Four decades have passed since Glen B. Anderson had an idea to reopen an idle creamery in Sleepy Eye. This past June, Anderson Custom Processing celebrated 40 years of service in Sleepy Eye. On Thursday, Nov. 22, Glen passed away.
When Glen began his career in the creamery business it was born more out of necessity rather than choice. After serving in the Navy from 1944-46, Glen noticed job openings for a creamery in Deer Creek where he was born and raised. At the time, he had no passion to “wear white” (as Glen said), and work in a creamery, but he needed employment. Little did Glen realize a job in the creamery would eventually turn into a distinguished career.
Glen went on to work at the Deer Creek Creamery, Walters Creamery, Courtland Creamery, Twin Dairies and AMPI. In 1955, Glen managed the Courtland Creamery. His son, Brian, who is now president of Anderson Custom Processing, said after one year of his father managing the Courtland creamery, revenue and production increased dramatically.
In the late 1960s, all small creameries in the area began closing down and merging with AMPI out of New Ulm. Glen took a supervisory job at AMPI for several years, but didn’t feel like that was his true calling. While Glen was searching for a fulfilling career like he’d held at the Courtland Creamery, he noticed a creamery in Sleepy Eye sitting idle. In 1972, Glen saw something very few others saw.
“The factory needed a lot of TLC, cleaning, soap and water and elbow grease,” Brian said remembering the tour of the factory he took with his family.
Glen cashed in a life insurance policy to put the down payment down on the factory and the family got to work. Brian said he was 14 the summer his father purchased the factory and that summer, Brian, his siblings and his mother helped Glen clean and get the old creamery into working order.
Eventually, whey, a by-product of cheese, began to be produced at the factory. Brian remembers that he and his mom were in charge of bagging the whey.
“I would bag the whey and we would put the 100 pound bag on the scale, sew the bag shut and put it on the pallets,” Brian said.
Brian noted it wasn’t long after that a customer came in with a whey blend sample and asked Glen if he could duplicate it.
“Dad said we would give it a shot and it worked!” Brian said.
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Two years later, Glen opened a plant in Little Falls and in 1986, opened a plant in Belleville, Wis.
“Dad was proud of his accomplishments and liked the community of Sleepy Eye,” Brian said. “He directly changed the lives of many employees. Some have been with us for 20-40 years.”
Brian added that his dad was also proud of the fact that he helped the community of Sleepy Eye by bringing in and keeping jobs locally. Now with an employee roster of around 40 people, Brian said it wasn’t always like that.
Earl Altman was the first employee Glen hired to work in the operations maintenance area and get the equipment running in the previously dilapidated creamery. Jerome Braun also began as one of the first employees and continues to work there today. Brian said his dad was also known to spend nights at the factory as the business, and the need to hire and train employees on how to work and run the equipment, grew.
“He slept on a cot in his office,” Brian recalled. “To make money he had to work around the clock. My mom delivered dinner to the factory many nights.”
One of the reasons, Brian said, that his dad was so driven to make it work is because many people didn’t think his dream would ever become a reality.
“Dad said a lot of people said he was crazy and he would never make it,” Brian said. “But with his drive and determination he did make it work. He had this ‘never die’ attitude. When he took the final payment to the bank even the banker told him ‘we never thought you’d do it.’ That made him very proud.”
Brian said he maybe has a little bit of that same drive and determination his father held.
“I worked at the factory in the summers while I was in high school and by my senior year of high school, I knew that I would be working in the factory with my father,” Brian said.
However, Brian attests that it wasn’t always easy working for his father as he was held to a higher standard and Brian himself never wanted to be looked at as the person who the boss played favorites for.
In 1984, Brian became the full-time manager for the factory in Sleepy Eye.
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“Dad dropped me off at the plant and as I was getting out of the car he said, ‘Don’t screw up!’ My dad really laid the foundation and we as a family have just tried to improve on it,” Brian said. “We have good employees. Without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Anderson Custom Processing now processes and distributes around 50 different food-ingredient products around the world from three plants.
On Thursday, Nov. 22, Glen, age 85, passed away at his home in Pine River surrounded by his family. Funeral services were held Nov. 26 in Pequot Lakes. He is survived by his wife, Carol; four children; and two step-children; along with 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. The family said Glen will be remembered for his hard work, kindness and generosity. He kept his concern for others and sense of humor until his death.