Olson and Johnson transitions to North Central International
MARSHALL — Olson and Johnson is now North Central International but still provides service, sales and parts to Marshall and southwest Minnesota.
“Our customers knew about it when we took over in 2007, much like in 1994 when it switched hands. It’s all in the family,” new owner Andy Hatlestad said.
In 1994, Fox Brothers of Sanborn purchased Olson and Johnson International, Inc. from Art Olson and Dale Schak. Fox Brothers ownership consisted of Dave Fox, Tom Fox and Mark Fox, who were all brothers, Hatlestad said.
“The first thing we’re focusing on is overall stability,” Hatlestad said. “We want to make this transition without skipping a beat.”
The changes have been coming right along, he said. It’s more of a name change at this point. The sign outside the building on U.S. Highway 59 north has been changed. To reinforce the change, Hatlestad said that they are distributing mini footballs with the new name printed on them.
“The mini football has the name change. It’s something we can put in our customers’ hands,” he said.
Hatlestad said that the plan for the future is to continue to sell more trucks, sell more parts, service more trucks and grow the business. He plans to come out on Tuesdays every couple of weeks, and one of his partners, Jesse Fox, will be here on Thursdays, coming from Sioux Falls, S.D.
“We also plan to keep all the current employees,” Hatlestad said.
Marshall is the second of seven stores that North Central International has acquired in its expansion. The first was Sanborn.
“Marshall is part of the big picture,” Hatlestad said.
Olson came on board with the history of Olson and Johnson and Olson and Johnson Trucks.
The company got its start in 1935 in the rear of a building owned by the railroad at the corner of Main Street and 2nd Street (East College Drive),” Olson said. “Melvin Olson and two partners opened a McCormick Deering Farm Equipment dealership.”
In 1937, Frank Johnson, who worked there as a mechanic, partnered with Olson when the other two partners left. That is when Olson and Johnson was established.
“They built and moved to a new location on East Highway 19 (East College Drive) in 1940,” he said. “They continued to sell and service Farmall equipment adding International pickups and trucks in the late 1940s and 1950s.”
“The truck sales and service grew in the late 1950s and 1960s,” Olson said. “The truck business, especially the service, outgrew the location. The truck part of the company moved to a temporary location on West Main Street. The service continued to demand more space and more specialization.”
Olson and Johnson Trucks, Inc. became a new company.
A new location was acquired and a new facility built in its present location on North U.S. Highway 59.
The grand opening was held in 1973 with new sales offices, expanded service facilities, diesel service and expanded service hours to help keep customer trucks on the road. A wrecker was also added.
Mitchell Radiator was moved into the building and a body shop was later constructed, Olson said.
“Olson and Johnson always had a very dedicated staff of salesmen, parts persons, office personnel, service specialists and a lot of very loyal customers,” Olson said.
Olson, himself, started working for the company full-time in 1961. He had worked for three years in the late 1950s between college years. He purchased a share in the company from his father, Melvin, who died in 1997.
“Dale Schak started in 1975 as a salesman,” Olson said. “He purchased Frank Johnson’s share of the company in 1978. He and I owned and operated the company until 1994.”
During those years, the company sold and serviced a large number of owner operators, truck fleets and school bus operations, he said.
“They were an authorized dealer for the Cummins Engine Co. and a number of other truck components,” he said.
They also started a leasing company, O & J Idealease, Inc. Many customers started or expanded their truck operations with the leasing option.
“A highlight every year was the open house to show off the new trucks,” Olson said. “This was for the owners and drivers and their families to come and meet our employees and have a treat.
“Also, we can’t forget the annual employee get-together, whether it was a picnic or a party,” Olson said.
Picking up from 1994, North Central International’s history includes Dave, Tom, Mark and Steve who started a dealership in Spencer, Iowa, called Fox International.
In 2004, Dave, Tom, Steve and Andy purchased locations in Glencoe, New Ulm and built a facility in North Mankato. At that time, the business was christened North Central International, Inc.
The four purchased Great Plains International of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. in 2012 and named it North Central International.
In 2015, Dave, Tom and Steve were bought out by existing owner Andy Hatlestad and new owners Brandon Fox, Jesse Fox and Matt Fox.
“Brandon and Jesse are sons of Mark,” Hatlestad said. “Matt is Dave’s son.”
That brings the history to its juncture in 2017 when Olson and Johnson became part of the North Central International family and has been renamed to reflect that transition.