Ryan Wempen is constantly moving. Over the past few years, he has become increasingly busier as president of the Birchwood Cottages assisted living facilities and manager of Owatonna Self Storage and Mankato Mini Storage. But his newest role is president of Kato Moving & Storage, a member of the Mayflower moving network.
Since purchasing the business in 2017, he has moved into an office on the second floor of Kato Moving & Storage that looks out over Poplar St. Constructed in 1881, the structure was built for a moving company. Although the property has changed hands a few times, Wempen said he is the fifth owner of a moving company in that location.
“This was the Deike Moving Company. Back in the late 1980s, Mayflower bought Deike and merged into this location,” he said.
Wempen is finished branching out into new industries, for now, but he does plan to grow in the two he’s invested in: assisted living and moving and storage. His newest Birchwood Cottages complex is scheduled to open in North Mankato in June.
What makes owning multiple companies feasible, he said, is putting the right people in leadership and backing them up.
“I try to hire the best people to do the jobs and let them run with what they need to do. I support the people and their decisions,” he said. “I personally do the books for all of the companies that I own. I know my numbers well. I pay the bills, and I write the checks. That’s the piece I hold onto in all of the businesses.”
Wempen also turns to employees for advice when needed, such as when he took over Kato Moving & Storage. He had worked with the previous owner for a few months before officially taking ownership of the company last year, but the staff members continue to provide great assistance and insight.
“Luckily, we kept a lot of experience when I bought the business. Linda (Olson) has been here 41 years, and knows the business inside and out. And Kerry (Sorensen), our dispatcher, has been here eight years,” he said.
It’s important for a moving company to have quality employees, especially in the summer, which is always a tough time in the industry. More than 40 percent of all moves take place during June, July and August, according to a report from consumer website My Moving Reviews. The report, which analyzes more than 142,000 moving requests and 26,000 reviews submitted through the website, states the two busiest moving days of every year are July 31 and August 1.
Beyond the fact that so many people are rushing to move during the warmer months, moving is often stressful for many reasons.
“Normally it’s coupled with other stressful things, such as job changes, divorces or downsizing. It’s always seemingly a stressful situation,” Wempen said. “...Our goal is to take the stressful piece of the move out of the way for the customer. That’s why we have to be flexible and change and adapt to what the customer needs. Whether it’s timing changes or sending an extra guy or two to help them finish boxing, we’re going to take care of whatever needs to happen.”
The best way to avoid problems is through thorough planning, Wempen said. This is why the company tries to send an estimator to check out every move beforehand. Sometimes it isn’t an option, but Wempen works to make every move go as smoothly as possible.
Kato Moving & Storage often helps with moving single, sometimes large items, packing up people’s U-Haul rentals and even carrying items to the curb for Spring Cleanup days in North Mankato.
However, the fleet of three semis and six box trucks can also relocate customers around the globe. The company has moved folks to Sweden, the United Kingdom and other international destinations this year. Every week, they help families and businesses move across town and across the country.
“We focus on the moves that are under 500 miles with our guys and our trucks,” he said. “But the Mayflower system has 200 movers across the country. We all work together.”
Wempen, a St. Peter native and 1990 Minnesota State University graduate, enjoys giving back to the community, so the company assists with Scouting for Food and transporting new artwork for the CityArt Walking Sculpture Tour from South Dakota each year.
“We try to be very active in the community,” he said. “We volunteer a lot of truck time.”
Kato Moving & Storage
417 Poplar St., Mankato