What began in a barn in the late 1970s with seven people has now become a multimillion-dollar company, employing more than 1,400 people and contributing to the economic impact of the Cedar Valley in a big way. All thanks to the vision, dedication and perseverance of Gary and Becky Bertch. It all started in 1977 when Gary and Becky bought Bertch & Senn Woodcrafters from Jim Senn and Gary’s brother, Bob.
Gary and Becky both come from similar backgrounds—they both grew up in large Catholic families—Gary is the youngest of 10 children and Becky is the middle child of seven—and attended Catholic schools while growing up. After high school, Becky headed north to St. Paul, where she received a bachelor’s degree in studio art/graphic design from the College of St. Catherine and Gary went to UNI to obtain a degree in dentistry. At this time, Gary also crafted grandfather clocks, selling some of his pieces to the Amana Colonies.
Nineteen seventy-seven was a memorable year for Gary and Becky—they got married and started their own business. Becky’s dad, Jim Youngblut, a developer and contractor who owned and operated his own business for many years, served as a business mentor during their initial years of operation.
From the very beginning, Gary and Becky created Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing to be a company that emulated family values and treated customers fairly and valued its associates. They don’t ask others to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. Those key ingredients have helped Bertch grow over the years, expanding operations in Waterloo as well as having a presence in both Oelwein and Jesup.
Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing perhaps became familiar with people in the Cedar Valley for its company-wide trips to tropical locations. For four or five years, Gary and Becky had discussed offering a company trip for associates if the company met its goals. Gary and Becky decided the trip would take place in January 1989 to the Bahamas. Unfortunately, Gary made the trip without Becky because she was expecting their second child, Elizabeth, and the doctor wouldn’t let her go. Since that time, Bertch associates have also traveled to Hawaii, Cozumel, Jamaica, the Grand Cayman Islands and the Bahamas. The Bertches have also provided a gainsharing program where associates share in the company profits and participate in a phantom stock program. Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing is also one of the few manufacturing facilities in the area with a wellness center on site.
Gary and Becky’s commitment to this community goes beyond the walls of Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing. Becky has served on the boards for the United Way, the Oelwein Community Bank and the Waterloo Convention and Visitor’s Bureau; Gary has served on the board for Cedar Valley Economic Development, Union Planters Bank and the Waterloo Economic Development Association. He also served as board chair for Junior Achievement from 2000 to 2001. Both Gary and Becky are active in the Catholic Church and School System in the Gilbertville parish, and support the Cedar Valley Hospice, American Cancer Society, UNI Foundation, and Partners in Education with Immaculate Conception/St. Joseph’s in Gilbertville. They were also named two of the Cedar Valley Entrepreneurs of the Century, sharing that honor with Matt Parrott, Joseph Clay, Walter Voorhees of Standard Golf, E.F. Rath and J.W. Rath of Rath Packing, and other notable people.
Today, Bertch Cabinet Manufacturing employs 1,500 associates, has seven manufacturing facilities and ships products nationwide. But Gary and Becky’s most recent community contribution, as many are aware, is Lost Island Park, southwest of Waterloo. This was a family venture, building another family business from the ground up, with the hands-on involvement of their children, Eric and Elizabeth. Just prior to Memorial Day, 20001, Lost Island Water Park opened, providing a place for family entertainment in the Cedar Valley. It is now the largest water park in Iowa.