Tallgrass Commodities was established in February of 2007, but thanks to Gordon Happel and Frank Parrett we have been blessed by a wealth of information and knowledge. The path that led to Tallgrass Commodities is very interesting and, some might say very coincidental.
Frank got his feet wet back in 1956 when he worked for Ark Valley Alfalfa Mills in Yaggy, KS. Frank has a long history of working with alfalfa and the main product in those days was alfalfa meal that was sold by the bag. The alfalfa had to be put into cold storage to help preserve the Vitamin A in it!
Frank's career path took him from Yaggy, KS to Fremont, NE around 1960 when he worked for Consolidated Blenders. In 1963 Frank took a new job with Hillside Dehy in Uehling, NE. This plant moved a good volume of alfalfa pellets and alfalfa meal and was recently purchased by Scoular. Franks' next big venture was becoming part owner of Scribner Alfalfa in 1973/1974. Frank owned and operated that business for about 10 years selling alfalfa meal and pellets all over the United States. Frank also survived a significant injury when he was involved in an alfalfa pellet fire.
Needless to say Frank saw it all. After selling the Alfalfa business Frank worked from 1987 until roughly 2001 for Switzer Trading moving alfalfa products, rice hulls and wheat middlings. During these years Gordon and Frank traded a few ingredients together as well.
Gordon started working in the Feed Ingredient Business in 1965 when he got a job with FELCO Land O Lakes in Ft. Dodge, IA. Gordon remembers these days well. In those days there really wasn't a bulk feed business as everything primarily moved via bagging operations.
Gordons first memory of the bulk feed business was unloading wheat middlings or soybean meal from box cars. In fact Gordon and Frank started working with feed ingredients before the hopper bottom rail-car or hopper bottom semi-trailer was even invented. Gordon was also involved with Land O Lakes and in charge of helping create the resell business that we know of today.
In 1979 Gordon and his wife Ruth moved the family to Kansas City where Gordon worked for SeaBoard Allied Milling. They had 6-8 Flour Mills and Gordon was in charge of mill feed. In 1982 Cargill purchased the Milling business from SeaBoard and Gordon relocated the family to Wichita, KS where he was the Mill Feed Manager from 1982-1988. Gordon mentioned in those days almost every decent sized town had a flour mill and has been amazed by the amount of consolidation that has taken place over the years.
In 1990 the next big venture moved the family to Denver, CO where Gordon was the ingredient buyer for Manna Pro. Gordon and his family loved their time in Colorado and enjoyed the great view of the mountains, but being closer to home was important and in 1993 they moved back to Kansas City where Gordon worked with Wayne Sandberg and AgLand. When AgLand went out of business Gordon traded ingredients for Grain Millers (Agri Trading) from 1999 - 2002. At this point he was ready for retirement, or so he thought! Little did he know at the time that he would inspire the creation of a brand new company.
Gordon, not one to sit on his laurels, approached a former feed mill customer, Wildcat Feeds in Topeka, KS, about working for them part time to help source the ingredient needs of the feed mill. While doing this Gordon continued to communicate with his customers and good friends he had worked with over the years. Before you know it he had feed ingredients moving to some of those customers as well. During the Summer of 2006 the Owners of Wildcat Feeds, Arman Miller, Joe Isch and Jason Shamburg were amazed at the knowledge, contacts and business that Gordon was managing. They were so impressed that they thought it would be a good idea to find a young whipper snapper to work with Gordon.
In September of 2006 they hired a young man named Chad Villwok. Chad and Gordon hit it off, became best buddies and worked well together. Gordon would sell the products and Chad would get the trucks to haul it and manage schedules. After working together for a year bouncing from home office to home office or spending time in the back-office at Wildcat Feeds they added another member to their team named Rich Wollenberg. On his first day on the job, Rich showed up in Chad's basement with his own cell phone and card table! This is where the coincidences first started happening.
After leasing their very first office space at Southwind in Manhattan, KS in 2008, Gordon was on the phone with Dick Switzer asking about his old friend Frank Parrett. You may remember that Frank worked for Switzer Trading until 2001. What happened to Frank? In 2001 Frank suddenly lost his first love and wife Francisca to an infection. This was a very difficult time for Frank. However, a few years later Frank was reunited with a friend from his childhood days, Alberta Lallak, and on September 19th, 2003 Frank remarried and moved to, of all places, Manhattan, KS! When Gordon heard about this from Dick Switzer he almost fell out of his chair! The next day Frank was in our office and by late 2008 he was back selling feed ingredients again.
Tallgrass is very proud of our past and very grateful for Gordon and Frank. If it wasn't for the knowledge, experience, relationships, and passion of these two men Tallgrass Commodities would not be where it is today. They taught us many, many lessons that still hold true to this day. One of those lessons was to never let a customer run out of product! They grew up in an era of true customer service. They took care of customers from pay phones, without sending an email or a text message and managed their business without computers. They made calls from rotary phones and even smoked cigarettes sitting in the office! Both Gordon and Frank enjoyed working with all the good people in the industry and left their mark on many folks who are still working in the industry today.
At Tallgrass Commodities we are looking forward to our future, but we are very grateful and proud of what guys like Gordon and Frank did for us and also grateful for all the other members of our team, both past and present.