News - Lest We Forget: New Grad Jogs Memories for Buchheit Stores

Lest We Forget: New Grad Jogs Memories for Buchheit Stores

By Carla Morris

A girl who throws tomahawks, a fire that levels a five-story building and the threat of amnesia all weave their way into Katie Schmierbach’s story of how she recently landed a job.

Before she graduated last week, Katie reported to class as a history major at Greenville College. Today she reports to Buchheit Stores as an archivist. Here’s how the leap from pupil to preservationist unfolded. 

No joke, she throws tomahawksKatie Schmierbach

A history buff, Katie participates in historical reenactments of the American Revolution. Costumed in period dress, she plays the part of a colonial farmer’s daughter who sometimes wields a tomahawk.

Last October at the Fort de Chartres Fall Rendezvous, Katie fell into conversation with a spectator who wanted to know more about her desire to preserve history for future generations. They talked about her work as an assistant in GC’s archives and her previous archival work with the Marissa Historical and Genealogical Society, where she helped rebuild records after a fire.

It turned out that the captivated listener, Tim Buchheit, CEO of Buchheit, Inc., needed an archivist.

Fire, loss and lessons learned

Buchheit FireIn 1986, a devastating fire consumed the five-story, 50,000 square-foot retail space that comprised the Buchheit family business in Biehle, MO. “We lost everything,” Tim recalls. (Photo at left, courtesy Buchheit Archives)

“Everything” included documentation of defining moments in the company’s history that goes back to 1934, when Rudy Buchheit purchased a one-time saloon and turned it into a grocery store.

After the fire, lessons emerged. “We realized we were operating with ‘all our eggs in one basket’ and that we needed to have multiple locations,” reflects Tim. Talk of expanded capabilities also ensued.

Today the enterprise fills consumer needs in the home, building and farm markets. It includes:

  • Buchheit Stores in eight locations throughout Missouri and Illinois,
  • Buchheit Agriculture, manufacturer of feed, seed and fertilizer, and
  • Buchheit Logistics, a national trucking firm.

Tim’s interest in Katie’s archival skills focuses on Buchheit’s 650 employees and the memories of those who have served the longest. He wants to recapture institutional memory before the window of opportunity closes.

Avoiding “corporate amnesia” saves time and money

It comes as no surprise that productivity gains traction when employees are on the same page about what they do, where they’ve been, who they are and what they value.

Employers who cultivate such institutional memory:

“We know that if we don’t document our history, no one will,” explains Tim. “The ‘salt’ of our family and company will be lost.”

The "salt" Tim refers to is the special quality that defines his family's business. Researchers call it “family gravity” and say it is critical to the long-term success of family businesses—success that does not come easily, according to the Family Business Institute.

  • 30% of family businesses last into a second generation,
  • 12% remain viable into a third, and
  • only 3% operate into the fourth generation or beyond.

“Knowing our history helps us understand why we do the things we do,” explains Tim. “It helps us see that our day-to-day actions are part of something bigger and that we are all an essential part of this ongoing story.”

Memory recovery

Trading her cap and gown for a recorder and interview schedule, Katie is now working a recovery plan:

  1. Interview Buchheit team members at each location, beginning with those who have served the longest.
  2. Use the oral histories to establish an estimated timeline of events.
  3. Reference the timeline to pursue exact documentation through newspaper articles, periodicals and microfilm.
  4. Create a digital archive that can fuel a prominent “this day in history” spot on the Buchheit website, a resource used often by team members.

Even as Katie plays the part of a colonial farmer’s daughter and preserves history for the “generations-strong” Buchheit Stores, she participates in yet another story of legacy—an appreciation for the past and its preservation, passed down from a history-loving father to his daughter.

“It was something my dad instilled in me,” she explains. 

And something, no doubt, the folks at Buchheit are glad he did. 

You can help students like Katie embrace an educational experience that empowers, enriches and endures. Give today.

Learn more:

Greenville College to Offer Degree Program in Agribusiness

Erin and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Job

Creating History

When Disaster Strikes: The Curious Appeal of Disaster Response  

This story was published on May 26, 2016

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