It’s rare to attend something in Central Minnesota that Bernick’s isn’t connected to, some way, somehow. Since 1916, Bernick’s, a distribution company, has been a pillar of the community delivering soft drinks, beer, and full-service vending services to over 10,000 customers across its territories in Central and Northern Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.
The Secret to Success
When you visit Bernick’s website, Community is an option on the site’s navigation. That alone signifies the emphasis the company places on supporting the areas it serves. Bernick’s employs 575 people across its territories and recognizes the impact a healthy community has on its people—both team members and customers.
John Torgerson is Bernick’s CEO and has been with the company since 1987. His tenure and longevity aren’t unheard of; many of its employees represent careers that span decades-plus. Is it something in the … water?
“I believe what we’re most proud of is our inability to distinguish what is more important: our employees or our customers. We strongly feel that without long-term, committed team members, we wouldn’t be able to establish long-term, high-level relationships with customers. Without strong customer relationships, we won’t be able to grow and continue to reinvest in our team members. In that sense, there’s this circle or chain that doesn’t begin or end. It includes our team members and our customers continuously,” Torgerson said.
A hallmark of business is creating a brand reflective of its values, vision, and inclusivity. Carving out a niche is something Bernick’s has done its entire history to ensure its commitment never falters, and identity remains true. Torgerson said, “We are passionate about the communities we serve, ensuring they are both healthy and vibrant. There’s a lot of opportunities yet to be had in Central Minnesota, and we have high expectations. We do not need to be the step-sister of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Central Minnesota can have its own identity and community.”
“Bernick’s firmly believes in strong communities and we give back to the communities we serve. We are humble and recognize that we don’t always talk about that part of our business, but it’s something that’s always been important to the Bernick family. That focus directly ties back to our team members and customers who live in these communities, do business here, and raise their families here. It can be defined as a three-legged stool to a degree, we need strong, healthy communities, we need our team members, and we need our customers.”
Where it All Began
Chas A. Bernick and his wife founded Bernick’s right here in St. Cloud. As a fifth-generation family-owned business, that matters and always will. “We believe it’s important to play an active role in the communities we serve. Our team members, customers, and consumers are all members of the community and a healthy, thriving community is better for us all. If it helps our customers and our team members, it’s good for Bernick’s.”
He continued by highlighting the effort behind St. Cloud Shines, on behalf of Greater St. Cloud Development Corp. “We believe St. Cloud Shines is trying to promote and talk about all the good things that are happening in Central Minnesota and the great opportunities here. We want others to know what we know about the place we call home.”
What makes home so special? Torgerson said, “We are a little biased because we’re based here, and have over 100 years of growth in Central Minnesota. We’re proud of and excited about that growth, and believe it’s a great place to live and work. Beyond that, we think there are a few aspects that make Central Minnesota a strong candidate for business and economic opportunities.
This is a major transportation corridor, there is a lot of open space that could be occupied. We believe we have a great K-12 education system, and an abundance of resources and opportunities to take advantage of the area’s post-secondary education options, and we learn every day that there is no lack of leadership in the St. Cloud area within other businesses and unique businesses not everyone might be aware of. We also have a solid economic base and an unbelievable amount of innovation happening around us.
“We strongly believe that St. Cloud is just learning how to deal with change and manage change. When all these pieces start working together, we will be unstoppable as a community and economic region.”
Where the Growing Gets Good
For a company that’s been in business for over a century, Bernick’s has ample experience in growth and stability. Torgerson recognizes what’s at stake and sees the areas to capitalize on in order to ensure the company sees another 100 years.
He said, “Opportunities lie in transportation and improving the transportation system. I-94, Highway 23, and Highway 10 could all be improved, perhaps the airport. The biggest opportunity, however, is in people. Continuing to attract talent to add to the workforce is an issue, and we’re not unique in that in Central Minnesota. And, we should continue to talk about our education system, even brag about it a little more. Highlight the great graduates coming out of the St. Cloud education system, K-12, the talent available, and answering the question: how do we keep them here?”
Quality People Make for Quality Products
“The qualities we look for in people—not explicit to Central Minnesota, but across our brand in general—are friendliness and an ability to get along with other people; honesty, relationship-building and how well people understand each other in order to work together, a hard-working, get-things-done, results-oriented attitude, adaptability because continuous improvement is important to Bernick’s, and lastly, a willingness to challenge the status quo. We are looking for people who are innovative, not just technology-wise, but across all areas of business and how the work gets done. The types of people who are never quite satisfied and willing to ask the bigger questions to understand the why and how behind it all.”