40 years and three generations
George Garlick has always been interested in home improvement. In fact, as a young man, he worked in the building contract business.
While on a job, a fall changed the career path he had set for himself.
“I had my own building contract business in Fairmont from 1960-1970,” says Garlick. “The fall caused me to split a vertebra in my back. I decided since I wasn’t going to be able to do the physical work with my crew, I needed to find another job.”
He says he was looking for something else to do when he received a job offer from a firm in Minneapolis. He ended up turning it down because he says he wanted to stay in a small town.
It was at this time, Art and Sue Gregerson were looking for a buyer for their water softener business at 502 N. Rice in Blue Earth.
With his construction background, he thought this business might be a good fit for him. It would keep him involved in the home improvement area even though it was a different aspect of it.
After completing the sales transaction, Garlick says he started his business, Garlick’s Water Conditioning, on March 9, 1970. A month later, he and his wife, Bonnie, moved to Blue Earth.
Sue Gregerson, the wife of the previous owner, worked in the office of Garlick’s for the next nine years. Also on staff were his wife and one route man. The business ran routes south into Kossuth and Winnebago Counties in Iowa, north into Blue Earth County and west to Martin County.
With the change in occupation, he hoped to do less physical work to save on his back, but this was not the case.
“This is not a loafer’s business,” says Garlick. “I’ve lugged a lot of tanks with a bad back over the years.”
The first products Garlick says he sold were single tank electric water conditioners which took two hours to regenerate. The cost for one of these units 40 years ago was about $350. He sold salt for the conditioners as well. “I also sold a few thousand stock tanks to farmers when I first got in the business,” says Garlick. “Now it has totally changed. I don’t do anything with livestock waterers anymore.”
In addition to waterers, softeners and salt, Garlick says he also sold exterior entry steps the first years he was in business. He says they were a carry-over from his contracting days.
“A monster of a change took place in 1980,” says Garlick. “I became the first dealer in the state to sell the two tank water softener system which was first sold in Newbury, Ohio, in 1970. I got involved with it because the company had a sales representative in Iowa who had been trying to set-up dealers in the area.”
Garlick says he told people about the new machine and it was well received, but he still kept his one and two hour regenerating water softener models in stock.
By the late 1980s, Garlick says Rice Street was being diverted, so he had to find a new location for his business. Before the City of Blue Earth removed his first shop, he bought the present site at 906 E. Second.
“Briefly, we worked out of both sites, recalls Garlick.
After 40 years in business, Garlick says they are annually still installing about 300 units of their most popular model of water conditioner.
Like many other businesses, the recent economic downturn has had an impact on Garlick’s sales, too.
Garlick currently employs one route man, one installer and one repairman, in addition to his granddaughter, April, who manages the office. His son, Doug, and grandsons, Roscoe and Charlie, are involved with septic and well work, which is an off-shoot of Garlick’s business.
“If a well is insufficient in the amount of water coming from it, I refer the job to Doug,” says Garlick.
Garlick’s Water Conditioning continues to serve a nine-county region.
In his 40 years of business, Garlick says the biggest job he has ever undertaken was providing a 120-gallon per minute water conditioner set-up in New Prague’s Water and Light Building.
“When we plan a job and a customer makes a remark about how fantastic the water is compared to what it used to be,” says Garlick, “that is the most rewarding part of being in this business.“
Even hearing the remarks of satisfied customers is not always enough to keep a business afloat, though.
“If the service, installation and equipment are the best, one will stay in business,” says Garlick of his longevity working in the water conditioning field.
In 2008, Garlick again became the first dealer in Minnesota to introduce a new product…a drinking water system.
After 25 years of having a totally rust-free, non-electric water softening system, now Garlick’s carries a filter system which takes out the impurities in drinking water. These include manganese, taste, odor and iron to name but just a few. The unit consists of twin tanks, just like a softener, and uses softened water to clean itself and to keep it rust free.
“I think this is one of the greatest things that’s ever come along,” says Garlick. “Not only does this drinking water system give better water, but it uses no electricity. It also has a quick flow tank whose pressure is great without having a booster pump.“
Having been in the contracting business, Garlick says he makes it possible to install this reverse osmosis system, not under the sink, but in basements.
“I make it work for the customer,” says a matter-of-fact Garlick. “I’d rather struggle a few hours to install a reverse osmosis system in a basement than to just put it in under the sink where the homeowner will have to struggle every time he or she wants to replace the filters.
Forty years and three generations later, George Garlick still is excited about his water conditioning business.
“My favorite part of the job has changed through the years,” confesses Garlick. “I used to love to set-up the equipment. Now, I visit with people to plan their jobs so they are done right.”
Garlick says he never realized, when he bought the business in 1970 from the Gregersons, he would have to be a leader introducing new equipment to the public.
“I searched out and found the very best products in the business,” he says.
As for the future, Garlick says it is awful hard to imagine anything coming along better than the current water system he sells.
“Over the past 40 years, I figured it, sold it and installed it,” says Garlick with pride. “What I love about this business is there will be no fiction. Everything we talk about concerning the product will be facts.”
Indeed, some businesses come and some businesses go, but for Garlick’s Water Conditioning, it is 40 years and counting.
The three generations of Garlicks have the innovative water treatment technology that not only will improve one’s water, but also one’s home and life.