Our Town Amana: Inside the Society
By Travis Bockenstedt, Our Town Producer
AMANA - Bill Leichsenring is the owner of the Ox-Yoke Inn. His family has run it for nearly four generations. Like his restaurant, Bill owns owns another part of history, he's a shareholder with the Amana Society.
"We have a tremendous relationship. We do business on a whole sale level with the Amana Society from their meat markets, their bakeries, and of course their utility," said Leichsenring.
John Peterson joined the Amana Society as their new president and C-E-O just a few months ago. Daily he oversees between 15 and 20 society owned business.
"Shares were issued for the first time in 1932, the time of the great change. A time when the Amana Colonies went from the communal living style, eating in communal kitchens, to lets call it a more entrepreneurial way of life," said Peterson. "Entrepreneurs grew up out of the Amana Society. George Foerstner who formed Amana Appliances being one of them, and others have as well. It's different but its the same, and its a heritage to be proud of and still exists as you look around."
Soon the Amana Society will be welcoming a new business to town.
The society has persuaded Alb Gold, a german noodle and soda company to build a factory in the colonies. The factory is expected to employ over 100 people and will allow visitors to tour the factory.
"They have herb gardens out in front. You see some of the planned landscaping and the trees," said Peterson.
Not all businesses in Amana are owned by the society. In fact, after the great change many became privately owned. Today the Amana Society retains ownership of key business such as Amana farms, the woolen mill, and the furniture shop.