In 1970, Vernon Carlson started R&B Distributing in Rochester, Minn and began selling Ritchie waterers in 1970. By 1979, Tim Carlson joined his father and formed Carlson Wholesale, Inc. In 1996, Tim’s son, Chad Carlson, joined the company. In 1999, Carlson Wholesale moved their headquarters to Sauk Rapids, Minn (St. Cloud area) doubling their warehouse space. Carlson Wholesale is responsible for 2/3 of the Minnesota territory. In 2000, Carlson expanded their sales territory to include ¾ of Iowa. Currently, 49% of Carlson’s Ritchie sales are dairy, 45% beef cattle, 5% equine and 1% swine. Chad Carlson has begun to take over many more executive duties and will be the new owner/CEO.
Tim Carlson, VP and CFO of Carlson Wholesale, Inc. has witnessed the continued growth of Ritchie and the durability and reliability of the products over 40 years.
“Ritchie has been such a leader in the industry from the very beginning that their brand has become synonymous with automatic livestock waterer,” said Carlson. “The red and yellow colors help brand a Ritchie waterer but we take calls from farmers who say they need a part for a Ritchie waterer and come to find out their automatic waterer is a different brand with orange or blue colors. They use the brand name Ritchie just like folks refer to Kleenex when they need a facial tissue. The product engineering and quality of materials used in manufacturing makes Ritchie a superior product. Case in point, many times a Ritchie brand part such as a valve or float can be retrofitted into another brand’s product and farmers will call to get that Ritchie part to make their existing waterer perform better.
Reliability is a big part of the success of Ritchie. The oldest waterer that I am aware of must be over 50 years old. It still has CD50 stamped on the access panel. Here’s another example I can share. Several years ago, I was at a trade show and a current Ritchie customer came up to our booth and asked me to open up the access panel and show him the inside. He peered inside and said, ‘oh that’s what it looks like’. He had his dealer install it and set the valve and float. The dealer did the annual maintenance and this farmer never had any issues, never had to open the access panel and had not touched the valve in over 20 years.”