Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Story of Ragle Dental Labs in Jerry's Own Words

I went to work in a dental laboratory June of 1973. I had worked at a grocery store all through high school and decided I needed a change. My father talked me into taking the position at the lab. Only being 18 at the time he felt if I didn’t like it I still had plenty of time to make a career change. Well it fit and after 6 years with a local firm and a pregnant wife I decided to venture out on my own. On June 1 1979 I opened Ragle Dental Laboratory on Hill Street in Champaign renting a back room from Fillman Advertising. By year end Ginny and I had our first employee and first child. I was there almost two years then bought a denture lab from a group of dentists, it was located on Stoughton Street in Champaign. I combined the two businesses moving my operation from Hill Street into the Stoughton location purchasing the building. That business had a couple employees as well. We steadily grew over the next couple of years then running out of space I leased, with an option to purchase, a newer building located at 104 East Stoughton (one of the pictures I sent you previously). We stayed there until I purchased the property at 301 S First Street in 1989 which is our current location. We renovated the old 1941 building and moved in September of 1990. I went from 1600 sq. ft to 6000 sq. ft. only to find in 1991 the economy was not good and neither were interest rates. It was a tough year. We survived and steadily grew our customer base by word of mouth. In 2000 I purchased a lab in Mattoon, it had 10 employees bringing our staff total to 30. I closed the Mattoon lab after a couple years and retained all but one employee who didn’t care to make the drive to Champaign. Over the next few years a few others did the same but two did stay until their retirement in 2007. One still remains our Director of Training and is actually back training three new employees. We opened up the milling center this past April adding 4 employees and a new side to the business (scanner photos attached) but as the economy worsened our overall staff declined. Fortunately not through layoffs but people moving or going back to school and not replaced. We currently have a staff of 24 which they are shown in the Christmas card photo sent previously (4 are not in the photo). The next generation are in full swing, Natalie and Nick. Both complement each other in the business with Natalie handling the administrative side and Nick the technical aspect. Natalie is expecting her second child and our second grandchild any day now. To watch Jerry's interview on Channel three's One on One Click Here

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