By LIZ VERLEY, Staff Writer
Kathy Berscheit was not happy with the quality of clothing for kids, so she decided to make her own children’s. Other people began to ask her to make clothes for their children. That is how she began her career as a seamstress.
For several years she worked at Stearns Manufacturing in Grey Eagle. Seventeen years ago, Berscheit was approached and asked to do snowmobile covers. She quit Stearns Manufacturing and began to work from her home and KBS Specialties LLC was born.
As the business continued to grow, Berscheit moved the business to the old St. Joseph’s Hall, then into the old Grey Eagle City Hall. On Memorial Day they relocated to the old Stearns Manufacturing building.
The business quit making snowmobile covers several years ago and started making sidewinder sleeves.
The sleeves cover hydraulic hoses, air hoses, etc. for machinery and take the place of tie wraps.
Berscheit said, “There are over 1,000 patterns for the various sidewinder sleeves.”
KBS also works with Suburban Manufacturing in Monticello making cinch straps.
The sidewinder sleeves are shipped to John Deere, Case, Ford and other companies where the sleeves are put on machinery before it is placed in show rooms.
Berscheit said, “We also do a lot of custom work for other businesses and individuals. We do everything from screen printing and embroidery to repairing zippers, repairing and making boat covers, furniture upholstery, seats and cushions.”
The most interesting part of Berscheit’s business is, “You never know what you are going to be doing from one day to the next,” she said.
The most challenging job that has come to the business was a pontoon boat. The owner wanted it totally enclosed with fabric, similar to a houseboat. Berscheit said, “It was a challenge, but we got the job done.”
“Right now,” she said, “people are bringing in their fish house frames, and we are making the covers to go over them. We are also making several replacement covers for hunting seats.”
To those that are looking at opening a business, Berscheit said, “Be ready to give it your all.”
She said, “The hardest part of my business is when I have to be a boss. The best part is when I can be a leader. We have a ‘fantabulous’ work crew. Without them we would not be here. They have played a big part in our growing.”
“We are also located in a great community,” said Berscheit. “When we moved into this building on Memorial Day weekend, I was totally amazed at how many community people and friends came and helped us move. We moved on Saturday and were back on the production line Tuesday morning. I was awestruck. It was such a nice feeling.”
To continue having the business grow is one of Berscheit’s goals. She said, “We have worked hard and would like to continue to grow. We are fortunate to be as busy as we are in this economy. I think the workmanship we produce on our product is what keeps us growing. We produce quality items.”
“Bidding is a big challenge for us, especially against the overseas market. I don’t know if the consumers really know how much comes from overseas.”
Berscheit and her husband, Mike, have two children, son Jeremy, who recently has joined his mother working at KBS to learn the business, and daughter Sara, who works for the state of Oregon. Mike works at Melrose Dairy Protein as its maintenance planner scheduler.
Berscheit said, “We have three grandchildren who we call ‘our shining stars.’”
Their daughter-in-law, Tracy, has a day care located at KBS, and after the first of the year will have a pre-school at the site.
In their spare time, the Berscheits enjoy riding motorcycle in the summer and snowmobiling in the winter with friends and families.
KBS has 18 part-time employees.
Berscheit said, “Our business is run more like a family. When your employees are happy you get a better product.”
“Businesses have a lot of ups and downs. You bear down during the downs and breathe a little better when it is high,” she said.
KBS is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is also open by appointment.