Hometown hero saves the Minn Lake Tribune
There is some good news in the city of Minnesota Lake, and one bit of good news is that there is a newspaper there to report all the news.
There almost wasn’t. The Minnesota Lake Tribune was close to ceasing publication and closing up shop for good, back in 2008.
That is when a Minnesota Lake native son came back home and bought the newspaper and became a hometown hero.
Donald Kain, along with his wife, Roxy, had just returned to Minnesota Lake six months earlier. Kain had been gone from town since 1974, the year he graduated from Minnesota Lake High School as part of the largest graduating class 38 in the school’s history.
“The Tribune was being run by a classmate of mine, Paula Amy,” Kain says. “She had owned it since 2001, and was having trouble keeping it going.”
There had been a fire in the newspaper office in 2001 right before Amy purchased it, and she was running the newspaper out of an upstairs office of her brother’s insurance office. She was also having some health issues.
“I had actually worked a little at the newspaper when I was in high school,” Kain says. “The owners were Ken and Marlys Hiscock, who had owned it since 1961 and who sold it to Paula in 2001. I thought back then it might be fun to run the Minnesota Lake Tribune someday. So when I heard it might close, I talked to Paula, and ended up buying it from her. I could see some potential for it, I could see it could grow.”
And, not only did he buy the newspaper, he went and talked to former owner, Ken Hiscock, and struck an agreement to rent the former newspaper office. Hiscock, whose wife has passed away, still lives in an apartment behind the newspaper office.
Kain had to do a whole lot of remodeling to the building, as nothing had been done to it since the fire and it was in really bad shape.
The business started out a bit slow, but Kain is making a go of it now. He has even been able to add two staff members Beth Crosby is the community journalist and Lori Gottberg is the account representative.
Kain is making the Tribune successful mainly by keeping expenses low, and that includes printing the paper in his office on a large copier machine.
“I was having the newspaper printed at newspaper printing plants, but it was very expensive,” he says Kain. “And there was driving time involved. So, we started running it this way and we see good results to the bottom line and people seem to like the smaller size.”
He and the staff do the addressing of the papers, stuffing the inserts inside, and mailing the Tribune to the subscribers.
Kain has also been building up a good commercial printing business to go along with the newspaper, another reason for his success. They do everything from posters and envelopes, to menus for area restaurants and much more.
“I really enjoy this,” he says. “It (buying the Tribune) is one of the best things I have ever done in my life.”
And, Kain has done a lot of things in his life. His time away from Minnesota Lake has been, as he says, a lot of varied occupations and a series of adventures.
“I have had an interesting life, that is for sure,” he says with a smile.
After high school he attended the University of Wisconsin at Stout to become an industrial arts teacher.
He next went to Mankato State University and majored in speech/theater with a minor in industrial arts, graduating in 1978.
His first teaching job was at Wabasha-Kellogg High School where he taught speech/theater and journalism for two years.
“I had to take some correspondence classes through the U of M in order to be able to teach journalism,” Kain says with a laugh. “And now I am using what I learned.”
He and Roxy were married in 1979, while he was in Wabasha and she was attending Winona State.
But, next he went to the Redwing Vocational School in 1980, where he worked as a tech writer and helped create a computer-based curriculum for alternative energy, like solar and wind.
When the funding for that job dried up, it was on to Winona State University for one year where he completed a degree in English. He next went to Trimont for one year and taught high school English there.
“Yes, Roxy and I were moving around a lot,” he says. “And, we kept doing it.”
Next stop, it was going to work at the Renville Star Farmer newspaper, where Kain was the editor for three years, 1983 to 1986.
“I also started a publication, called the High School Writer,” he says. “It was a teaching tool for English teachers. They would send me their students’ work and I would publish it in the High School Writer and send copies to English teachers.”
It started in about 1985 with just some schools in part of Minnesota involved, but quickly expanded to the whole state, then to the whole Midwest, and eventually went nationwide and even had a Canadian edition.
Eventually Kain was printing and mailing out 45,000 copies of the publication every month.
“I had started working on it part time, but it quickly went to full time,” he says.
By 1990, Roxy’s allergies had become chronic, and her doctor suggested a change in location, specifically, northern Minnesota.
So the couple packed up their belongings and their two daughters, Elizabeth and Christina, and moved to Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
Kain kept running the High School Writer from Grand Rapids, but in 1997, after having owned it for 12 years, he sold it.
And then, promptly started a new business.
“It was a home building company,” he says. “Remember, I have a background in industrial arts.”
His company built high-quality, stick-built homes. They built them two level and even prebuilt the basement. All three pieces were delivered on site and quickly finished because they were pretty much completely done. Just hook up the wires and pipes and it was ready to move in.
“We grew the company over the next 10 years,” he says. “We eventually had a building large enough that five homes could be under construction at the same time. We had 48 employees, and our own house moving and excavation crews.”
Then came the economic downturn of 2007 and the Great Recession of 2008, and it meant a severe housing crunch.
“We lost everything,” Kain says. “Our business, our home, our savings, everything. And, had a lot of debt.”
Kain says he was depressed and in a bad place, mentally and emotionally. Both he and Roxy had no idea what they were going to do next or where they would even live.
“It was Roxy who said she thought it was best that we move back home, to my hometown of Minnesota Lake,” he recalls. “She said she felt it would be the best place for me. And, she was right.”
When they arrived in Minnesota Lake, friends helped them find a place to live. After four months Kain found a job as an interim pastor at a rural Minnesota Lake church.
“I loved it,” he says. “I did it there for a year and a half. I am still doing it, part time, filling a pulpit in area churches when I’m needed.”
Kain adds that being back in Minnesota does feel like being at home. After all, he has more than a little connection to the city.
“My great-grandfather, Godfried Schosag, is the one who built the famous ‘Old Mill’ out on the Minnesota Lake shore,” he explains. “The city, and others, use a drawing of the Old Mill as the symbol of Minnesota Lake.”
The Old Mill was built in 1864 on the shores of Minnesota Lake. Godfried Schosag continued to operate it until his death in 1903. His son operated it for a short time after that. It was dismantled in 1938 and a catastrophic fire, which swept across the dry lake bed, destroyed the remains of the mill in 1939.
Kain has been fascinated his whole life by the mill his great-grandfather built.
“I have the old iron key to the lock in the main door,” he says. “And, when I was in high school, I built a 1/10 scale model of it.”
That model is in the town’s museum. Kain calls his newspaper company “The Friendly Dutchman,” in honor his great-grandfather who had that moniker as his nickname.
Kain says his life is good now, back home in Minnesota Lake. He and Roxy have built a small home north of town on property that has been in his family for a long time. It is completely off the grid, with solar power for electricity, wood for heat and captured rain for their water.
Their two daughters are both married Elizabeth lives in Brooklyn Center and Christina lives in Brainerd.
He is happy doing the two things he loves, putting out a newspaper and filling a pulpit when needed. Roxy is happy working as a home organizer and helping people downsize and get rid of clutter.
Kain says there are many blessings that are far better than financial wealth, and God has blessed them greatly since they came back to Minnesota Lake in 2008.
“My wife and I can now look at the closing of our homebuilding business when the Great Recession erupted as God’s blessing of deliverance from a lifestyle then of immense and intense stress, and, like the Bible character Job and his wife, are blessed in an even greater way after the catastrophe than before,” Kain says. “For God has fulfilled the long-time yearnings of mine to serve as a pastor and also serve the people of my hometown with the Minnesota Lake Tribune.”