By Denise M. Roberts
Left to right:
Sue Kester, Dawn
Oldre, Bob Frakes,
Ben Dirks, Adam
Bob and Dawn Frakes have continued to carry on a tradition that started in 1948 with Neil Frakes, Bob’s father. Neil started out as a Lindsay dealer, then later worked with the local Presto brand as a sideline to his construction business. The business (Frakes Water Treatment) was operated that way until the mid 1960s when he started to assemble units on his own with Erie valves, then Autotrol, and sold them to area dealers as well as retailing/renting/servicing locally. In 1970, son Bill returned to work with Neil. After a failed merger attempt in the early 70s, Bill bought the retail business from the merger and operated it as Bill’s Water Conditioning (adding Brandon Water Softener Service in 1981). Neil and his wife Annabelle then formed Frakco, Inc. and began to distribute water conditioning equipment and related products for QSP Distributing Co., Inc., which was formed in Redwood Falls, MN by Jack Kay, an associate of Neil’s in the early 70s.
Son Bob joined Frakco in 1976 and worked in the retail and the wholesale business for several years before taking full- time ownership of Frakco. QSP moved into the same complex of buildings with Frakco in 1977 and in the early 1980s, Neil purchased the QSP business. He operated that as Annabelle, Bob (and later his wife Dawn) continued the operation of Frakco. Neil and Annabelle retired in 1995; she sold her remaining shares of Frakco to Bob while Neil sold QSP to Bill’s wife Nancy, who had been a long-time QSP employee. In 2007, Frakco, Inc. purchased Bill’s Water Conditioning/Brandon Water Softener Service and, in 2008, purchased the inventory of QSP. All are now operated under Frakco, Inc., under the direction of Bob and Dawn.
Bob’s involvement in the family business came right after graduation from high school. He knew that more school was not for him. He had been on several trips delivering products with Neil when he was just a kid, and Neil had asked if he would be interested in working for the company someday. Now, 35 years later, Bob is doing the same thing, and obviously it was the right decision. He worked part-time through high school doing a variety of jobs, including sweeping floors, making grid plates from masonite pegboard (before the wonderful age of plastic), assembling brine tanks, filling resin tanks (manually), unloading salt and mowing the grounds (as well as anything else that needed doing!).
Today, Frakco serves Minnesota,northeast Nebraska and the eastern Dakotas. Frakco, Inc. is a full- service OEM distributor of residential/commercial quality water conditioning components, parts, filtration equipment, media, drinking water systems and related products. Complete systems include Aqua Magic, Aqua Magic Plus, Magic Water, as well as the Travelsoft portable RV water conditioner. Frakco, Inc. (dba Bills Water Conditioning) and Brandon Water Softener Service operate out of a complex of buildings in Luverne with over 17,500 square feet of office/warehouse space and eight employees, including owners Bob and Dawn. Bills Water Conditioning/ Brandon Water Softener Service’s large rental base is within a 40-mile radius of the office and includes residential, commercial and industrial water softeners/filters and drinking water systems. Most of their employees have been with either Frakco or QSP for over 17 years and are the heart of the business. “Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today,” said Bob. “Our mission is to provide the highest level of service, the best quality and the most competitive prices in the industry.
“I think the future of the industry looks bright given the water quality issues that we have. Mergers will slow a bit from the last 10 years among our vendors and technology will continue to grow. As for the foreign look-alike controls that are coming, that’s anybody’s guess. We’ll just have to see what hits the markets and be sure to educate our customers to the realities of good, solid manufacturing of components that we use in our systems. One important change in doing business nowadays is that social/digital media will be more prevalent for advertising/ marketing and keeping in touch with new and existing customers as well. We will strive to keep every avenue open to maintain our successful track record.
“We will continue in the future to build good relationships with our vendors and offer the latest technology available to our customers,” Bob said. “I know it is an old cliché but our business really has been built on customer service, providing quality products and the best pricing possible, and we will continue with that philosophy. Bigger is not always better.”