Rasmussens made serving community their business model for 100 years
By James Tilson
GUNNISON—For the Rasmussen family in Gunnison, owning a family business has never been just about making a living. It has also always meant being of service to your community.
Since opening Charles Rasmussen’s Furniture and Hardware in 1918, the Rasmussen family has been involved in almost every aspect of Gunnison’s life. From community activities, to church leadership, to military service, they always supported the community that supported them.
“Part of our family legacy was that you got in your community and you contributed,” says present owner Curtis Anderson, husband of Marsha Rasmussen Anderson. He didn’t just do these activities out of sense of duty—he genuinely enjoyed what he did.
“I loved my church work; I loved working with the Boy Scouts. And it was also my release from retail,” he said.
At the same time, the community has embraced the Rasmussens, and it has paid dividends to the family. In 1988, Rasmussen’s ACE Hardware was outgrowing its building on 54 S. Main. Curtis and Marsha began looking around for an opportunity to improve the business, but were not sure what they could afford.
They began looking at the building at 435 S. Main, which had been a grocery store before. The owner of the building, “Mrs. Anderson,” had quoted a price to the realtor, and Curtis realized, “there was no way we could afford that price.”
But the realtor told Curtis that Mrs. Anderson wanted him to quote her a price. Curtis told the realtor he would feel embarrassed to give Mrs. Anderson a price they could afford, and declined. The realtor contacted Mrs. Anderson, and persisted—“She wants you to give her a price.”
So, Curtis, feeling embarrassed, gave in and, with the bank’s help, made a bid at what he thought the business could afford. And lo and behold, Mrs. Anderson accepted the bid, telling Curtis, “I want you to have the store.” Curtis remembers how he felt upon receiving the news. “I honestly thought it was a little bit of a miracle, that so many people would work together to help us when I didn’t think there was any way that deal should go through.”
Marsha also remembers that deal, and how, remembering how hard her parents had worked, she wanted to keep the business successful. But she was concerned how her mother, who still worked for the business as the secretary/bookkeeper, would feel about moving the store.
Marsha remembers thinking, “Would Dad and Grandfather approve? Would it be good for the business? Ninety percent of the time, if we looked at it that way, it would give us the answer.”
When Marsha and Curtis approached Helen about the move, she was totally supportive of it, even though it meant she would have a longer walk to get to work every day at a time when she was having a harder time getting around.
Curtis and Marsha are only the latest of the family to carry on the tradition. The tradition started in 1918 with Charles and Ethel, when they first opened the store.
Curtis Rasmussen served with the State Militia for 13 years, and earned distinctions for marksmanship. He was the first councilor in the first Stake Presidency organized in Gunnison. He worked with the Boy Scouts and the Stake Aaronic Priesthood committee.
Charles served on the Gunnison City Council, and the Lions Club. He was a director of the Gunnison Valley Bank, and was President of the bank for 15 years.
Charles also had his son Moyle work in the business with him, and learn how to run the store and serve the community. By the time of his death in 1952, Moyle took over the business, and the family legacy. Much like his father before him, Moyle also was a family man, was active in the church, in scouting and he served his country in the military.
Moyle married Helen Cox of Manti in 1938. By the time Japan dragged the United States into World War II, Moyle and Helen had two sons. Even though he was qualified for an exemption based on his family, Moyle felt serving his country was too important. He joined the Navy, where he served during the war years.
Moyle served in the first Bishopric of the Gunnison Second Ward and as the deacons’ quorum advisor. He served over 30 years with the Boy Scouts, and also with the Lions Club. And also like his father, Moyle was a director of the Gunnison Valley Bank.
Moyle and Helen had four children – Reed, Paul, David and Marsha. All of them worked in the store with their parents, and all started out sweeping and cleaning at 25 cents an hour. Marsha remembers at the time she didn’t understand the lessons she was learning.
“I didn’t really appreciate all the cleaning we had to do,” Marsha says. “But as I got older, and I started doing the same thing with my own children, I could see the usefulness of learning a strong work ethic. And I can see that my children are learning the same thing—although it is harder for them to get their children to do that kind of work.”
Marsha also remembers how hard her parents worked in the business and with the family. “Father was so dedicated to the business. In the winter, he’d go in early to start the furnace, and then come home for breakfast. Then he would work all day at the store. After dinner, he would go back in to do the books. He just wasn’t home a whole lot.”
“But even so, we always had a vacation in the summer with the whole family.”
The 1970s were a time of change for the Rasmussens. By the late-1960s, Moyle had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and by 1975 he could no longer work in the family business. In 1974, his daughter Marsha and her husband Curtis Anderson moved back to Gunnison to help out her parents. In 1977, the Rasmussens purchased stock and became an affiliate of ACE Hardware cooperative. Their store was thenceforth known as Rasmussen’s ACE Hardware.
By 1988, their family business had out-grown the smallish building at 54 S. Main. Just a few years earlier, the Doves Grocery Company had vacated their building at 435 S. Main to move to the current location near the high school. The building Doves left behind represented a huge upgrade for Rasmussen’s, and it became a place where the business could expand for many years to come.
Marsha and Curtis continued to run the business for more than 30 years. But their church service pointed to a new challenge in 2012. At that time, they were called to serve as Mission President and Wife of the South Dakota Rapid City Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. No other family members were working at the store, so Marsha and Curtis turned to long-time assistant manager Shannon McArthur to continue the business in their absence.
McArthur started with Rasmussens in 1992, working as a cashier and floor sales. “I was there to help customers,” he said. He had been working with Rasmussen’s for 15 years before he was promoted to general manager, a post he still holds today. Mc Arthur has been responsible for increasing sales and services during his tenure.
However, he says his favorite part is still helping people. “I love helping people. When they come in with a problem, and they leave with it solved, that’s the best.”
And of course, he also loves working for the Rasmussens. “They’re good folks—hard-working, honest, good to be around people.”