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Walk into Sam's Clothing in downtown Oelwein and you will see more than merchandise such as suit jackets and sports teams T-shirts. To your right, you'll see a display tucked into the wall of World War II photographs and a model of a bomber.

Shop owner Larry Schwartz's father flew on bomber like that.

Then, to your left, on a wall behind the counter, is a framed stock certificate that makes him one of a select few — relatively speaking.

"I am a share owner of the iconic professional football franchise Green Bay Packers," he said.

Schwartz, who grew up in southeast Wisconsin, also has a Milwaukee Braves pennant behind his cash register. Hank Aaron was one of his heroes growing up, he said.

It's not unusual for small local businesses to reflect the passions of their owners. It's a freedom that comes with the territory. They are not always on open display, however, and it's not the only thing that you might not know about a local business.

So, the Oelwein Daily Register put out a call to the area business community with a question: What is something the public doesn’t necessarily know about your business or your staff? These are the answers received so far:


• Mark Birdnow had his first car dealership just up the street from the current facility on South Frederick in what was then the old Zips Hamburger building, where he met his future wife in 1972.

• Oelwein's Birdnow Motor Trade dealership is on the site where in the 1920s there was a public ball diamond, according to the abstract for a property.

• In the 1960s, a grocery store called San Mart occupied the site. It was destroyed in the tornado of 1968. Mark Birdnow remembers driving past after the tornado and seeing the building gone but shelves with groceries still setting on them undisturbed.

• "As best as we can tell we have the largest indoor display facility of any auto dealer and Iowa," said Jeremy Birdnow. "If you look at our Google reviews we have the highest rating of any auto dealer in the area, possibly in Iowa!"

Fidelity Bank & Trust

For the last 25 years, Fidelity Bank and Trust in Oelwein, formerly First National Bank of Oelwein has given out well over 150,000 bags of popcorn on Popcorn Fridays.

Mercy One Oelwein

The first fiber optic line that was ever installed in the city of Oelwein ran from Mercy Hospital to Sartori Memorial Hospital in Cedar Falls.

Bertch Cabinet Mfg

Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing plants hundreds of trees each year and in total has planted more than 20,000 over the years.

"Reforestation is alive and well in Oelwein, Waterloo an Jesup!" said Becky Bertch.

Williams Center for the Performing Arts

The Williams Center for the Arts obtains the entertainment for their artist series from the following sources: first-hand observations at both Arts Midwest (top trade show in the Midwest), public suggestions and reliable agents. All artists are observed and evaluated by first-hand observations, the Internet and recommendations from presenters of other venues.

The talent cost per year for the Artist series is more than $90,000.

Well over 150 artists and groups have performed at the center. Some famous performers include top tier Irish musicians Cherish the Ladies, country singer John Conlee, whose "Rose Colored Glasses" rose to No. 5 on the Billboard charts in 1978; gospel singer Guy Penrod, a frequent guest artist at the "Grand Ole Opry"; the Dallas Brass Quintet; Ricky Nelson Remembered with Matt and Gunner Nelson; and blue grass star Rhoda Vincent.

Among the most unique acts have been Ballet Folklorico with Mexican folk dancing and the acrobats of Cirque Zuma Zuma

Ken's Electric Inc.

This Oelwein-based heating, cooling and electrical business also installs solar from start to finish. It designs a layout, installs the panels, does the electrical work and helps monitor systems after install.

Family Custom Homebuilders and Remodelers

Family Custom Homebuilders and Remodelers moved into its downtown Oelwein Office in 2018. As it's name implies, it does remodeling, but is also sells and constructs panelized houses.

"It comes with studs, sheathing, house wrap and window and doors installed and is 'stick' built from there," said Debbie Marmann." The object is to get house enclosed without a lot of exposure to weather."


Ridihalgh, Fuelling, Snitker, Weber and Co. has five military veterans working at the public accounting corporation more commonly known as RFSWestablished in 1975 with offices in Oelwein, Independence and Jesup. They are Gene Fuelling, Don Snitker, Brent Waters, Bryce Bentley, and Jim Ridihalgh.

The Grand Theater

The Grand Theatre of Oelwein, 26 South Frederick, reorganized as a locally-owned enterprise in May of 2010, taking the name of the original Grand Theatre which opened in 1923. This community-based non-profit continues to show first-run movies on its twin screens, with seating for 300 and 200 respectively.