Published On: Wed, Mar 5th, 2008

Hartington business marks 75 years

HARTINGTON — Hard work — for different people, it means different things.
For three generations of Wiechelman men, hard work has been the driving force behind the evolution of a one-main blacksmith shop founded in the Dirty Thirties, to a state-of-the-art industrial facility with several employees.

In 2007 Wiechelman Repair Inc. celebrated 75 years in the Hartington community.  And last Thursday, after the final touches were put on the latest renovation, the establishment held an open house in appreciation of all the supporters of the business.
“It was so busy last year with everything,” owner Jon Wiechelman said. “We felt now that everything is done, it would be a good time to do this.”
Today’s Wiechelman Repair, located on Hwy 84 at Industrial Ave., is quite different than the repair shop John’s grandpa Clem Wiechelman started in 1932 just north of what is now the Auto Hospital.
Clem, who was raised by the Kathols in Bow Valley, began his career in metal work as an apprentice blacksmith at shops in Fordyce and Crofton before moving to Hartington to start out on his own.
It wasn’t long before Clem’s children were helping with the family business, which included traditional blacksmithing such as horseshoeing and working with a forge, a big stove used to heat up large pieces of metal in order to make them pliable.
“All my uncles worked in the shop throughout the years,” Jon said.
It was the oldest son, Jon’s father, Irwin that would take a larger role as years went on.
“Dad would work road construction in the summer and come back and run the shop in the winter,” Jon said.
In time, with Clem’s health worsening, Irwin stepped in and took over the business full time in the mid-1960s.
According to Jon, his dad being the next in line to run the family business just made sense.
“Dad was the oldest boy,” Jon said.  “He was the first one. He was the one who did it the most. He was the one who came back.”
And just like his father before him, Jon helped out around the shop at an early age.  Jon said he started in the business sweeping floors and cutting metal.  It was at about the age of 10 when Jon did his first “real” job for Wiechelman Repair.
“I remember when I was in fourth grade I got my first job,” he said.  “That was the first thing I did where I could say I did something to help out dad.”
Working with his father, Jon learned the craft of welding and metal work.  Jon said the lessons he learned as a kid not only fostered an interest in the work, but were something he considers invaluable.

“Some of the things he taught me you can’t learn in school,” Jon said.  “Little secrets about how to work the metal and things like that.”
As Jon got out of high school and headed to Northeast Community College in Norfolk to become a machinist, he had little interest in taking over for his father.
As Jon was in his last years of college, the course of his life forever changed when his father was diagnosed with cancer in 1983.
From there, aspirations of welding on a road crew or working at Neu Cheese halted, and it became clear to Jon that he had to take over for his father.
“I just knew it was time,” he said. “I needed to do it.”
With technology changing and equipment getting bigger, Jon saw a need for a change if his business was going to keep up.  So, in 1984, He built a new shop on the same spot the old shop had sat since the early 1930s.
According to Jon, once a new larger, more advanced shop was completed, business really took off.
“I told my wife that she’d get sick of me because there wasn’t much to do that winter,” he said.  “She still reminds me of that.”
Over the next decade, the business that he and his father ran continued to grow.
Work went from more repairs to fabrication and Jon decided to expand again, moving out to the Industrial Park.