Minnesota Snapshot: Red Wing entrepreneur
finds Twin Cities investors


finance and commerce
By: Ann Bretts
June 11, 2015

A year ago, Stew Stender of Eden Prairie-based Stewart Capital Partners and Al Geiwitz of Orion Financial Co. in Bloomington teamed up to buy SCS Elevator Products Inc., a Red Wing company whose longtime majority owner, Donna Anderst, was planning for her eventual retirement.

Now an entity related to the company’s new owners has paid Anderst and an entity related to her $1.35 million for the company’s 40,000-square-foot plant at 310 Cannon River Road S. Red Wing Group LLC closed on the acquisition June 1 from Anderst and AIM Enterprises LLC, according to a certificate of real estate value made public June 3.

Far from cashing out and hitting a beach, however, Anderst still is president and CEO and chair of the company’s new board of directors. The new owners appointed her to guide the company’s transition from an entrepreneurial-style business to professional management. “It’s exceeding our expectations,” Stender said of the investment in the private company, which doesn’t release annual revenue. Anderst is only the second leader the company’s nearly 40-year history.

Robley G. Cook, a visually impaired man, started Stencil Cutting and Supply Co. as a way of producing metal and injection molded plastic braille signs for elevator cabs, according to company records.

After his death a decade later, Anderst bought the business and oversaw its growth to 55 employees, producing more than 70,000 buttons, informational signs, embossed visual markings, emergency warnings and safety barricades, for customers around the world. Anderst moved the company from Maplewood to Red Wing in 2006 and bought the Cannon River Avenue North building. Stewart Capital Partners invests in commercial real estate, but also has invested in more than 25 companies in the past 30 years, owning them an average of 13 years.

What’s the key to a successful transition to professional management? “There’s not an easy answer,” Stender said, noting that whole books have been written on the subject. Stender does have a core strategy, however. “We buy good companies with good management and leave good management alone to do their jobs,” he said.


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