Jeff Peterson’s career as an entrepreneur began at an early age. He grew up in Grand Rapids and graduated from high school in 1995. By the age of 18 he was already busy pursuing his interest in the construction business.
“After high school, while working for a metro-area Hardware Hank store,” Jeff explained, “a friend of mine approached me about working at a window company. Alside Windows needed licensed installers, and after visiting with my buddy, it seemed like something I could do. However, before I could start I needed to buy a business liability insurance policy, so here I was at age 18 shopping for a business insurance policy. Once I had that policy, I became a licensed window installer.”
After working a few years in the Twin Cities, Jeff moved back to Grand Rapids in 2001. With more business opportunities here in Itasca County, Jeff chose to become a licensed building contractor so he could work on commercial as well as residential building projects.
Jeff’s start in residential home construction began in 2000 with the purchase of one house. He remodeled that home with a loan from Wells Fargo, but ever since then Jeff has worked only with Grand Rapids State Bank to finance the 40-some Itasca County homes he’s purchased and rehabilitated since then.
“I have long history with Grand Rapids State Bank,” Jeff explained. “I grew up just down the street in Knollwood Addition from Steve and Vickie Wilcox, and I recall seeing young Noah Wilcox running down the street on a new three-wheeler he got for Christmas when he was in high school.”
Jeff opened his first savings and checking accounts with GRSB at the age of 12, so it was natural for him to contact Steve Levar, a GRSB loan officer, when he decided to buy and remodel his second house, the former Merriweather house, on Northwest Second Avenue. As his business grew, Jeff worked with other officers from the bank’s business lending team: Al Liestman, Jared Pink and now Nate Lloyd.
“I’ve been very pleased with the service I’ve received over the years at Grand Rapids State Bank,” Jeff noted. “I’ve had a good rapport with the various loan officers I’ve worked with, and they’ve never turned me down for a loan. It’s been a good relationship.”
When Patterson’s Store just south of Pokegama Lake on Highway 169 ran into financial difficulties, Jeff and his father inquired about buying the business. Eventually they bought it from GRSB and then moved ahead with making some building improvements.
“My dad and I bought the business with an eye towards flipping it,” Jeff explained, “but my mom liked managing it, something she continued until her health prevented her from continuing in that role. I bought my dad’s portion of the store in 2015. In April of 2018, the perfect opportunity arose to sell the store to a good friend.”
From the experience he gained remodeling homes, the path to other business opportunities unfolded naturally enough for Jeff. His involvement with reconstructing residential and commercial properties led him to purchase another business: ServiceMaster. He has the only franchise in the county, and he also is a direct-referral contractor for northeastern Minnesota. This means that when there are fires, floods or other insurance claims, Jeff’s ServiceMaster store is contacted by insurance companies to do the reconstruction work. The team at ServiceMaster is kept busy with jobs in International Falls, Virginia, Grand Rapids and all points in between.
Jeff’s involvement with the ServiceMaster franchise led to the start-up of yet another, related business: a commercial laundry service, Pokegama Laundry. The laundry service allows Jeff to offer a broader range of service to owners of businesses: construction, reconstruction, disaster response and cleanup.
“I can honestly say I loving getting out of bed in the morning to go to work,” said Jeff. “It sounds a little corny, but I love what I do. I’ve worked in jobs where it wasn’t always that way, but I feel fortunate right now.”
Jeff will be the first to tell you that running four businesses isn’t a bed of roses. He attributes his success to being aware of opportunities—looking for good deals—and taking calculated risks. Things don’t always turn out, but Jeff’s antennae are always up.
Another new opportunity is a commercial storage operation, Lakes Area Storage, on Highway 169 south of Grand Rapids. Jeff bought a house and 10 acres of land along the highway and subdivided the property into three lots. Now that Itasca County has given its approval, he is building storage units on roughly 4.6 acres of land. He will sell the units individually.
In addition to operating businesses, Jeff’s other passion is flying airplanes. He went to ground school at the age of 14, and he often flew with his father to and from the family’s cabin near Grand Marais. That love of flying led him to purchase two planes, a Cessna floatplane and recently a Columbia.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been able to work with my dad, mother and brother,” said Jeff, “and all the while still live in a place I love to call home.”