Figi’s: John finds business out of his hands
By Kris Leonhardt
In 1968, John Figi sold to W.R. Grace & Company. Though not an easy decision, it was the necessary decision for the time as his wife, Ann, had been diagnosed with cancer.
Wanting to spend more time with his ailing wife, John turned ownership over and focused heavily on his wife, until she passed away in 1972.
“I remember when our mother died, right around the time my dad sold the company, and that is basically why he sold it,” said John’s son, Hans. “He had it for about 26 years, I think, and she was sick, and he sold the company.
“When you start a business in your kitchen and it grows to a certain size, and every year you hope you make payroll and you try to make decisions on whether you expand and take out loans to add a warehouse, and that sort of thing; it is a constant stress and struggle.
“So, for 26 years he built a business, and when we found out that our mother had cancer and had about a year to live, my father just said, ’You know, that is 26 years. I think I will kind of cash in my chips.’ He said, ‘It’s been a good run.’
John began the difficult time of running the business, while no longer owning it.
“He knew that he was going to stay on and run it. I think that in a lot of ways he regretted that decision, but when our mother died, it was very difficult for him for a long time. I think that he would have taken his eye off the ball, in terms of running a business and having a really responsible position.
“It was a bit of a relief to know that it was in someone else’s hands. He had taken it as far as he could, personally.
“It was a tough decision. My brother and I were too little. We weren’t prepared to take over the business, and our older brother, Todd, had started his own business and wanted to make his own name for himself.
“I think it was the right decision at the time for our dad… (But) it was hard for him to give up control and (not) have the direction of the company under his control anymore, to a certain extent.”
In 1981, the business was acquired by American Can and became Fingerhut.
In 1983, John Figi retired.
“When Fingerhut took over he was let go. I think that was the worst thing for him,” Hans recalls. “Actually, somebody came in and told him that ‘They would like him to leave the premises.’ Those were the exact words, and he told me that.”
Next week: Expansion to Neillsville and Stevens Point