This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue as "From Diapers to Dealer"
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Thirty-eight years ago, the Scheopner family moved to rural Garden City, Kan., started a water conditioning business, and welcomed a new family member. It was a big year—but it was just the beginning.
From day one, Scheopner’s Water Conditioning LLC co-owner Liz Scheopner had her hands full. Liz and her husband at the time decided to purchase a bankrupt water company with only 200 accounts. Adding to the stress, Liz also was caring for their infant son, Nathan. The court gave the family 13 days to move to Garden City and open the doors.
“[We] got off and running at that point,” Liz said. “And fortunately, we’ve grown by leaps and bounds over the years and have been very successful here, and really enjoyed Garden City.”
With nearly 5,000 accounts now, Scheopner’s has grown substantially, but it remains true to its family-owned roots. Liz and Nathan, now a co-owner, maintain close ties with their 11 employees, the 13 counties in southwest Kansas they serve, and their local community.
Scheopner’s is a well-known and well-respected name in the Garden City area. Nathan stays involved in groups such as the local chamber of commerce, Lions Club and Rotary Club, and both Liz and Nathan serve on several major boards in the area. But much of their reputation stems from the positive values with which they run their business.
“We want to sell good products at a fair price and give quality, friendly service, and make a decent living for ourselves and our employees,” Liz said. “And that’s our biggest goal—to give the best service we can while maintaining our dignity in the community.”
Schoepner's has expanded its business to include industrial water treatment and a bottled water division.
Scheopner’s Water Conditioning has seen its share of change. When it first started, the company primarily served residential accounts and focused on water softeners and portable exchange tanks. Now, the company’s business is nearly half residential and half industrial, with the majority of its profits coming from the industrial side. Because of its location, the dealership is able to serve diverse businesses such as seed lots, oil companies and grocery stores.
But by far the largest change Scheopner’s has adapted to over the years has been the growth of the bottled water industry. Early on, the company only “dabbled” in bottled water, filling no more than 10 bottles per week from a treatment system in their home kitchen. Now, Scheopner’s has a major reverse osmosis and bottling plant, filling approximately 2,000 0.5-liter and 3- and 5-gal bottles per week. While the bottled water division has increased expenses, it also has become the company’s largest grossing area.
Most of Scheopner’s residential customers take advantage of the company’s convenient options for getting their bottled water. Customers can either pick it up at the grocery store or the company store, or have it delivered to their homes. “[It’s] a good product in a timely manner,” Nathan said.
Fortunately, Scheopner’s does not face frequent water quality issues. Most of southwest Kansas uses groundwater, and the primary issues it faces are hardness and high total dissolved solids levels. “We’re actually pretty lucky,” Nathan said.
Passing the Torch
Scheopner’s roots are in water conditioning, and those roots are continuing to grow. Nathan’s maternal grandfather owned a Culligan dealership, which now operates under the Scheopner name, as well. Nathan was introduced to the water conditioning business as a baby, and, when Liz retires in 10 years, he will solely manage Scheopner’s Water Conditioning.
With time, Nathan and Liz hope to see steady, healthy growth in the company. They hope to maintain stable, consistent business and continue to operate with their established values.
“[Nathan] has practically engineered our entire bottled water treatment plant all on his own, and it is miraculous what he’s done back there. I think he’s going to do great in the future,” Liz said.
“I don’t know if we’re really any more special or unique than anybody else that’s out there, but we’re very proud of what we do—very proud of our employees and very proud of the community that we live and work in,” she added. “To be doing this for 38 years, you have to either be crazy or you have to love what you’re doing. It’s the latter—I definitely love it.”