By: Jerry Guenther, Norfolk Daily News

NORFOLK, Neb., April 24, 2013 — Classen Manufacturing, a Norfolk company that began in Norfolk, Neb., 40 years ago, is closing its doors.

The company at 1401 Logan St. in south Norfolk manufactured commercial turf and lawn care products sold worldwide.

Larry Classen, who was president of the Norfolk operations, said the final day of production was Tuesday.

Classen said the closure came suddenly and without warning from Schiller Grounds Care of Southhampton, Pa., which owns Classen Manufacturing. Schiller Grounds Care also has plants in Johnson Creek, Wis., and Southampton, Pa.

Classen said he isn’t exactly sure why the company decided to close the Norfolk plant, which was started in 1973 by his parents, Tom and Sylvia Classen.

“It’s not the way we wanted to celebrate 40 years,” he said Wednesday morning.

After its start as a repair facility, Classen Manufacturing went on to manufacture wrought iron products, realty sign posts, automatic can crushers and other miscellaneous items in the 1970s and 1980s.

In 2004, the company was sold to Schiller-Pfeiffer. The company now goes by the name Schiller Grounds Care.

Larry Classen said the Norfolk plant had 28 employees, including other members of the Classen family. The only employee who still has a job is Matt Classen, Larry’s son, who is working in Southampton, Pa., he said.

Classen said he still owns the building in Norfolk and will be looking for a new manufacturer to locate in it.

Travis Schwartzer, who was one of the Classen employees, said workers were told about the closure Tuesday afternoon by Jim Beck.

“He said, ‘Stop your work. Put down your tools. Gather in the assembly area. I’ve got something to say,’” Schwartzer said.

Schwartzer said employees learned of the closure “a little past 3:30” p.m. Tuesday.

“I’m just shocked,” he said. “I can hardly believe it.”

In the past three weeks, employees had been working six days a week. Schwartzer said most of his work in recent weeks involved building blade shafts.

Some of the products the company made in recent weeks included aerators, power rakes and industrial lawn equipment, he said.

There’s a lot of good employees who are now out of work. Many of them are in their 40s and 50s and have families, he said.

Schwartzer said he isn’t sure what he will do. He just landed the job with Classen on March 11 and was happy with it because it meant he no longer had to work three part-time jobs.

“It just kills me,” he said. “It hurts. I didn’t think that just plain news could cause physical pain, but this does.”

Schwartzer said his fiance has a job that doesn’t pay much and he has an 18-month-old boy at home. He finally was able to get a job that provided health insurance and now isn’t sure what he will do.

“We don’t have cable or satellite,” he said.