Sometimes we forget about the businesses and people who sponsor the teams, leagues, and tournaments who play USA Softball in South Dakota. With that being said, we are going to start what I hope is a continuous series about those who are very valuable to this game that we play. As you read this, remember to stop and patronize the various businesses and thank them for their continued support.
Ellwein Brothers Dave, Norma, and Jay Ellwein 655 18th St NW, Airport Business Complex Huron, SD 57350
Ellwein Bros. started in March of 1978. The business has steadily grown to be a regional distributorship. Jay, Dave and Norma son is now the company manager.
While visiting with Dave, asked how the business started? "We grew up in the soda business as my father and uncles were the Coke, 7 Up distributors, and bottlers in Pierre, SD".
Can you provide me with a description of what your business offers? "Even though 90+% of the business is still beer as a Budweiser Distributor, we also now sell bottled water, tea, and a variety of energy drinks. The hours of operation are very early in the morning and goes until the trucks get in at night".
Do you have employees? "Ellwein Bros. has 55 employees in Huron, SD. That includes office, warehouse, sales, and delivery drivers".
Can you describe your customers? "When most people think of a beer distributor, they think bars. But our business also supplies to liquors stores, convenience stores, casinos, and concession business. Customers receive the same service whether it is a small casino or a large package store".
Now to some softball questions.
Do or did you play, coach, or umpire softball? I grew up playing softball in Pierre, SD. I played both fastpitch and slowpitch for years with my friend Dan Theilan, who passed a few years ago".
Dave also played fastpitch in Pierre with Kelly's Construction and pitcher John Burchill. Dave was also an active amateur basketball player for years. If you get the chance to talk sports with Dave, take it. He has some great stories to share.
How many years have you been sponsoring softball teams? "Started almost immediately when opening the doors for business".
Do you sponsor more than one team a year? Dave had to think for a minute on this one. "We have sponsored a lot of teams over the year but I would say most years at least 15 teams"'
Do you feel that softball sponsorship has a positive impact on your business? "Like all sponsors, you hope so. It depends on the loyaltyof the team and the players. If they come to you looking for a sponsor, hopefully, it is because they use your product. But yes we feel that it has a positive impact".
Do you see that softball tournaments in your town help your business? "Softball tournaments are a benefit to all communities that host. It helps not only the motels and entertainment industry but also convenience stores, cafes, shopping. But I am also worried about the numbers of softball players and teams that do not play in these tournaments anymore. At one time the tournaments were 40, 60, even up to 100 teams, now we see 8 to 20 teams. Encourage the teams to go and enjoy the weekend events"
How has the technology, such as computers and the internet business, had an impact on how you conduct business? "So far it has not had much impact, but with companies such as Amazon, who knows what the future will bring. Their presence has already changed main street and the malls".
Thanks, Dave, Norma and Jay for your support over the years to USA Softball of South Dakota and the players and teams that play this game. If you see one of them or an Ellwein employee, tell them thanks for sponsoring, they will appreciate it.
Sodak Construction Owners Jack and Cindy McMillan 44069 175th St Henry, SD 57201
Started the business in 1977, moved to present location in rural Henry April of 1980.
Sodak Construction offers - Our business repairs Grain Elevators and installs new equipment such as catwalks, legs, distributors, all grain handling systems. We also repair cellular towers.
Visiting with Cindy “Koch” McMillan, we asked her how they decided to start their business. “My husband, Jack McMillan, was doing the same work for others and decided to go off on his own. Money was tight for a few years and at times we never thought we were going to make it. We kept struggling along and finally, things looked up. We have been continuing to offer our service for the last 40 years”
How many employees do you have? “We average 5 employees. The people who work for us are treated like family.”
Why do you think your customers select you? “We do excellent millwright work and they always call us back. We have had some of the same customers since we have started and have gained new customers.”
What are the biggest issues in running a business such as Sodak Const.? “Employees. It is hard to find good millwrights. All the good ones are in there 40’s with families and some do not like to travel. We have a lot of customers around the area but sometimes the customers we have that is a distance away call us and we are there from anywhere from a month to 2 months. Then they are good for a spell because we do quality work.”
Moving on to the softball side of our interview, we asked Cindy to talk about the family involvement.
Do or did you play, coach, or umpire softball? “I started playing softball at the age of 14. I started my own team and pitched women’s fast pitch. When there were no more women’s teams for fastpitch around the area I played modified then went to slow pitch. I pitched for all entities and played for 30 years. I retired playing at the age of 44. Over the years I coached 5 or 6 teams a year, a women’s, 2 means and coed and also JO boys and girls. The last couple of years I coach women and a men’s team”. Cindy continued “I umpired for about 5 years and became women’s area commissioner in 1986 and still am. I received the Distinguished Service Award from the SD Hall of Fame in 2011”.
I know your family has been involved in softball for years, tell us a little out the Koch/McMillan association with the game. “Jack McMillan was in the Navy and started playing in the military in 1969. He then played fast pitch for the Nite Owl in Clark, SD; Sharp’s Chevrolet and was picked up by many. Jack also played slow pitch for a while. He started umpiring in 1980. He umpired league, tournaments and state tournaments.
My daughter Jessica has played slow pitch since the age of 14 and is still playing. She has helped me coach JO. She now has 2 daughters that are playing softball and will start playing JO this year.
My son Shawn started playing at the age of 15. Cindy coached and sponsored Shawn's team. Those teams played both JO and Men's. He is also an umpire and umpired league, tournaments, state tournaments, and national tournaments and received the national umpire indicator award in 2014. Shawn coaches JO boy’s slow-pitch team who played in the USA Softball nationals in Indiana this year. Both Jessie and Shawn have always played for Sodak Construction".
Cindy’s parents are Gerhart and Cleo Koch, both deceased, who was very involved in softball in Watertown and the state. The fields in Watertown were named after Gerhardt and Cleo. Gerhart was one of the movers on starting the USA Softball Hall of Fame. Gerhardt wasinducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984 as an umpire. Cleo was inducted in 1990 as a promoter/officer.
How many years has your business been sponsoring softball teams, leagues, tournaments? “We started sponsoring in 1980 and still sponsor JO, Women’s, Men, and Coed. Last year we sponsored 3 teams but it might be 4 when my granddaughters start 10U JO.”
Do you feel that softball sponsorship is a positive impact on your business? “Yes but not directly as our business deal with grain elevators and farmers but Sodak Construction has made a name for itself in the softball world. We hope our sponsorship and association with softball is a benefit to the community. We are proud to sponsor the great game of softball”.
Thanks Jack, Cindy, and family for choosing to play and sponsor USA Softball teams.