How it all started
Manke Service was started in 1946 by Fred Manke Sr (1st Generation) and Ervin Manke (2nd Generation) as a Shell filling station delivering gas with a bulk truck to farmers and a trucking business. In 1947, we took on Toro, and we still have the invoice from Toro for the first mowers we ever got! In 1949, we started selling Packard cars and Willys Jeeps. In 1950, we started selling home appliances, plus televisions in 1951, and in 1970, expanded with utility trailers. 1960 was the year we took on Wheel Horse which was the bread and butter of the business and that transferred to Toro when Wheel Horse was bought out in 1986. In 2002, we moved across the street into our new location, the former Farm & Home building and warehouse, which is right across the street from our old location. We dropped the gasoline and television lines and managed to triple our floor space by moving to this new location. At this time we changed the name to Manke's Outdoor Equipment and Appliances, Inc. Currently the 3rd and 4th (and occasionally the 5th!) generations of Manke's work here. We pride ourselves in having one of the largest Toro showrooms in the Midwest with knowlegeful staff, with over 80 years combined experience.
Much has changed over the years, full service gas stations are now a thing of the past, can't say we miss it too much on those cold winter days! We were the first company to haul cement culverts with a semi trailer in the state of Minnesota. We had a big forklift with a 12000 pound lifting capacity that we took on the road and did moving and lifting for people and businesses. We used to install television antennas and run coaxial cable in homes and now antennas are a thing of the past.
September 23, 2010 was a devastating day. After days of constant rain for the first time in Owatonna's history the Straight River came up out of its banks and flooded businesses and homes that are near it. Including us. As we watched the river rise we started sandbagging and after a few hours of that realized that it would do us no good so we started evacuating. From the help of friends and strangers we were able to save a good portion of our inventory, however the losses were still major. It was the only time we can say that we caught bullheads swimming in the building! The main thing is, no one got hurt. Someone could have had a heart attack working in the water or even drowned. It was just things we lost. Things can be replaced and people can't.
Wheel Horse has been a big part of our store's history and we still have a lot of parts, collector tractors and memorabilia from over the years.
Having trouble finding parts for that old Wheel Horse? No worries! We still have a microfiche machine to look up parts for all the antique tractors that just keep going and going.