Sellner’s was special to the end
By: Erin Sellner, guest columnist
January 7, 2011, faribault.com
Sellner Manufacturing Company was known in the amusement ride industry for building a superior product and for providing customer service second to none. Sellner also had a reputation for building their rides too well. A great example of this is the Tilt-A-Whirl that operates at the Steele County Fair in Owatonna every summer. It has been owed by three generations of the Merriam family. That Tilt-A-Whirl was originally built by Sellner in 1947.
The average employee at Sellner had worked for the company more than 15 years. Every department; welders, painters, fiberglass, electrical, tech support and office staff felt a great pride in building “America’s Favorite Family Amusement Rides” — right here where it all began in Faribault, Minn., USA.
Historically, 80 percent of Sellner’s new ride business came from traveling carnivals. The national recession, years of extreme weather conditions, third- and fourth-generation family ownership issues, fuel costs and increased and costly regulations have forced some of Sellner’s customers out of the business entirely; others have had to merge into corporate-owned carnivals. This merging combines ride inventory assets and decreased sales for Sellner.
The State Bank of Faribault foreclosed on the property and called all the business loans secured by its equipment, inventory and trademarks — every asset of Sellner Manufacturing Company — in 2007. At that point we began to look for an outside investor or buyer for the business. We had two main goals. Number one, to continue to provide parts and service for existing customers; and number two, to keep production here in Faribault, employing people in this community and purchasing materials from local vendors.
When all of our personal resources were exhausted the State Bank of Faribault stepped up their efforts to sell the business, finding a buyer — Texas-based Larson International. Tilt-A-Whirl parts and ride production have already begun to be relocated to Larson’s headquarters in Plainview, Texas.
It’s a terrible loss for me personally and for this community. My entire life has revolved around this business. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest fabricators and meet the hardest-working people, the traveling carnival owners.
I was asked to turn over my keys to the building on Monday. I’m walking away with nothing but fond memories of growing up in a unique business of building fun machines.
— Erin Sellner was president of Sellner Manufacturing Company.
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