by Cori Hilsgen
Finken Water Cos. has moved to the industrial-park area in St. Joseph. The business, which was located in St. Cloud for the past 10 years, recently moved into the former Essilor/DBL Labs building. The building was empty for several years before Finken purchased it.
Owner Tom Finken said he began looking at relocating last year because of space needs. He is currently still in the process of remodeling the new location and is using both locations until the new one is finished. Finken said he has removed about 6,000 square feet and is adding about 10,000 square feet to the St. Joseph building.
Finken Cos. includes both Finken Water Solutions and Finken Plumbing, Heating and Cooling. Finken’s father, Wilfred “Wif” Finken, started the business in 1961 in Melrose under the name Sta-So-Soft. It has grown to 40 employees with five locations in St. Joseph, Albertville, Litchfield, Melrose and Osseo. Finken is also planning to open a warehouse in Maple Grove and provides residential plumbing, heating and cooling services in North Dakota.
The business has expanded from traditional water treatment with water softeners to include also ultra-violet light and reverse-osmosis treatment systems. It works with small and large agricultural poultry and dairy applications, car washes, schools, churches and city systems.
Finken services many of the Holiday car-wash stations in Minnesota. The company is also known for its chemical-free treatment of arsenic in wells and water supplies.
Finken’s Water Solutions provides healthy water options for homes, businesses and cities through various treatment systems as well as bottled water. The company delivers five-gallon and one-gallon jugs of distilled, spring, reverse-osmosis and fluorinated water to thousands of customers monthly. Drivers also deliver coffee products and water-softener salt to homes and businesses.
Finken gave an example of purifying water for a large poultry operation in Iowa. He said he met the owner at an agricultural show in St. Paul. The owner had worked with four other companies in Iowa before Finken Water Solutions provided them with the equipment that correctly treated their water. He was able to help the owner improve his production by removing the contaminants that were in the water.
Finken Plumbing, Heating and Cooling installs and services systems for commercial and residential clients. Two new buildings the company has worked on recently include the REJUV Medical building in Waite Park and the new residential apartment building, “The Waterford,” at Country Manor in Sartell. The company is also a certified radon locator and mitigator and installs geothermal systems.
Finken is most proud of how his company is able to handle its work load. He said the company employs a young team of people, many with families and children, and he tries to be flexible and open.
He said the hardest part of his position right now is finding good, qualified employees – people who want to work.
“There’s such a shortage because the kids out there aren’t going to plumbing school or heating school as much,” Finken said. “Some schools aren’t even teaching industrial arts anymore.”
He said many people got out of the trades and found other occupations when the housing markets changed.
“I think, talking to other people in the workforce, it has been hard to find good employees,” Finken said. “We’ve gone through a lot of changes over the years. When the economy crashed, we took a beating like everyone else as far as not getting paid and things like that. We had to overcome a fairly big hurdle, but I had a great bank (Freeport State Bank) behind me, which made all the difference in the world.”
Finken has been the chief executive officer of Finken Cos. for 17 years. He grew up and lived in Melrose until 2006 when he and his family moved to Sauk Rapids. Prior to moving to Sauk Rapids, he was the Melrose Fire Chief for seven years. He was also involved with the Minnesota Water Quality Board.
Finken is married to Tanya Finken, who owns “Kay’s Kitchen.” They have been married for 11 years and have two daughters, Kenzie, 10, and Alexis, 8. The family recently sold its Sauk Rapids home and is currently living in the “Mill Stream” loft apartments in St. Joseph.
Kenzie and Alexis attend All Saints Academy.
Finken said they often get asked how they can manage it all. He said his daughters spend time both at Kay’s Kitchen and at Finken’s where they have their own cubicles to do their homework.
“Tanya always has something going,” Finken said. “She is one of the biggest supporters of bringing other businesses into town. She feels it just gets more people in the city.”
Finken said he has some flexibility on his end. To take a break, the family often spends time at their campsite by Brainerd. Since Saturdays and Sundays are busy days at Kay’s for Tanya, he will often travel to the site with Kenzie and Alexis, and Tanya will come up in the evening or other times when she is able to.
“It’s been a lot of transition the last few years,” Finken said.
The couple’s schedules often revolve around the girls’ activities.
Finken wants people to know he and his company are involved and active in the area. The company participates in and donates water to many local events.
“We want to be part of the community,” Finken said.
Finken Water Cos. is located at 628 19th Ave. NE. The telephone number is 1-877-346-5367. For more information visit www.finkens.com.
photo by Cori Hilsgen
Tom Finken discusses his company’s relocation to the St. Joseph Industrial Park. He purchased and is in the process of remodeling the former Essilor/DBL Labs building.
Finken Cos. relocated from St. Cloud to the St. Joseph Industrial Park area. The first day of business at the new location was March 24.