronger.
The founders say they weren’t thinking about 50 years in the future when they started. They say with a hearty laugh that necessity was the mother of that invention.
The family behind Lund testifies that it is also a faith-based business, and a lot of prayer goes into it.
They all like Psalm 127:1, part of which reads: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”
Roy attributes much of the kids’ success to the fact that they follow the most important rule from both business and the Bible: Treat customers like they themselves would want to be treated.