Following in the footsteps of many of the county’s up-and-coming entrepreneurs, Matt Ertman is striving to become a true renaissance man.
Ertman entered the world of business ownership by purchasing a single semi truck. Now, nearly 20 years later, his fledgling trucking business has expanded to a full fleet.
Ertman didn’t stop there. In the past few years, he’s applied his business acumen to new ventures, including a truck repair business, and, unexpectedly, a full bar in Mankato, which Ertman calls ‘a grown-up kid’s fun house.’
How did he do it?
According to Ertman, the answer is simple.
“I started working, and built myself up from there,”He said.
Ertman founded his first business, Ertman Trucking, in 2004. This business provides livestock transportation services.
“We’re about 100,000 pigs a week,”Ertman estimate. “We have 24 trucks on the road every day.
Meanwhile, Ertman’s second business, Ertman Truck Repair, came as a natural extension of Ertman Trucking.
Already a veteran in the trucking community, Ertman quickly noticed that there was a clear need for truck repair services.
“Every time you took a semi somewhere, it seemed like less work,”Ertman remembers. “In 2015, I started recruiting mechanics to work on my own stuff. In 2019, I opened to the public.
“I know it’s hard to get good quality service in this area,”he adds.
Ertman Truck Repair was initially located on 450th Avenue near Highway 109. Ertman was not particularly satisfied with the location, which was six miles outside of Blue Earth and off the interstate.
As such, Ertman decided to transfer. Now, Ertman Truck Repair will officially open its new location at 108 Faribault Drive, in the Golden Spike Business Park, on Monday, August 22.
Ertman is excited about the opportunities the new location — a short drive from I-90 — will bring for the business.
“Currently, in the I-90 corridor, there is no service center,”Ertman notes. “We need a full shop to rebuild transmissions, differentials, and various other stuff like that.”
Ertman Truck Repair specializes in Cummins diesel engines, offering complete rebuilds of any engine, as well as transmission replacement, clutch and driveline replacement.
“Anything a semi tractor or trailer needs, we can do it,”Ertman summarizes. “Fabricating brackets, welding aluminum — it’s kind of a one-stop shop.”
He adds that while not every repair shop can perform a Department of Transportation (DOT) certified inspection, all Ertman Truck Repair employees are DOT-certified.
Following the relocation of Ertman Truck Repair, Ertman plans to expand the business’ services into parts sales as well.
However, Ertman admits that among the many challenges the pandemic has brought to truckers, it has made it harder to find parts.
“Some parts are out for a week to 10 days,”says Ertman. “There are also cost increases.”
The pandemic has also left many businesses short of labor. However, Ertman is happy to report that he currently has four full-time mechanics, and is able to keep his shop open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. He may expand his hours to accommodate more customers at a later date.
Ertman recommends servicing trucks every 5,000 miles.
“You think it’s a lot of miles, but when you’re driving every day, it’s not,”He said. “It seems like there’s always something broken.”
Ertman himself is booking more miles on his personal vehicle in the coming months. His latest business, JD’s Hideaway, recently opened in Mankato.
After years in the trucking business, one might wonder why Ertman decided to open a bar. However, Ertman maintains, “Everybody needs something different to get through life. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket.”
JD’s Hideaway, a brand new business, opened in Mankato’s downtown area on August 4th.
The ‘adult children’s fun house’ features a pool table, darts and ax throwing along with food and drink.
“There’s nothing like it in Mankato, and I wanted to be the first,”says Ertman. “I love that area. It’s got a good population, and it’s a college town.”
Although Ertman will be booking some business hours in Mankato in the coming weeks, the Faribault County native keeps his heart at home.
“I’ve lived here all my life,”He grew up in Winnebago, he says. “I love the community, and I love the area.”
His family actually has roots in the county. Ertman’s wife, Lisa, recently completed her training to become a nurse practitioner.
Meanwhile, Ertman says his sons, Drake, age nine, and Gage, age six, have already expressed interest in taking over the business for themselves someday.
“My overall goal is to build something for my kids,”Ertman explains, concluding, “I came from nothing and worked my way to where I am now. I’m very lucky.”