More than 80 years ago, the late Glen Peterson started his business, Glen Peterson Construction, with a shovel.
It grew to be a powerhouse in the local business community, an employer of dozens of people and a supporter of a variety of causes in the community.
But that place in the community drew to a close on Thursday, with a dispersal auction of the company’s equipment and its land, conducted by Ritchie Bros.
Sam Peterson, a grandson of Glen Peterson, operated the company with Sam’s brother Tyler. He was pleased with how the sale went, but it was a bitter-sweet day for him.
The toughest part of seeing the business draw to a close was his fondness for the employees.
“They’re like part of our family. It was a hard decision when we had to give them their 10 weeks notice, and go on from there. Most of them took it well and they all hung in there right to the end with us, and everything went pretty well that way,” said Sam Peterson.
About 20 people were working for the company on its final day in business, but during the boom of a few years ago, there was around 45 or even 50 employees.
It was also tough to tell their loyal customers that they were getting out of the business.
“We made the decision, so we just decided we’d go ono our way,” said Sam.
He noted he and his brother started working for the business when they were 12 or 13 years old, and worked their way to running the company. They ran the company for nearly 20 years.
Before the business closed, one of Tyler’s children was starting to get involved with the company, bringing a fourth generation of Petersons into the mix.
“There was definitely a lot of satisfaction,” Sam said.
The local economy was a big factor in their decision to close. They have also seen an influx of businesses coming in from elsewhere to take on work in Estevan.
He reminds people that it’s important to support businesses in the community, since businesses like Glen Peterson Construction have always done a lot for Estevan.
Sam and Tyler Peterson are now going to go bison farming and see how they do.
Local auctioneer Jason LeBlanc with Ritchie Bros. said there were 275 lots and it was completed in about 6 1/2 hours. The property itself was divided into three parcels of land and sold.
The bulk of the equipment went to the U.S., and there weren’t a lot of bids in the local area. Bids came from as far away as Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
“The gravel crushing equipment, there were bids on that from everywhere, because that market is always good for when they have to crush aggregate for road products or different things from all over the place,” said LeBlanc.
A curb machine, which was added to the Peterson equipment fleet a few years ago, drew a lot of international and national interest.
LeBlanc believes the property would have sold for a lot more if the sale had happened a few years ago.
He conceded it was a tough auction to do. When LeBlanc started selling 30 years ago, Glen Peterson Construction was at its peak.
“It’s not the same market that it once was. The laws and the regulations changed. It’s tough to see a business like that go. I understand what they did and why they did it, but it’s tough.”
At one time, it was a big employer. Employees had a lot of pride, attention to detail and character, or they didn’t work for Glen for very long.
“Glen was hard, but he was fair. He demanded perfection on his equipment, and he built an empire up,” said LeBlanc.
Glen’s children and grandchildren took over the company, and ran a very successful business, but LeBlanc was quick to point out they weren’t handed anything.
“It was 82 years in business from start to finish over three generations, so I would say that’s a success story in itself,” LeBlanc said.
LeBlanc said he knew Glen Peterson pretty much his entire life, and that Glen was a small boy when LeBlanc’s great great grandfather was an auctioneer, and Glen attended some of those auctions in the early 20th century.
At the start of the auction, LeBlanc read a bio on Glen, who was born in the U.S., but moved to the Estevan area as a child. Glen spent some time in B.C., and moved back to Saskatchewan because of a job to gravel a road from Estevan to Oungre on Highway 18.
“He moved back and he rented a truck, and he got on that job and he would shovel two yards of gravel, haul it out to Highway 18 and shovel it off and go back and forth, two yards at a time. To give you an example, today’s trucks haul 35 to 40 yards.”
He also realized there were lots of farmers with grain piles on the ground, so he would stop and shovel a load of gravel out and shovel a load of wheat and take it into town.
Once he got to know the farmers, he started hauling coal to farms and wheat back to town.
“He had quite a following of people that would hire him because he was such a worker.”
Glen eventually bought his first truck with tandem dual wheels, and it hauled two yards of gravel.
The company didn’t start to surge until the 1950s, and that’s when he started to hire people and extra trucks. In 1961, the business found its long-time home on Sixth Street.
Glen Peterson Construction poured cement for the Boundary Dam Power Station, the Shand Power Station and Poplar River Power Station.
“Any major project in Estevan, including the old Civic (Auditorium) was all his concrete over the years. There’s hardly a building in town that didn’t come out of that batch plant that we auctioned off.”
Approximately 1,000 people have worked for the business over the years.