Perkins storage and transfer company still a family business

 John Kubal/Register: Back from left, Dan Gerjets, Susan (Gerjets) Schmidt and Nick Gerjets have run the day-to-day operations of Perkins Storage and Transfer Co. since 2010. Their father Dennis Gerjets (front) bought the business in August 1989 from Douglas Perkins and Jerry Potthast.

BROOKINGS – The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Apply those words to Perkins Storage & Transfer. Since 1919, the Brookings-based company has been a family business.

The company that still bears his name was started as a dray service by the late George E. Perkins just over a century ago. Working out of his home at 1304 Third St., he moved local household goods and hauled freight, coal and other material for businesses in town and around the local area.

Over time he continued to grow the business. The purchase of a 1929 IHC enclosed moving van allowed moving greater distances in the 1930s, including on one occasion a move to Albany, New York. And in 1936, Perkins moved into the building the company still occupies at 416 Third Ave. It houses the business office, warehouse for commercial and household goods and a truck garage.

In time Perkins was joined in the business by two grandsons: Douglas Perkins and his cousin, Jerry Potthast. They operated the business following their grandfather’s death in the early 1960s. Over the years, the company provided employment for four generations of the Perkins and Potthast families.

In August 1989, Dennis Gerjets bought the business from Douglas Perkins and Jerry Potthast. Douglas retired; Jerry stayed on and gave the company some continuity.

“When my dad bought it in ’89, Jerry had told my dad that he would stay on for one year and train my dad,” Susan (Gerjets) Schmidt explained. “My dad was new to the moving business, had never been involved in it.

“When I started fulltime in ’99, Jerry was still here working and taught me how to do all the reports and the licensing and the bookwork and all that type of thing,” Schmidt said.

“Jerry’s one year didn’t last one year,” she added, laughing. “He stayed here for quite awhile. It was in the early 2000s that he kind of fully at that point retired.”

In 2010, Dennis and Marilyn Gerjets’ three children – Nick, Dan and Susan – took over day-to-day operations of the company.

‘We’ll make it work’

Since the Gerjets family took the helm, the company has continued to grow. In October 1996, Perkins expanded the scope of its operations by applying for operating authority in all lower 48 states to carry household goods as well as freight. That authority was offered a month later and operations expanded. And while Perkins operations are still primarily local and regional, the company will move anybody anywhere in the lower 48 states.

To get the job done, Perkins has a rolling stock inventory of three 48-foot vans and one that’s 34-feet long. The company has six to eight employees, with Nick and Dan CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) qualified to drive the bigger rigs.

Maine is the only state Nick has never delivered to. The farthest he’s ever made delivery to was the middle of Florida. An ideal move is one where there’s a load to deliver from Brookings and then a load to be returned to Brookings.

“Sometimes it works out to do a trip one way and then back the other way,” he explained. However, Susan added, “It doesn’t always work out to get a backhaul. If you don’t, you’re deadheading home.” But that doesn’t deter.

“It’s nice, if we don’t have to, it’s nice not to (come home deadheading),” Nick said.

“But we do,” Susan added.

“If someone wants to move, we’ll make it work,” Nick said. “We’re not affiliated with any national van lines. We don’t have a network. We did at one time work with a few smaller independent van lines and we will work with regional van lines.”

A lot of Perkins’ business is return customers they moved away from Brookings and who are now coming back – and they again want Perkins to move them.

Dependability and reliability

“We have a special appreciation for the community,” Nick said, expressing the Gerjets family’s thoughts about those who choose Perkins to move them. “We have some customers that go out of their way to help us. We’re just thankful that the people of Brookings give us a chance to help them move.” 

And all the staff want those people they move to know that Perkins can be counted on for dependability and reliability.

“We stick to our word,” Nick said. “If we say we’re going to do it, we make it happen.”

Being specific, Susan said that rather than set a “window” for a move, Perkins will schedule a pickup at a given hour and date – and work the same way for the delivery.

“If we say we’re going to be there today at 8 o’clock, we’ll be there today at 8 o’clock,” she said. “The same for delivery.”

“We really try to take care of customers,” Nick added. “Moving is stressful enough. We try to make it less stressful at a very stressful time.” 

And he doesn’t want customers to worry about weather.

Inclement weather hasn’t been a big factor in Perkins’ ability to get the job done. 

“In the years I’ve been doing this I can think of one day we canceled a move, postponed it a day because the interstates were closed and we couldn’t get to the office,” he explained. “We usually just deal with the weather.”

Perhaps a short unofficial slogan of Susan’s sums up nicely what Perkins Storage and Transfer Co. is all about: “We’ll move you with care anywhere.”

Contact John Kubal at jkubal@brookingsregister.com.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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