Co-founded Exmark Manufacturing before branching out to start Encore Manufacturing

 A pioneer in the lawn mower industry who turned sketches drawn in his basement into two successful businesses passed away last week. 

Wilfred H. “Dick” Tegtmeier, 74, of Beatrice co-founded Exmark Manufacturing with three others before branching out on his own to start Encore Manufacturing.

Tegtmeier graduated from Hollenberg High School in Hollenberg, Kan., in 1956 and was the only boy in the class of four. He did not attend college.

“He started with Kees Manufacturing Back (in Beatrice) in the 1970s, and they asked him to develop a line of lawn mowers," said Tegtmeier’s son Doug . “Around 1983, the opportunity came up where he had a chance to spin off and start Exmark with a couple other guys.

“He was a pivotal guy in the lawn and garden business. They always call Beatrice ‘the lawn mower capital of the world,’ and he was pretty much responsible for the whole thing.”

Known for making bold business decisions, Dick Tegtmeier left Exmark in 1988 to form a new mower company, Encore Manufacturing. 

“When we started Exmark, people said, ‘You’re crazy,’” Tegtmeier told the Beatrice Daily Sun at a company anniversary celebration in 2002. “When we started Encore, they said, ‘You have to be a complete idiot.’”

At the time Tegtmeier made that comment, Encore’s business has grown 640 percent since its first year and the building had to be expanded in 1993.

A harsh economy took its toll on the business, and Tegtmeier sold Encore to the World Lawn Power Equipment, a Chinese company, on the condition the company continue to operate in its Beatrice location.

“Dick was one heck of an entrepreneur and someone who will be greatly missed," Beatrice Mayor Dennis Schuster said.

“He was the best man at my wedding, we loved to golf and he enjoyed playing with his grandson,” Doug Tegtmeier said. “He just loved his community, family and friends. He taught me how to be a good man.”