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The Dodgeville Chronicle - Thursday, March 24, 2011 - Section 1, Page 2

Collins & Hying has new owner

by Jean Berns Jones

Collins & Hying, a company that was a member of the Dodgeville business community for 57 years, has changed hands.

The new owner and president is David Stone, a resident of the Town of Middleton. He plans to continue operating Collins & Hying under the same name at the same location, 221 Hwy.YZ.

The same employees who have worked there for many years will continue providing services in plumbing, heating, electrical, air conditioning, well pump, and septic systems.

“The employees are the heart of this company, and that will stay the same,” Stone said.

“Collins & Hying has an impeccable reputation in this area, and the things I care most about a business are the people working there and the reputation of the company,” he added. “Things have been done right here for a long time.”

The business was established in 1953 by partners Bernard (“Bun”) Collins and Eugene (“Gene”) Hying. It was incorporated in 1979.

Then Larry Wagner operated it for about 30 years, continuing under the name Collins & Hying, until his death in September, 2010. There are currently seven full-time employees, including five service technicians.

“Ruth Espeseth has basically run the business during Larry's illness and after he passed away, and she's definitely the right hand person,” Stone said. Espeseth, who is bookkeeper and receptionist, has been with the company for 33 years. Employee Jerry Thuli has been there even longer.

Don Linder, along with his son Brad who works part-time, are in charge of the secondary business called YZ Truck Service. Stone does not plan to change that business in any way.

“I am of the conviction that if something isn't broken don't fix it,” he said. “The only changes I foresee are using technology to make some things easier and more efficient, and we will develop a Collins & Hying website.”

He plans to put effort into marketing the company's good reputation. He also wants to develop a virtual showroom that will be a friendly and comfortable place for women to access design catalogs and a computer with links to manufacturers.

Stone had expressed interest to Larry Wagner last May about possibly buying the business. Then after only 3 1/2 months of negotiating with Larry's wife Marcia in late 2010 and early 2011, the deal was made. Stone purchased Collins & Hying on February 4th.

Stone has not worked directly in the plumbing and heating business, but he has a good foundational background with a degree in mechanical engineering. He is also comfortable with other aspects of the business, due to having worked in commercial construction for a time.

After graduating from the University of Kansas, Stone worked as a mechanical engineer for Kimberly Clark in Neenah, then for American Hospital Supply in Mundelein, IL. After that, he owned a wind surfing business in Highland Park, IL.

While working in Mundelein, Stone met his wife of 25 years. The couple sold his successful windsurfing business in Illinois. They moved to Wisconsin, to the Town of Middleton, where he partnered with his brother at Isthmus Sailboards.

About 1994, he began working for Corporate Construction, a commercial building company. After nine years and as vice president, he left the company because he wanted to own a business. For a few years he worked in commercial real estate development with a friend.

David Stone is the new owner of Collins and Hying in Dodgeville

David Stone is the new owner of Collins & Hying in Dodgeville.

Acknowledging that he has been involved in many varied types of work, Stone said, “I feel one should gain as much exposure to as many different things as they can in their life. You only get one shot, and nobody's going to hit a reset button.”

When a friend who works in Dodgeville told Stone about the Collins & Hying opportunity, he was interested. He had experienced working with Dodgeville city employees on a previous construction project here.

“I remember Dodgeville as a nice place to come to, and that the people were reasonable to work with,” he said.

Stone inquired with a number of customers and suppliers for their opinions about the Collins & Hying business. “To a T, they said good things and that Larry Wagner and his company had an impeccable reputation,” he said.

As an exercise enthusiast, Stone was also attracted to the area because of Governor Dodge State Park and Blue Mound State Park, and the option of driving scenic, two-lane backroads to work.

“I've been an avid exerciser for a long, long time,” he said. “I'm obsessed with it.”

He visualized going biking or cross country skiing over his lunch hours. When he learned that the building was already equipped with a shower for after working out, the place seemed to have his name on it.

Stone expects to continue making the half-hour commute to work at least five days a week. He and his wife are settled in the Town of Middleton, and plan to stay there even when their sons (21 and 18) leave home.

“It's not a bad drive. There are only two stop signs between my house and here,” he said.

“It can be hard to be accepted in a small town, but it feels to me like Dodgeville has open arms,” Stone explained.

“Everybody I've talked to is very welcoming and very glad to hear that Collins & Hying is going to survive and go on.”

“That was a big calling card for going into a more rural setting versus going into Madison where it can be colder and less personal.”

“I pride myself on being honest and forthright, and integrity is important to me,” he added. “I felt that would be identified in a small city like Dodgeville, while it could be glossed over in a larger city.”