Manage, Measure, and Smile: The fun and challenges of running a family business with Jerry Price (2015)
Printing: Davies Printing, Book design: Jim Arneson, Editing: Marjorie Toensing
Jerry Price’s memoir tells how his father started a business in 1959, how Jerry and his brother (Ray) took the business over in 1971, and how they then developed other businesses in multiple industries. The book tells of both the successes and failures of the family’s businesses and what Jerry has learned from his experiences.
For many years, Rochester Silo hosted a booth at the Minnesota State Fair, an ideal venue for the company to advertise its products. They caught fairgoers’ eyes in 1977 with a square yardstick that doubled as a walking stick.
In August 2014, the St. Paul Pioneer Press published the following article by Jaime DeLage that reflected on the stick’s remarkable success:
Is a square yardstick better than a flat one? That's not important. What was important at the Minnesota State Fair in 1977 was that you got to the Rochester Silo Co. booth for your yardstick, a square one with a leather wrist strap, really more of a walking stick than a measuring device. The Rochester Silo yardsticks were almost too successful.
Chris Price (Jerry’s son) worked the booth for his dad and uncle then, and he remembers the commotion when they sold the sticks for $1 apiece. He said, "I remember people lined up, not letting us leave, and the Fair people telling us to shut down," said Price, who now runs Rochester Concrete Products with his brothers.
"I remember us trying to get into the truck and we couldn't close the back because people kept demanding them. I remember going to our hotel room and we literally had duffle bags of cash. We would have bags of cash. ... It became just this thing, this fad."
Price's dad, Jerry, now retired, said they sold about 50,000 sticks— he calls them "walking sticks"— the first year. The next year they charged $2 so they could turn a little profit to augment the marketing budget, and they still sold 50,000 or more.
"We used to make $50,000 a year just selling sticks," Jerry Price said.
Their big mistake was not securing the exclusive right to sell square yardsticks at the State Fair, he said. Soon other booths had square yardsticks, too, and the fad faded.