50 years in the shoe biz
For a man who has been a fixture in Wadena for the last 50 years, Bob Tubandt had an unusual beginning.
For the first 17 years of his life, Tubandt was a farm kid -- and that meant he grew up working.
Tubandt watched his parents rise early to do farm chores, then head for their day jobs in town before returning in the evening to do more chores. Tubandt was not afraid of hard work but he wanted something else for himself.
"Its great that we have farmers, they are great people but I just didn't want to be tied down," Tubandt said.
It was September 1960 when the 17-year-old high school senior walked into Lyle's Ready to Wear on the main street of Wadena and went to work part-time as a trainee.
A young senator by the name of John F. Kennedy was running for the presidency, the Cold War with Russia had graduated to a space race and Wadena was on its way to becoming known as the No. 1 retail town for its size in Minnesota.
Tubandt's first boss was Lyle Goodrich -- a former store manager for J.C. Penney. Two years after Tubandt arrived, Goodrich simplified his business by turning it into a shoe store.
"Lyle always said that no matter how tough things are people are always going to buy good quality shoes," Tubandt said.
Tubandt bought the place in 1978 he decided to keep the name to avoid confusion. Aside from making good business sense, the decision to continue calling the operation Lyle's Shoe Store has delivered a consistency that Tubandt likes. His assistant, Sandy Baker, has been with him for 19 years and knows the business well enough to run it alone when Tubandt is involved with his other interests.
"She is a very important person to the store," Tubandt said. "It's very important to have good, loyal employees."
While Tubandt feels great about his business and his boxing program right now, there have been times when he considered going down other paths. He came close to walking away a couple of times but he likes his customers and he has found that the loyalty goes both ways. People have been coming in to buy his shoes for 50 miles around.
Tubandt has not let his livelihood take up all of his time. Over the years he has also found time to raise six kids, dabble in cars and motorcycles and teach the art of boxing to young men and women. His Wadena Boxing Club is considered one of the finest in the state, regularly packing the house at the Wadena National Guard Armory on North Jefferson.
Tubandt was a boxer and a wrestler when he first came to Wadena and he naturally gravitated into coaching. He still "laces them up" with his fighters and has turned out some real success stories.
DeWayne Steward had trouble walking right when he joined Tubandt's team at the age of 10. Eight years later he was the ninth-ranked amateur boxer in the nation.
Working with younger people has been good for Tubandt's crusade to maintain himself in good physical fitness.
The 67-year-old great-grandpa has been doing 80 push-ups and 200 sit-ups since he was a youngster. He goes in for medical checkup once every five years but he has never been inside a hospital and had been an anti-smoking advocate for years.
"My hair has been getting gray, but if your body feels good you feel good with people," Tubandt said.
Tubandt has liked the idea of owning a local business and selling customers good quality shoes.
"We have sold shoes to four generations," Tubandt said. "That is kind of special."