Smudes move business operations to Industrial Park in Pierz

Hope is to add more jobs as oil bottling line is finished and other ventures expand

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

Tom and Jenni Smude have moved Smude Enterprises into a building in Pierz Industrial Park on Centennial Drive, where Smude’s Sunflower Oil will soon be bottled. In addition, the Smudes’ grain bin business and a distributorship for livestock equipment will be run from the location. Pictured in front of the  facility are Smude, left, and Scott Saehr, director of sales.

Tom and Jenni Smude have moved Smude Enterprises into a building in Pierz Industrial Park on Centennial Drive, where Smude’s Sunflower Oil will soon be bottled. In addition, the Smudes’ grain bin business and a distributorship for livestock equipment will be run from the location. Pictured in front of the facility are Smude, left, and Scott Saehr, director of sales.

Tom and Jenni Smude have moved away from home — at least most of the business side of their life.

They do, of course, sleep at their family home and the production of their Smude’s Sunflower Oil remains in a building near their home, but the remainder of their business ventures are now housed in the Pierz Industrial Park.

The Smudes finalized the deal the beginning of the year, and are working to get the equipment fully installed to bottle the sunflower oil.

The oil will be shipped in totes to the assembly line, where bottles will be filled, capped, labeled, put into boxes and shipped. Currently, the Smudes’ oil is being shipped to 250 – 300 locations throughout the 49 contiguous states in the U.S., and can be found in many stores, including Coborn’s, Lund’s and Byerly’s.

The Royalton Lions Club has begun buying Smude’s Sunflower Oil by the gallon to use for its fish fries.

Flavored sunflower oil has been added to the line, including Italian, lemon and lime, developed by Jenni.

So too, peppermint and lavendar massage oils have been created.

“We had a lot of requests from massage therapists,” Tom said. “They were using the sunflower oil as a base oil.”

Soon, Smude’s Sunflower Oil bottles will carry the CentraCare logo, as a sign of the heart and vascular center’s stamp of approval on the oil.

He said a patient’s wife had brought a bottle to the center to ask whether it would be good to use.

Tom found out a few months later Smude’s Sunflower Oil was on the top of the dietitian’s list of oils that were good for a heart-healthy diet.

“It didn’t say just sunflower oil, it says, ‘Smude’s Sunflower Oil,’” Tom said.

Tom and Jenni Smude have gathered together Minnesota grown and/or produced products into a school fundraising catalog. Pictured are just some of the products that will be featured.

Tom and Jenni Smude have gathered together Minnesota grown and/or produced products into a school fundraising catalog. Pictured are just some of the products that will be featured.

Through their many travels promoting their sunflower oil line at various events, the Smudes have met others who sell products grown and/or produced in Minnesota.

The Smudes have developed a school fundraising catalog which offers a variety of products, including vinegar from Leatherwood Vinegary in Long Prairie, Pierz’ own SherriLynn’s soaps and lotions and Four Cheeks barbecue sauce produced in Randall. Other items will include salsa, beef jerky, coffee beans, maple syrup, popcorn, Chef Roberts’ breading mix, goat soap, wild rice, toffees, jewelry, spicy mustards and Locust Lane jelly, among others.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there that’s Minnesota-made, but no one knows about,” Tom said. “Unbelievable stuff.”

He has been in contact with area schools offering the fundraising opportunity and so far, said 100 percent of the schools want to take part. The orders will be put together at the Smude facility and delivered to the schools.

The Smudes have also become a distributor for Sioux Steel livestock equipment as well, including gates, feeders and herd shoots, serving a 125-mile radius.

This equipment is made in Sioux Falls, S.D., and  dealers have to either travel to South Dakota to pick up the products or have them shipped, paying hundreds of dollars for freight, which is problematic when only a few pieces are needed.

The Smudes are, Tom said, the first in Minnesota to become a Sioux Steel distributor. “They can just pick up their equipment here,” said Tom, which will save them money.

The grain bin business will also be run out of the facility. Grain bins are installed and serviced.

When all is up and running, Tom said they hope to have 16 – 17 employees working out of the facility.

Jenni, a trained accountant, keeps books for each business.

The family currently owns five LLCs and Tom said Jenni told him “Enough.”

But, he said, she’s coming up with ideas, too.

It’s not all work at the facility. The Smudes’ children, Mitchell and Katelyn, are able to come to the facility when their parents are there. A basketball hoop is evidence they can have a good time.

Pierz Mayor Toby Egan said he felt the business would have a “huge” impact on the city.

“It’s a new business that is starting out and has a significant market already for their new product,” he said. “I think in time, this business is really going to benefit our city and hopefully provide a good share of good-paying jobs. That’s something to look forward to in the future.”

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