Kallevigs close on Wadena GM property
John Kallevig's ambitions in the family business started small, but like the proverbial acorn turning into the mighty oak, grew quickly.
"When I was a 5- or 6-year-old, I'd get a fly swatter and get a penny for every fly I'd swat," he recalled.
That was about 25 years ago, and today, John and his wife, Lisa Kallevig, are about to expand Kal's Kars, Kal's Appliances, Kal's Rental Equipment and Kal's Motor Sports into the huge lot that used to contain a competitor, Wadena GM.
The couple closed on the sale of the property on Dec. 22. They'll be moving out of their current 3,000 square foot building into the 24,338 square-foot, 5.5 acre property which had also been known as Wadena Auto Mall. It's a piece of real estate the Kallevigs have been eyeing since they purchased the family business from John's parents.
"From the time we bought the business, we thought [that property] was intriguing," John said.
But at that time, it wasn't for sale. Last summer, that changed when the owners, Dondelingers, closed the GM dealership.
"We said, 'let's pray about this,'" John recalled.
The answer came quickly and clearly.
"It's a buyer's market," John said. "Any other year, we wouldn't have bought it for what we bought it for."
And Kal's was ready to expand, the two said.
"We're out of space here," Lisa explained.
About the business
Kal's Kars was started in 1975 by Dan Kallevig, John's father, south of Verndale. In 1978, they moved to the city of Verndale, and four years later, settled into the location the business occupies today on North Jefferson Street.
It started out as just cars, but rental equipment followed in 1977, John said, and the appliance business came in 1985.
The rental business offers everything from lawn and garden equipment to Bobcats to cement mixers. There are also trailers, wedding and party equipment, and a few oddities on the list as well.
"We even rent crutches," Lisa said.
The appliance business has the typical white goods: washers, dryers, refrigerators and such. And in 2001, Kal's revved it up with motor sports like snowmobiles and ATVs -- too many to show on the current lot, so these are at the Kallevigs' home.
In 2007, John and Lisa became the owners. But the family business has been more than blood-line family, too. Some very loyal employees have made Kal's Kars familiar to many Wadena-area customers.
Jim Carr has been with the business since 1977 -- a date that was being bandied about between he and John before Carr realized it was around John's birth that he started working for his dad. Another team member is Jonathan Korfe, who has more than two decades with the business, starting in 1986.
"The employees are what make this business," John said. "If I was gone for a month, these guys could run it."
God first, family second, business third
John explained that he and Lisa are devoted Christians, and have always followed the motto that God comes first, family second (and the couple has a 2-year-old girl running around to take care of), and business third.
John said that keeps him centered in life.
"Ultimately, that property," he said, pointing to the former Wadena GM lot, "is God's property. That property and me -- we're God's property."
A big step up
For John and Lisa, at 31 and 29, "it's a big step," Lisa said, to purchase the big lot. But John explained Kal's will expand slowly into the space, and follow his conservative business approach that has gotten him this far.
"I'm not jumping in over my head," he said.
Buy inexpensive, sell inexpensive has been a guiding principle for the Kallevigs, which is why John bought 14 cars last week and 12 the week before at auctions in the Twin Cities, often looking for deals on repossessed vehicles and bargain prices. He said buying around Christmas is usually a buyer's market on cars, which is why he does a lot of it this time of year.
"If we can buy them cheaper, we can sell them cheaper," Lisa said.
John said he could close the business and probably move it all in a couple of weeks, but that wouldn't be fair to his employees or his customers, or his slow-and-steady business approach. Instead, he said the goal is to get the new building cleaned and projects done over there by the end of January. Moving will take place through the month of February, and the Kallevigs are targeting March to be completely out of their current location.
John said he wants to sell the property he's currently in, preferably to a family business like the one his dad nurtured and built.
"We're a family business," he said. "And we're a business serving this community."