Dick’s Plumbing and Heating celebrates 50 years in business

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Dick’s Plumbing and Heating celebrates 50 years in business
Dick’s Plumbing and Heating celebrates 50 years in business

Dick Gregg founded the company that bears his name 50 years ago. They’re also relieved that his son Mike, who now serves as the company’s president, is still alive after suffering a stroke on April 26th. That was just five days before the official 50th anniversary date.

“I honestly thought I was almost in the best shape of my life at the time,” said 62-year-old Mike. “So it’s a good lesson for all of us. Don’t take anything for granted. I have a slightly different view of things. I am happy to be here.”

Dick Gregg grew up in a family of plumbers but didn’t jump into the business straight away. His father Wendell owned Gregg’s plumbing business in Bemidji. Dick worked in the Iron Range mines for four years but came back on the weekends to work with his father.

“Back then we were selling shock milkers to farmers,” said Dick. “So I would be traveling with my dad, mostly north towards Debs and Pinewood. I grew up on one of my uncles’ farms and milked 35 cows with Surgemelkern so I could go out and show these boys how to run their milkers. “

He said the plumbing business began to grow when farmers asked to install water heaters and run water pipes between dairy houses and farmhouses.

Dick’s Plumbing and Heating celebrates 50 years in business

This photo is from the early days of Dick’s Plumbing and Heating, which was founded in 1971. Front row, from left: Dick Gregg, Kevin Hill and Randy Gregg. Back row: Mike Gregg and Brian Fluto. Contributed

Wendell later sold Gregg’s Plumbing to his son Dick and son-in-law Elvin Burnham. A few years later, Dick sold the company and worked at Bemidji State College. “You needed a plumber and I was a master plumber,” said Dick.

He worked from early morning to afternoon, and then did plumbing in the evenings and on weekends. After about 15 months in college, Dick decided to start his own business.

“I made more money on the side than I did in college,” he said, “so I thought it was a no-brainer.”

Fifty years later, the company is busier than ever and Dick Gregg is pleased that it has remained family-owned.

Sons Mike and Randy joined their father and eventually bought the business when Dick was ready to retire. Randy sold to Mike two years ago but continues to work on medical gas projects. Tippy Gregg, Dick’s daughter, is the company’s office manager. Mike’s son Matthew joined the company last year, adding the fourth generation to the family plumbing and heating company.

“I really have to give my two boys and Tippy a lot of credit for working hard,” said Dick. “I went out the day I retired knowing it was in good hands. But I still go in there almost every morning. “

Photos of projects Dick's Plumbing and Heating has completed over the years adorn the office walls.  (Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Photos of projects Dick’s Plumbing and Heating has completed over the years adorn the office walls. (Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Monday is the most challenging day of the week for Mike Gregg. April 26th, 2021 was no exception.

“It was another crazy Monday,” said Mike. “Life would be a lot better if I just couldn’t have a Monday. But you need to have Monday to set the table for the rest of the week. We have way too much work. It’s a bit of Monday stress that we created for ourselves. But you just have to roll up your sleeves and you’re done. “

Mike had an excruciating cough for three or four days when he got to work that day. “I coughed to the point where I got dizzy,” he said.

So he went home that afternoon but decided to exercise.

“I’ve always tried to deal with the stress in my life by exercising,” he said. “When you work hard and train hard, it forces you to focus on the exercise and you can forget about everything else for a while. So that’s what I did. “

He got worried when he started seeing stars. His wife Leisha came home from work and took him to the emergency room. He was then flown to Sanford Health in Fargo.

“They used a clot buster and I basically had the stroke on a stretcher in Fargo,” said Mike. “You opened the blockade. If I had gone to bed that night and not listened to my body, I would have died. I had a small artery that was swollen to the size of a pencil. I only remember fragments. It was not a pleasant experience. “

Two weeks later he was back home in Bemidji and shortly afterwards he went back to work.

“I’m still rehabilitating on my own,” he said. “It would have been nice not to go back to work, but that wasn’t an option.”

After suffering a stroke in April, Mike Gregg, President of Dick's Plumbing and Heating, is back to his office at 427 Mag Seven Court SW.  (Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

After suffering a stroke in April, Mike Gregg, President of Dick’s Plumbing and Heating, is back to his office at 427 Mag Seven Court SW. (Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Work at Dick’s Plumbing and Heating did not slow down during Mike’s hospitalization and rehab. Randy stepped back in to run the business, and Tippy, Matthew, and the rest of the team of 15 also filled in the void while worried about their boss.

“Your first reaction is that I just hope my father is okay,” said Matthew. “Then it was like, ‘How do we keep things going smoothly here?’ Luckily I had Randy. He was instrumental in keeping us going. We didn’t miss a beat. Everyone just took a little more with us and we just fought our way through. Fortunately, he’s back and healthy. It was good for me because I learned a lot. I was forced to learn a lot of things. “

Randy knew what to do.

“It was like jumping off the dock with both feet and coming in to find out what was going on and where you needed help,” Randy said. “You had a project in Cambridge, a project at the BSU. I had to be in the middle of it and help them alleviate some of it. Hopefully he would break out because I didn’t want to come back to work anyway. “

Dick's Plumbing and Heating Dragon Boat victories hardware is on display near the reception of their Bemidji office.  (Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Dick’s Plumbing and Heating Dragon Boat victories hardware is on display near the reception of their Bemidji office. (Annalize Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Mike said he was approached a couple of times about selling the company, but now that Matthew is on the team, that is out of the question

“If I had gotten out of this health problem, I would probably have said, ‘Fuck it; call the agent, ‘”said Mike. “Matt is baptized with fire. It was his choice. We’re pretty close. “

Matthew added, “It really wasn’t a difficult decision to make. It wasn’t forced on me. When I went to school at the BSU, I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for. I started studying project management and was interested. It suited the family business and that’s when I realized that maybe this was a real possibility. I told my father and here we are. Grandpa’s name is on the building, so it would be difficult for him to pass it into someone else’s hands. “

Such speeches make Grandpa Dick proud.

“I just think about how well things went,” said Dick. “It was good business. If Matthew sags and then maybe one day has a son, you never know. “