Burnsville.-based Northern Tool + Equipment has opened its 100th store, in Katy, Texas.
That makes 19 states for the retailer-manufacturer rooted in selling log splitters out of a garage in 1981.
The Kotula-family owned company has sales of more than $1 billion and employs about 2,500.
Founder Don Kotula is a native of the Iron Range. His father owned a scrap yard that recycled industrial debris such as mining equipment.
Kotual earned a business degree from the University of Minnesota at Duluth. He worked as a corporate accountant at a couple companies in the Twin Cities, and in heavy-equipment sales at Ziegler. Kotula left to strike out on his own during the 1981-82 recession, as Ziegler’s business slumped.
Kotula started selling log-splitters, cylinders, valves and hydraulics, as family members mailed catalogues, took orders and shipped products.
Northern Tool opened its first store-showroom-warehouse in Burnsville, selling tools, tarps, snowplow parts, air compressors and more.
In 1991, Northern Tool launched a manufacturing business under the NorthStar brand, including log splitters, generators, pressure washers, and air compressors.
In recent years, Northern Tool revamped its retail footprint, introduced a series of higher margin private label brands, expanded its merchandising offerings and opened “Parts + Service” department. That strategy is built to “take the burden off weekend warriors who lack the time or expertise” to tackle maintenance and building projects.