A Waseca family-owned business is about to change hands for the first time since 1960.
“It wasn’t just a business; it was more of a lifestyle. I worked there when I was young, my kids worked there, my nephews worked there,” said Pete Madel III, the current owner of Lakeshore Inn and Latham Place. “Each Christmas we’d have a Christmas party for the residents on Christmas Eve and I would always go. That’s the thing I did every year.”
The assisted living facility Latham Place and its attached nursing home, Lakeshore Inn, were both established by the Madel family in December 1960. The business recently sold to Monarch Healthcare Management, who will begin operating the facilities on July 1.
“In general, the more footprint that we have the more we are able to support one another. Where we’ve found ourselves, we operate in Faribault and Mankato, and we saw this great facility in a town in between,” said Marc Harpel, CEO of Monarch Healthcare Management. “It’s going to give staff there a growth opportunity while also giving our support staff a chance to help a greater amount of people.”
Latham Place and Lakeshore Inn were both established by Pete Madel Sr. and were passed down the family through three generations. However, the facilities have reached two problems. The first is that neither Madel III’s children nor his nephews wanted to take over the business, while the second is staffing.
“This industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The whole world is trying to figure out where all the workers went. Long term care has always had a bit of problem with staffing over the years, but the pandemic has really hit our industry hard,” Madel said. “The natural evolution of any business and our industry is to be able to survive, prosper and flourish; you need to be a bigger entity. Monarch is a much larger, very successful company that has resources and support needed to allow a long term care facility to survive and thrive into the future.”
While a change in ownership can be scary, Monarch seems determined to keep Lakeshore Inn and Latham Place operating in the same way as they always have, while also updating them to meet modern needs.
“The goal is to continue the awesome operation that they have going there. The employees shouldn’t feel a change. I’m proud to say that we’ve made an offer to every employee there to stay on,” Harpel said. “We’re looking to update rooms, update the building and fill the vacancies there. We’re also switching to electronic records to modernize the system a little bit.”
Monarch Healthcare Management began in 2015, with Harpel as one of the founders.
“I was working in Chicago at the time for a healthcare facility there. I had this chance to purchase some of these homes, and the first city I went to was New Prague and I feel in love,” Harpel said. “Minnesota is beautiful, these communities are beautiful, and since then these communities have really supported us.”
In just seven years, Monarch has grown from a system with four nursing homes and three assisted living facilities in Mankato, to 15 assisted living facilities and 33 nursing homes across 40 different communities. They’ve also been able to increase their staff from 275 employees to over 4,000 and from 18 corporate employees to 120.
“We’re excited to be coming into Waseca, it’s an exciting time for us. It’s been a long two and a half years of COVID, and we’re ready to go back to bringing the five-star customer care and service that our facilities are known for,” Harpel said.
A local glass ceiling has officially been shattered.
Waseca’s American Legion Post 228 was established in 1919 and has spent more than 100 years serving the area’s veterans. In May, the post officers gathered and held their annual office voting session, where they elected Shelby Barbknecht as the new post commander. With the vote, Barbknecht became the first female commander in the post’s history.
Barbknecht began her military service in 2011, just a few months after graduating from Waseca High School. A Waseca resident, Barbknecht’s family owns a hobby farm near Janesville where she grew up participating in 4-H and the Future Farmers of America.
Barbknecht’s service took her to Texas, South Korea, Kuwait and more as she served as a patriot missile operator and maintainer in the United States Army.
Unlike others who might seek this position, Barbknecht didn’t actually run for the office, but was nominated and supported by various officers at the post.
“Originally, there was someone who was supposed to be the new post commander, but at the last minute his job transferred him to Florida,” Barbknecht said. “As he was leaving, he recommended me for the position.”
“The commanders are elected by the membership. Every May there are new officers elected, even though sometimes people will hold their position for years,” said Gary Bohm, the post’s adjutant. Bohm described his position as similar to a secretary, stating he is essentially the assistant to the post commander.
Barbknecht says when she was first suggested for the position, she was unsure. However, encouragement from members, including the encouragement and promise of help from Bohm, made her decide to take the position.
As for what this accomplishment means, Bohm acknowledges what a step like this represents for the future of the post, while Barbknecht seems more focused on living up to the position of the American Legion commander.
“I haven’t really thought about [being the first female commander] that much. I know everyone else is really excited about it. I’m just hoping that I can live up to the hype,” Barbknecht said.
“It’s a big milestone. With our post never having had a female commander, I think it really goes to show that the Waseca American Legion is trying to keep up with the times,” Bohm said. “We’re looking ahead and realizing that the Legion is really dependant on younger people, and it’s nice to see young people step up and take these important leadership roles.”
In Bohm’s mind, the move brings respect to female service members, who can sometimes feel overshadowed in the male-dominated military.
“We recognize that there are female veterans who have held leadership duties while on active duty, and that those women often go and hold leadership roles in the community and various organizations after their service,” Bohm said.
For now, the Legion leadership is looking forward to their role in the community during the summer, and continuing to serve the community and its veterans.
“We have the beer garden at the county fair, and we are known for our hot beef sandwiches. Every summer we go to the fair and serve sandwiches, brats and beverages,” Bohm said. “It’s a major fundraiser for us every year, that requires a lot of help. We fill three shifts a day for five days straight.”