From Lawn Boy to VP, Baker Retires

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Steve Baker, the one-time lawn boy for his company back in the early 1970s who rose to vice president of The Minnesota Chemical Co., retired on April 1. He looks forward to spending time with his family and traveling the U.S. with Lisa, his wife of 33 years. (Photo: The Minnesota Chemical Co.)

Tim Burke |

Minnesota Chemical exec. looks forward to traveling with wife

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Steve Baker, vice president of The Minnesota Chemical Company (MCC), based here, retired on April 1, the firm reports.

The company writes that: “Steve’s full-time employment with MCC began in 1975, after he graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. But his storied career with the company actually began even earlier than that, doing odd jobs at the Milwaukee office, like cutting the lawn, cleaning the office, and working the warehouse during the summer months.”

He also spent time at McDonalds as a fry cook. Steve jokes about his time there: “I wasn’t sophisticated enough to work the counter.”

Joining a family business can prove challenging for some people, MCC further writes, but Steve wasn’t worried about working for his father and uncles.

“I never really had concerns about working for my dad, Robert Baker,” he relates. “He was easy going. When I moved to St. Paul, it was a bigger operation and there were more people to get to know. I think being in and running a family business is all mostly positive.”

Baker adds that at MCC, the inter-generational transitions and relationships have been free from drama. Although he might sometimes have seen things differently with his partners Mike and Dan, they’ve never had serious differences. “In many ways our different personalities and management styles have served our business and customers well.”

After working more than 42 years in the drycleaning and laundry industry, the firm notes, Baker has handled a variety of challenges.

“Our current main challenge is the consolidation of our customers,” Baker relates. “There are fewer accounts to sell to and the wholesale distribution business model is not as integral to customers’ needs as in the past.”

He adds that MCC continues to bring expertise to customers who have very busy operations and need good local supply, equipment and service vendors.

Retirement from MCC will be bittersweet, he acknowledges.

When asked what he’ll miss most about his job, he says, “Believe it or not, I think I will miss the routine and watching all areas of our business function together. I will also miss all of the relationships that I have developed over many years with employees, customers and vendors.”

Baker hopes to do a bit more volunteer work. He is currently a reading tutor with Reading Partners, and a 32-year charter member of the St. Paul Sunrise Rotary Club, the firm indicates.

He’s looking forward to spending more time with family, “especially with our first grandchild who will be relocating to Minnesota with her parents.”

He and his wife of 33 years, Lisa, hope to spend some time traveling around the United States and have planned an expedition cruise around southern Japan and Korea in 2019, he says.

About the author

Tim Burke

American Drycleaner

Editor

Tim Burke is the editor of American Drycleaner. He can be reached at 312-361-1684 or tburke@atmags.com.

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