ONE BIG FAMILY
Huber Supply Company has been in business since 1939. We have 3 stores located in Mason City, Iowa, Owatonna, Minnesota, and Ames, Iowa. Read our company history below. Huber Supply now has had 4 generations of Huber’s work at its store. We are proud to celebrate over 70 years of family-owned, family-operated business. We service, educate, and provide our customers with the best products on the market today.
Elmer Smith’s family was concerned about his fascination with airplanes. He wanted to build and fly them. His family thought airplanes were dangerous, so instead, they pushed an interest with boats.
Elmer decided to go boating on Lake Erie over a weekend, but his boat soon developed engine problems and he was stranded at a boat works in Port Clinton, Ohio that was managed by a Mr. Schmidt. Schmidt’s employees were off for the weekend, but Elmer didn’t want to wait until Monday for the repairs to begin. He wanted his motor repaired in the worst way by Sunday morning. Mr. Schmidt had a son who worked for him named Nelson; he was very talented. Nelson worked all night and by morning Elmer’s boat was “purring like a kitten.” Elmer was so impressed, he told Nelson to stop by Minneapolis if he ever wanted a job with his welding supply company. Nelson Schmidt took Elmer Smith up on his job offer.
Elmer Smith hired Nelson Schmidt as a salesman. Huber Supply’s founder George Huber’s grandma lived in a big house on University Avenue a block or two from the Smith Equipment plant in Minneapolis, Minnesota where Nelson found a room. He became an assistant-welding instructor for the defense plants. Nelson’s talent won him a National contest sponsored by Fisher Body for his replica of a stagecoach. He also had a great sense of humor and a loud, unique laugh. Through Grandma Huber, George Huber and Nelson Schmidt soon became good friends.
George and Nelson talked about starting their own oxygen-acetylene supply route. At the time, truck-supply routes were very successful out East and there seemed to be a gas distributor in every town. Nelson talked George into going in on an “oxygen-acetylene” route with him (It didn’t take much convincing). He told George that a route would “work damn good here.” Nelson knew that George would be good at sales and was someone he could trust. In the summer of 1939, George and Nelson got a hold of an old truck. They welded a stake-bed box together to carry cylinders. George learned a lot about welding and cutting from this new job.
Meanwhile, Smith Company came out with an electric welder, but Elmer Smith didn’t like the ventilated top. He asked Nelson to make a better one. Nelson engineered just what Elmer requested. George secured oxygen and acetylene cylinders from Commercial Gas, and started lining up customers for his route. George and Nelson decided that southern Minnesota would be a prime starting point for the route because it fared well during the depression, and was enjoying favorable conditions at the time. Nelson went on a sales trip in eastern South Dakota, and touched base with George every night over the phone. One night, George told Nelson that he had lined up 16 customers for the route and Nelson told him, “Doing a great job George, keep it up!”
After a route, George stopped to fuel up his truck. The owner of the station told George that he better get home his wife had some “news” for him. Nelson was killed in a car crash. On a foggy evening just outside of Watertown, South Dakota, Nelson was rounding a curve when a car with five drunks came from the other direction. The car crossed the centerline and hit Nelson head-on. Only one person survived the wreck.
Nelson was a major supporter of the welding business. He bank-rolled the project and kicked in twenty-five dollars a week to keep food on the table at George’s house. When George’s folks came to the funeral, George had to borrow money from his dad to keep the new business going. After his first month in business, George had cleared fifty dollars. Though he lost a friend and business partner, he was very happy with the business’s success.
Since then, Huber Supply has remained family-owned and operated and has seen four generations of Huber’s work at Huber Supply. It has grown into three store locations; Mason City and Ames, Iowa and the other in Owatonna, Minnesota. All locations are successfully continuing to grow. George Huber passed away at the age of 92, but was active long after he retired. Huber Supply is carried on by George’s son, Loren, and grandson, Doug and great grandkids Rodney, Nicole, and Cal.
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Huber Supply Company is committed to providing companies with the finest products and services, designed to make them number one in the industry: Safety, Quality, Profitablility