Lentz retires from Herberger’s

NEW ULM – Rollo Lentz, a pillar of New Ulm’s downtown for years as manager of the New Ulm Herberger’s, will enjoy his retirement party today at the store.

The event runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the store.

Lentz started out working various shoe and clothing stores, working his way up to higher positions until he joined the Herberger’s chain in 1978. In the meantime, he served active duty in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971 and earned a college degree in business administration.

The New Ulm Herberger’s store was among just 12 of the stores across the Midwest when it came to New Ulm in 1946.

Lentz settled into store manager for the New Ulm Herberger’s in 1990, shortly after it had expanded into the Marktplatz Mall in 1988.

In 23 years as manager, he has overseen the “big undertaking” of expanding the men’s department into an additional storefront in the mall.

During those years, the store has maintained a strong and stable annual sales with a minor jump in business from the mall expansion. He said the store consistently outperforms at least a third of other Herberger’s stores.

“It’s been a very strong business, and we’ve been able to stay competitive, ” said Lentz, “I’m going to miss the strong sense of family I have there [with the employees]. Being in a downtown area has given us the ability to be close and build close connections with customers.”

He said Herberger’s has remained a strong, customer service focused business for the decades he has worked with the company. There were also several dramatic changes in the business.

Technology has changed the business the most. There were approximately 100 employees in the 1990s. The store now has just over 50 employees because of how much work can be handled by computers and machines.

In its early days, Herberger’s was a much smaller, moderately priced store with barely a form of brand recognition, and the biggest business came from fabric sales. Now the business is much more driven on its brand, focusing on remaining cost effective and on sales promotions nearly every week. The chain had also brought in upscale products and big name brands, Lentz said.

Lentz is glad the New Ulm Herberger’s remained as one of the few stores in the chain located in a downtown area. He said it made a big difference in forming a community with the surrounding stores and allowed them to develop long-term relationship with local customers.

For the future of the store, Lentz said he only sees the store gaining from another expansion if more retail business locates in the Marktplatz Mall. He said if there were more stores for people to shop in the mall, there would be an upswing in traffic for the store.

The store is also scheduled for a sizable remodeling and recarpeting project starting this year.

Lentz will be replaced by Dave Bauer, an experienced Herberger’s store manager from outside of the Chicago area.

For his personal future, Lentz is excited to be able to spend more time relaxing at home and with family. He said he especially excited to finally have time to go fishing.

But, he will not be completely retired. He plans to take up a low-key, part-time job to keep himself occupied.

(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at jmoniz@nujournal.com)

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