MANKATO — Virtually all of the staff at United Prairie Bank are Mankato area natives, leading to an understanding of the area and a dedication to giving back, according to Doug Lago, market president of the bank.
At Fun.com, the atmosphere is anything but bank-like, with employees coasting through warehouse aisles on skateboards, taking a break in the game room and sewing Halloween costumes.
While the two businesses may have different approaches, they now share the title of Hall of Fame winners.
They were honored at the Greater Mankato Growth awards banquet Tuesday night.
Lago noted the honor comes on the 100th anniversary of the family-owned bank, operated by the Sneer family. “We are a family owned, family oriented bank.”
Lago said the business in the area, including several dozen who are in the Hall of Fame, are the reason for United Prairie’s success. He ticked off many of the charitable and public education endeavors staff at the bank take part in, saying it’s the staff’s commitment to community that earned the bank the Hall of Fame honor.
United Prairie, headquartered in Mankato, began in 1973 when former President James Sneer bought Farmers State Bank of Mountain Lake, followed by the purchase of other banks. In 1992 the banks changed their names to United Prairie Bank.
In 2002, Stuart Sneer, the son of James and Susan Sneer, took over as president of the company.
Fun.com’s roots go back to the hobby of Jenice Fallenstein sewing Halloween costumes for her three daughters. Brother Tom Fallenstein started a seasonal local business called Costumes Galore.
“We grew up with the best costumes and now we share them with the world,” Tom Fallenstein said in a video played at the event.
He noted it’s not unusual for employees to have a Nerf war or play games during breaks.
“We work really hard and then we play really hard.”
In the early 2000s the family spent a few thousand dollars to buy costumes and began selling and renting them online.
The business was run out of a garage but quickly outgrew its space, eventually moving into a spacious facility in upper North Mankato where they now make all their own costumes.
The company has 185 year-round employees and thousands of seasonal employees, operating out of the 200,000-square-foot warehouse.
Other award winners are:
The award goes to a business that was established more than 10 years ago and has previously been named to the Hall of Fame.
This year’s winner is Vetter Stone Company.
Distinguished Business Award
Freedom Home Care
Brian Fazio Business Education Partnership Award
The award recognizes partnerships that enhance education and business.
This year’s award goes to the school districts in Mankato, Lake Crystal, Maple River, St. Clair and Nicollet, and Feeding Our Communities Partners.
Hap Halligan Leadership Award
The award recognizes someone who has participated in the Greater Mankato Leadership Institute program and has demonstrated exemplary contributions to the community.
The award goes to Laura Bowman, regional director community relations and development at Mayo Health System.
Young Professional of the Year
Angela Guentzel, of Guentzel Family Farms.
Visit Mankato Awards Bring It Home Award
Recognizes an individual, group or organization that works alongside Visit Mankato to bring a significant event to Greater Mankato.
This year’s winner is the Aussie Peppers. They are the Australian team in the National Pro Fastpitch league that played this season at Caswell Park in North Mankato.
The award is for providing outstanding hospitality to visitors or who helped promote Greater Mankato as a destination.
The award goes to Justin Ek/Bellissimo Paint & Coatings. Ek has promoted mural paintings in Old Town.
City Center Partnership Awards
City Design Awards of Excellence recognize outstanding architectural design.
Renovation $1 million to $3 million: Carlson-Tillisch Eye Clinic
Renovation under $500,000: Bumbelou
Sustainability: Hubbard Building
Downtown Detail: Stoltzman Park
Creative Placemaking: ChalkFest
GreenSeam Awards Seamed in Success Award
The award, which goes to Farmamerica, recognizes those who highlight the importance of agriculture.
Growing in the GreenSeam
The award honors a business that has recently opened in the area.
The award goes to Revol Greens, a Medford business that grows organic lettuce in greenhouses.
– Mankato Free Press by Tim Krohn, November 12, 2019