Whether it's a new floor for the kitchen, a new furniture set for the living room or a completely redesigned bathroom, chances are good that you've spoken with a Tollefson.
For nearly a century, the Tollefson family has been supplying Minot area residents and beyond with home supplies from their trio of businesses: Tollefson's Carpetland, Carpet Garage and Slumberland Furniture.
"Our 85 years in business, especially in retail, is pretty rare. A lot of partnerships don't last, but we were fortunate that it worked for my dad and Duane and it works for me and Mark," said Roger Tollefson, third generation business owner.
Beginning with a single second-hand furniture store in 1925, three generations of Tollefsons have built a regional furniture and flooring empire that encompasses 22 stores in three states.
But the journey has been anything but smooth.
Coming from a background in family farming near Sanish, Ole Tollefson became a businessman in 1925 when he bought the second-hand furniture store located in the basement of the building where First American Bank and Trust is now located downtown.
"Dad was a farmer at heart," said Ole's son, Duane. "But he went to town and did various jobs to make enough money to stay on the homestead. He bought the furniture store for $900 as a way to make a living for his family, but his heart was always back at the farm."
After two moves in the 1930s, Ole dropped the original "Furniture Exchange" name, opting instead to rename the store Tollefson's Furniture, which then stood on First Street Southwest. A fire in the winter of 1942 temporarily halted business, but the store was re-established down the street and was later moved to Third Street Southeast, where a fire station now resides.
Ole's two sons, Orlan and Duane, helped out during college working in various capacities bookkeeper, salesman, deliveryman and repairman but it was not until 1953 that the sons bought the business from their father.
At the time the sons took over the business it was a mixed inventory of new and old furniture, but after buying out their father, Duane and Orlan decided to move the store in a new direction.
"We decided to go with selling all new furniture and we added carpet, flooring and appliances," Duane said. "I don't remember why exactly we did it, but I think each generation does that. They add to what was there to build up the business."
After the purchase of the buildings by the city forced yet another move this time to 13-1st St. SE the pair expanded the business yet again by opening Burlington Sales, a cash and carry outlet store, in the old Burlington Soo Line Railroad Station.
"It just kind of happened," Duane said. "We needed a business to move out-of-stock furniture and other stuff that was out of style."
Just as Tollefson's Furniture had taken off from humble roots decades before, the new outlet store too soon outgrew its building and was moved to a new 10,000 square-foot structure built north of Minot, and was renamed Warehouse Furniture Sales. Continuing its growth, a 15,000 square foot addition was added to Warehouse Furniture and the name was changed to Tollefson's Furniture.
During this same time period, two new carpet-oriented businesses were started in Minot by Duane and Orlan.
Tollefson's Carpetland, which provides in-store and in-home designs and sells carpet, tile, vinyl, laminate and hardwood floors, was launched in 1968 on First Street Southeast.
The second carpet business, Carpet Garage, was launched as the result of an unusual business encounter.
"There was this guy that would come into town and sell carpet out of the back-end of his semi," Duane said. "We watched him do it for a while and it seemed to work pretty well for him, so we decided to try it."
In 1973, Duane rented a small downtown garage for 30 days and began selling close-out and out-of-stock carpet under the name of the Carpet Garage.
"It worked really well," he said. "It filled a niche for people who didn't have a need for the other services (like precision cutting or installation). I never thought it would get as big as it has. It kind of grew out of control."
Having two carpet businesses in the same small town may seen contradictory, but the Tollefsons have proved the opposite.
"Sometimes they do compete for the same customers, but more often they go after different customers," said Duane's son Mark Tollefson, who now runs the business. "Carpetland caters to middle and upper-level customers who want the full service business of design and installation. Carpet Garage is a value store for middle and lower-level customers who are looking for value."
After successfully expanding Tollefson's Furniture and starting two new carpet businesses, Duane and Orlan passed the reigns to their sons Mark and Roger in 1988.
As the third generation operators, Mark and Roger have helped propel the family business to the next level by bolstering its presence throughout the Northern Plains and by diversifying the operation.
Roger, who focuses on the furniture side, broadened business by converting Tollefson's Furniture into the franchise Slumberland Furniture in 1996. Over the last 14 years, Roger has opened or purchased 10 Slumberland Furniture stores in North Dakota and Minnesota.
Mark, who tackles the carpet side of business, has helped Carpet Garage expand to 10 stores in three states while also keeping Tollefson's Carpetland in Minot a vital part of the greater retail umbrella.
With the fourth generation of Tollefsons now involved in the family business Roger's son Brent works at the recently opened Carpet Garage in Dilworth, Minn., and his daughter Emily works at the Carpet Garage in Minot Roger and Mark's mission is to continue the company's growth.
To do that, Roger said the pair are investigating the possibility of opening another Carpet Garage, possibly in Bozeman, Mont., where the family has land but are also looking into several areas of Minnesota where they also recently acquired land.
"We always have our ears open," Mark said. "If the right people want to do it and if the market is a good fit, then we may do it."
On the furniture side, Roger said they have plans to purchase and open new Slumberland Furniture stores in the region, but in the immediate future the focus will be on remodeling the nine stores that were purchased in 2008.
"We want to clean up the stores so that they are ready for the next 20 years and so they can be ready when the kids take over," Roger said.
But as the third generation begins the transition to the fourth, the legacy of the family and the company is often discussed.
"Our dad would be pretty surprised because he wondered if Orlan and I would make it," Duane said. "I don't see the financials, but the solid growth under the boys, I'm very proud of them."
"Our biggest fears when we bought the business was that we didn't want people to say the sons ran it into the ground. That's a huge motivator so we worked hard and put in a lot of hours and effort," Mark said. "We were driven to succeed, No. 1 to make our parents proud, and No. 2, because we didn't want to be the generation that dropped the ball."
"There are benefits of joining a family business, but it's not necessarily easy. You have to want to be involved," Roger said. "I don't spend a day in my life without thinking of my business. I grew up around this, doing this. It becomes a part of you. I will never retire but my hope is to one day pass it on to the kids."
As the headquarters of all three businesses, Minot also plays a part in that legacy.
"All of the customers we've had over the years are still good friends today," Duane said. "It's fun to see them around town because they will come up and visit."
"Grandpa left a legacy of taking care of customers. As a family business, it's your reputation, your name, so you want to make sure it's all about customer satisfaction," Mark said. "Minot is our home, that's why over the past 10 years we've contributed a quarter of a million dollars back into the community. We wanted to give back to the community that has supported us for the 85 years."