A couple of years ago, Russ Bauer and his wife, Judy, contemplating retirement, bought a house in Arizona.
"But my grandpa wasn't ready to slow down," said Bauer's granddaughter Katie Coutley. "I don't think my grandma was a fan of him being a workaholic. He was still showing up for work every day, still running his business on a day-to-day basis. He didn't want to leave it."
Bauer managed Bauer Brothers, Minnesota's largest building materials salvage yard. The Minneapolis business, which occupies over 90,000 square feet, has been in the Bauer family for more than 60 years.
Bauer, of Shoreview, died June 20, 10 days after suffering injuries in a fall. He was 80.
Still, "he was in better shape than I am," said Coutley, who is the office manager at Bauer Brothers.
Bauer was born to Herman and Annabelle Bauer on Nov. 6, 1939, in El Paso, Wis., a small, unincorporated farming community in Pierce County, southeast of River Falls. He was the third of the Bauers' 12 children.
"He always said he was a farm boy from El Paso," said Coutley. "He didn't graduate from high school because he was needed on the farm."
Bauer's parents started the business after moving to St. Paul in the 1950s. The business moved to a warehouse in southeast Minneapolis in the mid-1990s. It relocated to its existing location in north Minneapolis in 2000.
Bauer and two of his brothers took over the business from their parents in the 1970s.
The salvage yard became a go-to place for contractors and remodelers for hard-to-find housing materials. The business also attracted attention from TV shows like HGTV's "Rehab Addict" and movie producers and set designers looking for unique prop items.
When the movie "Grumpy Old Men" was filmed in Minnesota in 1993, the film's producers picked up several items from Bauer Brothers, including an ice-fishing house.
Recently, the business contributed $17,000 worth of items to a project for HBO.
Two years ago, Bauer told the Star Tribune, "It seems to get bigger every year. I keep saying I don't want to get bigger, but how do you not?"
Coutley said she called her grandfather "a casual hoarder."
"I'd ask him why we had some of the things," she said. "You can't believe how much stuff is in nearly 100,000 square feet. He was proud of the fact that he pretty much knew where everything was."
According to a Star Tribune story in 2018, Bauer had unusual advice for potential customers and first-time visitors to the business.
"Don't even think about buying the first time," Bauer said. "It's too mind-boggling."
Bob Roscoe, a Minnesota preservationist who has served on the Minneapolis Preservation Heritage Commission, told the Star Tribune in 2018, "Bauer Brothers is the greatest unknown urban ecology aspect of the Twin Cities. Because all that stuff would be going to landfill. All that stuff came from Earth's resources to make, and it can be reused."
Coutley said the family intends to continue running the business.
"My grandmother said she wants to keep it going," said Coutley. "The business is his legacy."
In addition to his wife of 47 years, Bauer is survived by sons Kevin, Rico, Rusty and Randy; daughters Kelly, Deana, Nicki, TyAnn, Cissie and Yori; 32 grandchildren, several great-grandchildren, four brothers and four sisters.
A service was held Friday.