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Cleveringa Construction to change hands Jan. 1

Merlin Cleveringa to semi-retire, sell business to employees Uithoven and Sandbulte
Lead Summary
Lori Sorenson

A Dec. 1 ribbon-cutting celebrated new office space for Cleveringa Construction on South Highway 75 in Luverne, but the company families are celebrating a great deal more than that as the year comes to a close.
Merlin Cleveringa announced that he’s semi-retiring in January and his two longtime employees, Adam Uithoven and Derek Sandbulte, are buying the business.
“I can’t say enough good about these two guys that are taking it over,” an emotional Cleveringa said Thursday. “It will be good.”
Buying the business will be a natural transition for Uithoven who manages residential projects and Sandbulte who heads up ag construction work. Their two crews work together on projects when all hands are needed.
“I enjoy doing it, but it’s definitely a challenging career, working in the elements,” Uithoven said.
“But you can take a lot of pride in the work. At the end of the day, you’re leaving something behind that someone raises their family in, and they find safety and shelter in and make memories of their own.”
Sandbulte said he takes similar pride in ag construction.
“I grew up a farm kid. I have a love for farming, but I love this just as much, if not more,” he said.
“It ties back to farming, back to commercial business. Hopefully we’re making a product for another business or farm to make the money to raise their family and to continue in the business that they’re doing.”
Cleveringa said that Sandbulte understands the farming side of construction and what farmers need.
“I want to make the best product I possibly can for them,” Sandbulte said.
All three started their construction careers under Van Aartsen Construction where Cleveringa got his start in the trade more than 30 years ago working for Darrel and the late Gerrit Van Aartsen.
“A big thank you goes to Darrel and Gerrit for what I’ve learned in the construction business,” Cleveringa said.
He started his own business in 2005, and Uithoven and Sandbulte began shortly after the business was established.
All three are quick to point out that the business wouldn’t be where it is today without their full team of employees, 10 in all.
“It’s not just us. It’s the whole crew,” Uithoven said. “We wouldn’t be anything without them.”
Sandbulte said, “It took all of our employees to get where we’re at.”
Cleveringa said most of his employees have been with the business for 10 or more years.
“I can’t say enough good about our employees,” he said. “Anything we ask them to do, they just do. They take care of you. … But you never put somebody on something you wouldn’t do yourself.”
Uithoven said employees have stayed because of that.
“I think we have that respect for each other,” he said. “We’re basically like family. We spend more time with each other than we do with our own families.”
And they’re quick to thank their own families. Uithoven and his wife, Linda, have four children, and Sandbulte and his wife, Angie, have three.
“We thank our families and our wives for putting up with all the time we put in,” Uithoven said.
Cleveringa said he feels blessed the business has done well enough to support his workers and their families.
“It’s the good Lord who took us to where we’re at,” he said.
“I never dreamed I’d have something to sell when we went into this. You only hoped you’d have enough money to make a living. Now, being able to pass it on to these two boys is … very fun.”
The business sale takes effect Jan. 1, and Cleveringa will phase into retirement.
“It’s time. We signed papers last Monday. It was a bittersweet moment. There were a few tears shed … tears of joy.”
Cleveringa will work part time for Uithoven and Sandbulte, selling homes and helping with business connections.
“It’s fun to watch these guys take over. It just is. It’s neat to pass along something you have made a career of,” Cleveringa said.
“Listening to these guys and watching these guys work. They’re craftsmen. I probably wouldn’t sell this to just anybody. I just know what they can do.”
Opportunities for change
Cleveringa Construction formerly officed out of the family home west of Luverne, but he and his wife of 46 years, Carol, are moving to their lake home in Hendricks.
They’re selling their acreage in January to Uithoven who has been renting it the past four years after the Cleveringas moved into one of the twinhomes they built on Roundwind Road.
When Cleveringa Construction remodeled the former True Value and Luverne Farm Store building for Real Estate Retrievers, he learned there was office space available for rent in the building.
“It just worked out we would rent this from them, and we moved in three months ago,” he said.
“It’s been a good move, because the street traffic has been good. The nice thing is Real Estate Retrievers does all our closings for us, so it kind of works back and forth both ways. It’s a good mix.”

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