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 with the purchase of a single semi truck. Now, nearly 20 years later, his fledgling trucking business has expanded to a full fleet.
Ertman did not stop there. Over the past few years, he has applied his business acumen to new ventures, which include a truck repair business, and, more unexpectedly, a full bar in Mankato which Ertman dubs ‘an adult kid fun house.’
How has he done it?
According to Ertman, the answer is simple.
“I started working, and built myself up from there,” he says.
Ertman established his first business, Ertman Trucking, in 2004. The business provides livestock hauling services.
“We’re right around 100,000 pigs a week,” Ertman estimates. “We have 24 trucks running daily on the road.”
Meanwhile, Ertman’s second business, Ertman Truck Repair, came about as a natural extension of Ertman Trucking.
Already a veteran in the trucking community, Ertman soon noticed there was a clear need for truck repair services in the area.
“Every time you took a semi somewhere, it seemed like shoddy work,” Ertman recalls. “In 2015, I started hiring mechanics to work on my own stuff. In 2019, I opened up to the public.”
“I know it’s tougher in this area to get a good quality of service,” 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 a considerable detour off of the Interstate.
As such, Ertman decided to relocate. Now, Ertman Truck Repair will officially open at its new location at 108 Faribault Drive, in the Golden Spike Business Park, on Monday, Aug. 22.
Ertman is excited about the opportunities the new spot – just a short jaunt off of I-90 - will bring for the business.
“Currently, along the I-90 corridor, there is no service center,” Ertman notes. “We need a full shop to rebuild transmissions, differentials, and different stuff like that.”
Ertman Truck Repair specializes in Cummins Diesel Engines, offering full rebuilds of any engine, as well as transmission replacement, clutches and driveline replacements.
“Anything that 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’s employees are DOT-certified.
Following Ertman Truck Repair’s relocation, Ertman plans to expand the business’s services to the sale of parts, as well.
However, Ertman admits that, among the many challenges the pandemic has brought for truckers, it has made parts harder to find.
“Some of the parts are out a week to 10 days,” Ertman says. “There are also cost increases.”
The pandemic has also left many businesses short on labor. However, Ertman is happy to report 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 at a later date to accommodate more clients.
Ertman recommends trucks be serviced every 5,000 miles.
“You’d think that’s a lot of miles, but when you’re driving every day, it’s not,” he says. “It seems like there’s always something broken.”
Ertman himself will be booking many miles on his personal vehicle over the months to come. His latest business, JD’s Hideaway, has recently opened in Mankato.
After years in the trucking business, one might wonder why Ertman decided to open a bar. However, Ertman maintains, “Everybody’s got to have something different to get into in life. You don’t want to keep all your eggs in one basket.”
A brand-new business, JD’s Hideaway opened in Mankato’s downtown area on Aug. 4.
The ‘adult kid fun house’ offers pool tables, darts and axe throwing, along with food and drink.
“There is nothing like it in Mankato, and I wanted to be the first,” Ertman says. “I just like that area. It’s got a good populace, and it’s a college town.”
Though Ertman will certainly be booking some business hours in Mankato over the coming weeks, the Faribault County native keeps his heart at home.
“I’ve lived around here my whole life,” he says, adding he grew up in Winnebago. “I like the community, and I like the area.”
His family has indeed set down roots in the county. Ertman’s wife, Lisa, has recently completed her training to be a nurse practitioner.
Meanwhile, Ertman says his sons, Drake, age nine, and Gage, age six, have already expressed interest in taking over his business someday, to his delight.
“My overall goal is to build something for my children down the line,” Ertman explains, concluding, “I came from nothing and worked my way up to what I am now. I’m very fortunate.”