By Heidi Sampson Special to The Free Press
The Mankato Free Press
---- — In 1952, Earl Piepho started his career with freight as an agent for Murphy Motor Freight, out of Albert Lea. Eventually, Earl added on the residential moving business. In 1970, Earl’s Albert Lea business expanded to Rochester with the purchase of Rochester Transfer & Storage from the wife of an Allied Van Lines Agent, who had passed away.
In 1975, Earl built the Mankato storage warehouse facility. With this move, the Piepho’s became the first family moving company to branch into a totally new area. After completing college, Mark Piepho, Earl’s youngest son, joined the Mankato Piepho Moving & Storage team, in 1976.
By 1979, Mark backed off on his duties at Piepho Moving & Storage, as he was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives. Mark served four consecutive terms with the House and a half of a term with the Senate, before coming back to the Mankato moving team in 1994.
“Mankato has a very diversified economy here which keeps things on an even keel. Also, my wife and children are here. We’ve always liked the area and my wife has been very supportive of my career decisions. Currently, I am also a Blue Earth County Commissioner.”
During the time Mark was away, the company added a location in La Crosse, WI and Eagan, in 1981 and 1986. In the late 1990s, the family got out of the freight business in Albert Lea. However, they continue to specialize in commercial and residential moving and storage while remaining a business in which the entire family is involved throughout their network of locations.
“We primarily focus on moving people and families,” said Mark, “but we also move businesses and their employees, should they need to relocate to be closer to their place of employment. We can move our customers in town, within Minnesota, across the 48 connected states and if the customer wants, we can even move them around the world.”
Moving a Household
If an individual was moving from Minnesota to L.A., Piepho Moving & Storage could arrange the entire move. Based on the customer’s preferences, either the home owner or Piepho’s team of movers would pack up all of the belongings into boxes and cartons. Once the items are packed they would then be loaded onto a truck. The total weight of the household determines how fast the shipment will arrive.
“The average weight of a household today is between 12,000 and 15,000 pounds,” Mark said. “The average weight of a household back in the 60’s was only 4,000 pounds. Nowadays, 4,000-5,000 pounds is a 1- to 2-bedroom apartment. People’s households have gotten larger. Let’s say you had an apartment size home. You might only occupy the front third of a truck, so we’d have the rest of the truck to fill with other moves we have booked to a certain area or region. Or we can go through Allied and fill out the rest of the truck with other moves along the way to your destination.”
“Our employees are the backbone of our company,” Mark said. “It is essential that our employees be able to relate to our clients on both a professional and personal level so that when we move our customers, it’s as if we were moving our own homes. We recognize families may have special needs or concerns that they might want addressed. Obviously, we try to do the most we can to protect their prized possessions and get them delivered on time.”
Trends in moving
The moving industry is a unique, specialized service and as with any other business, need fluctuates based on the current state of the economy. The last recession created a downturn in the moving industry, however as the housing market has come back, so has the moving industry. Their busiest time of the year tends to coincide with school breaks as many people begin to move in May clear through September, with the busiest time for movements taking place in June, July and August.
“I think the economy’s improving,” said Mark. “I’ve been involved with this business all of my life. My father used to say, ‘if the economy is good, business is good and if the economy was so-so, then the business was slow.’ So it’s kind of always been one or the other. If business was so–so, that didn’t necessarily mean a recession but we want the economy moving along more than just so–so.”
Computerization has also altered the moving industry as many people no longer need to move to be near their jobs. Computers allow for the ability to connect to employers without ever having to leave home.
“That’s not to say computers are a bad thing. Computers have also improved our business. They assist us with keeping track of bookings and shipments. I’ve learned a bit about geography over the years. It used to be that you spent time looking at maps to see where your customers wanted to go and now I merely look it up on the computer. They save a lot of time for us. The only thing a computer can’t do is load the furniture.”
Piepho recommends people look for movers who are certified as a moving company. He encourages people who are considering a move to check the mover’s interstate and state credentials, as well as with the U.S Department of Transportation. Movers who are affiliated with a major van line or moving company should have a solid reputation but it doesn’t hurt to double check. Also look to see if the company under consideration has been established for a number of years.
“I think the key component in choosing which moving company to go with, is in having an actual agent come to the home or business and provide the customer with an actual written estimate of what the move will cost,” Mark said. “Often times, people will get quotes through the Internet but they haven’t actually seen anybody from the company and the company hasn’t even seen their stuff. That type of business interaction can be subject to a lot of problems even if the company is legit. I look at it this way, if I haven’t really seen the place I don’t really know what it is the customer has to move. I think meeting the perspective clients is essential, which is what I do. When an agent comes out to write up a quote, they are the first impression of that business for trustworthiness, reliability and a positive outcome.”