3rd Annual Minnesota Family Business Awards Emerging Award Winner
By Nancy Eide, Published in Minnesota Business Magazine
Warners’ Stellian – Emerging Award Winner
“When people ask me how we made it through the tough times of late, I tell them we did two things really well,” says Jeff Warner, president of Warners’ Stellian. “The first thing we did was to keep the culture of our company healthy -we had to make some personal sacrifices to do that, but we kept the Christmas parties, the picnics, the health initiatives, the pay; and the second thing was we had to work harder. We did it all because it was the right thing to do.”
Jeff is not hesitant about sharing where he learned this “do-the-right-thing” philosophy: his dad.
Jim Warner Sr., a hard-working, lead-by-example, soft-spoken guy, bought the St. Paul appliance store, Stellians, in 1971 with his nephew after having worked there for 16 years. It was a family affair from the get-go and Jeff remembers all of his eight siblings and himself plastering the neighborhoods with flyers. “It was grass-roots marketing at its best,” says Jeff.
Over the ensuing years, Jim Sr. bought out his nephew’s share, the product mix expanded, sales increased and in 1987, with the newly acquired Richfield Appliance, revenue was at $4 million.
When Jim Sr. officially retired in 2000, revenue had jumped to nearly $40 million, and there were four locations. But, as it turns out, the real legacy is the path he had trod for his children.
“My dad showed us the value of treating your customers well, of making sure your employees are well taken-care-of, and the importance of giving back; he always took care of his people,” says Jeff. “And right before he retired, he took the time to evaluate each of our skills and placed us each in a role he thought would be the best for the business.”
Last year, Warners’ Stellian donated 10 percent of its net profits to the community, continued with their excellent customer service and free delivery program and, moving forward, are close to setting up a foundation.
“Now we are the ones leading by example,” says Jeff. “So when the next generation takes over, they’ll know which principles to follow.”
- Family Name: Warner
- Principal Owners: 9 Warner siblings
- Number of Employees: 200
- Number of Family Employed by Business: 30
- Number of Family Involved with Business: 72 (active and inactive)
- Number of Generations Involved Since Inception: 3
- Generation Currently Running the Business: 2nd
- Active Board: Yes
- Family on Board: Yes
BIZBRIEFING Headquarters: St. Paul / Inception: 1949 / Type of Ownership: S-Corp Description: Warners’ Stellian is Minnesota’s largest family-owned appliance seller. / Website: warnersstellian.com