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100 Stories and Building

After a century in business, wall and ceil-ing
contractor Minuti Ogle looks back
on its simple, artistic origins and how
time, innovation and a lot of colorful
personalities have helped it evolve into
the full service business it is today.



In 1903, Italian-born artists Adolfo
Minuti and Carlos Brioschi were decorating
some of the most ornate and magnificent
structures of their adopted city New York. They were sculptors, called
upon to create plaster cast objects to
adorn the interior and exterior walls of
such structures as Grand Central Station,
the J.P. Morgan Library and even
the Roosevelt Mansion at Oyster Bay.



The century had just turned, and the
United States was yet to face the decades
marked by war, economic turmoil and
unending innovation in the building
industry. At the same time, however, the
efforts of Brioschi and Minuti were laying
the foundation for what is today
Minuti Ogle, a Twin Cities based wall
and ceiling contractor whose evolution
reads more like architectural history
than a corporate chronicle.


With a lot of intuition and a little
luck Minuti Ogle’s generations of
leadership were able to succeed through
global disturbance, social revolution and
ever-changing building styles to create a
modern enterprise that offers clients a
full list of the latest building technologies.
Its impressive portfolio includes the
internationally recognized Mall of
America, as well as hundreds of regional
landmarks.



“Our history has always been important
to us, but it was not until we hit the
100-year mark that we began talking to
the Minuti and Brioschi families, and
researching historical archives,” says
Thomas Panek, president and CEO,
Minuti-Ogle. “That’s when we realized
what a colorful history we had.”



The Immigrants’ Journey Never Ends



Panek discovered that after Minuti and
Brioschi established their reputation in
New York, a St. Paul architectural firm,
Reed and Stem, that had worked on Grand Central Station
invited both sculptors to Minnesota to work on the Midwest’s
first luxury hotel, The St. Paul Hotel, and give it their signature
European style. The St. Paul Hotel project brought demand for
their work by more Twin Cities businesses, churches and
wealthy homeowners. Realizing they had stumbled upon their
next land of opportunity, Minuti and Brioschi created a business
partnership—Brioschi-Minuti Company and made the
Twin Cities their home.



Their business thrives, but changes brought by the Great
Depression and World War II created profound realignment of
the Brioschi-Minuti business. In 1931, Adolfo Minuti died,
leaving his portion of the business to his three sons. Wary of
the nation’s reduced investment in new buildings as well as labor
and material shortages, the Minuti sons chose to focus on what
they saw as a new trend, plain plaster, and formed the Minuti
Brothers Company—the predecessor to today’s Minuti Ogle,
while the Brioschis chose to continue their decorative sculpture
business.


A Time of Renewal


The post-war years brought domestic investment, invention
and invigoration of the Minuti Brothers Company, which was
busy plastering homes, apartments and smaller office buildings
and employing new construction materials
such as synthetics, premixed plaster
and accelerators. By the 1960s the
Minuti Brothers business remained a
humble family-business consisting of
one truck, one superintendent and an
accounting system of receivables written
on recipe cards.



Two Minuti brothers, Lawrence and
T.J., were scaling back their role in the
business due to age, leaving third brother,
August “Augie,” to run it alone. Dick
Ogle, a tradesman and entrepreneur,
stepped into a business partnership with
Augie in 1966 with an eye toward growing
the business in ways never imagined
by the Minuti family. Soon renamed
Minuti Ogle, Ogle quickly capitalized
on the company’s word-of-mouth reputation
by first capturing a large nursing
home project, then, at the same time, a
large hotel in the Twin Cities suburbs
and in a move that would transform
the family owned business into a world class
venture the 57 story IDS Center
in Minneapolis, the tallest structure
Chicago and the West
Coast.



Increasing Scale, Size and Speed



Augie, the last member of the
founding family, retired from the
business in the early 1970s, yet
Ogle, the sole proprietor, retained
the Minuti name to honor the
company’s long history and
strong reputation. By the 1980s,
Ogle had marshaled completion
of the Metrodome, home to the
Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota
Twins. By the early 1980s,
Thomas Panek joined the firm as
vice president in preparation for
another leadership transition.



Ogle and Panek went on to capture
the firm’s largest and most
prestigious project, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.
Promising to be the largest shopping
mall in the world, Minuti Ogle
had to first convince its general
contractor that one firm could
handle the expansive drywall project.
When it did, Minuti Ogle
went on to employ 160 workers
and strategically deploy three and a
half miles of scaffolding, 900
miles of steel studs and enough
drywall to form a 3,000 foot high
pile of drywall to complete the
massive structure.



Ogle chose to retire after the completion
of the Mall of America, and
Panek stepped in as the new Minuti
Ogle leader. At the same time, a
renewed interest in historical architecture
returned Minuti-Ogle to its
artistic roots. The Orpheum theater in Minneapolis originally built in
the 1920 with help from, among others,
Brioschi Minuti had been modernized
and adapted beyond recognition by
the late 1980s. Charged with essentially
recreating the past, members of the
Minuti Ogle restoration team pored
over a 1931 photo of the interior with a
magnifying glass. They acted as artisans
with extensive renovation of the
Orpheum Theater in the 1990s, with
yards of ornamental plaster needing to
be recreated from a 1931 photo. Later,
with a magnifying glass and eight
months and 2,300 pieces of cast plaster,
the Minuti-Ogle artisans completed the
project to critical acclaim. The project
was completed in eight months.



The Mall of America and the Orpheum
Theatre projects stand in contrast to
each other but illustrate the diversity of
Minuti-Ogle’s talents and services.
Today it is not unusual to find modern
Minuti-Ogle masters adding the finishing
touches to historic landmark restoration
as it recently did with the renovation
of the 1917-built St. Paul Library
in 2002—while another Minuti Ogle
team is engaged in the fireproofing of a
modern office building.



Any tour of the Twin Cities and even
regions beyond—make clear the expansive
reach of Minuti-Ogle and its predecessor
companies. So expansive, so historical
and so significant, in fact, that the
company is putting together a 100-page
book of facts, stories and photographs to
commemorate its first century of existence.
It plans to unveil the book at a large anniversary
party that will be held this May.


“This industry is not known for its longevity
of companies,” says Panek. “So we
thought we would bring all of the people
who helped build this company even the
descendents of the founders and celebrate.
Not only will we be looking back at 100
years, but hopefully kicking off the next 100,
too.”



About the Author

Kim Ofsthun is marketing director for
Minuti Ogle Co., Inc., headquartered in
Oakdale, Minn.

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