Meet the Burghardts, a remarkable example of a successful family business spanning five generations, one depression, two world wars and plenty of economic cycles in between.
The year was 1881 when Charles Burghardt opened a small stationary and bookstore in downtown Milwaukee. Due to an influx of German and Polish immigrants, he recognized a growing demand for stationary and school supplies and made the first of many pivots. He began to develop relationships with schools, emphasizing excellent customer service, to serve the needs of these students. Eventually, he grew the school business by expanding into physical education supplies and sports equipment, setting into motion what has become his family’s legacy for five generations.
The retail industry has undergone major shifts over the decades, from small local independents to big-box nationals to large online marketplaces with massive distribution centers. This requires constant adapting to survive, and that’s exactly what the Burghardts have done. Over the years, the family has relocated and added locations, expanded product lines, started their own screen-printing division, and modernized their point of sale and inventory systems. Chip Burghardt, patriarch of the family business, selected Park Bank as his business banking partner in 1995 when his current bank decided not to support his growth plans. Banking with Park Bank has allowed the Burghardts to stay nimble and invest in new opportunities along the way.
“In 1995 we wanted to build and move our store to Brookfield. Our old bank did not want to participate. Mike Mahoney and Andy Sawyer made it happen. We were able to trust each other and do great things together. Better credit line, a fair interest rate, and a promise for the future. We have been able to grow the business with equipment, fixtures and auto/truck loans. Park Bank has been there all the way.”
According to Chip who has been running the business since 1964, “Today’s retail environment is the toughest ever.” Next generation Brian, Carl and Lynn are embracing the headwinds straight on – with a strong emphasis on customer experience, employee education and innovation. Chipply LLC, their latest venture, offers e-commerce services to other small independent sporting goods stores around the country. “We plan to come out of this on top”, responds Lynn Burghardt. Each of the next generation bring a skill set to the business that will carry it into the future. Carl’s process engineering skills bring a high level of structure and logistics to the business, while Brian’s leadership skills help build employee loyalty and motivation to counter the historically high turnover rate in the retail industry. Lynn, the newest family member to the team brings strong sales and training skills, allowing dad to shed all of his management hats except for the banking.
Lynn sums it up for the team, “All three of us value the legacy, so we will continue to grow conservatively while providing a family-centered experience for our customers and employees.” They have created a strong niche in southeastern Wisconsin as the destination for sporting equipment, and to this day, maintain strong relationships with schools and individuals, making excellent customer service their differentiator. It’s clear that team Burghardt is positioned well to keep the winning streak alive and strong.