Sparta family business in its 3rd generation
One family has – quite literally – helped build Monroe County over the last nine decades.
Don Schroeder, grandson of the business’s founder, Leo Schroeder, is filling both his grandfather’s and father’s shoes as the owner and operator of Schroeder Construction LLC.
“I started riding to work with my grandfather when I was 10 years old,” Don, now age 67, said. “It’s like I was just born into it.”
Leo Schroeder started the business in Cashton in 1924, building stone barn walls and concrete silos. During the next decade, the company was hired to build dozens of bridges throughout the state of Wisconsin.
Around this time, Leo’s sons Herold (Don’s father) and Wilfred “Fritz” Schroeder were getting a taste of their father’s business too.
“But then quite a few guys got drafted, and that put kind of a hold on things until the war ended,” Don explained.
After WWII, business took off, and the small town bridge-building business grew into what today is a major commercial construction contractor in Monroe County.
“I guess the story I always got growing up was that anybody that dealt with Grandpa said you really didn’t need a contract – you just had a handshake and that was good enough,” Don said.
Today, though based in Sparta, Don says that many of the churches, schools, grocery stores and buildings scattered across Monroe County communities are each a little piece of his family’s history.
Some landmark buildings include the A&W root beer stand (now Rudy’s), St. Patrick’s convent, Jubilee Foods and Jones Plaza, all of which are in Sparta, as well an elementary school and movie theatre in Cashton, and Band Box in Tomah.
One project that stands out for Don, though, is the Union National Bank building in downtown Sparta.
“I was just getting home from the (Vietnam) war when they started building the first one in 1970,” he said. “Then after it burned, I was around to help rebuild it in 1991.”
Though Leo passed away 47 years ago, Don says that he thinks his grandfather would have been proud that his local business is still going strong.
“And I guess, too, that we’ve kept up the reputation he always had over the years,” Don added.
Don married Pat (Hohn) in 1973, and together they raised four children in Sparta, while continuing to build the business.
Though one of their sons works for the family business, Don says they haven’t made any definite plans for the future.
“It’s all too soon to tell,” he said.
Even still, Don reaffirms the decision he made years ago to lead his grandfather’s business into its third generation of Schroeder ownership.
“I just enjoy the work,” he said. “I never found anything else I liked as much.”