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P&E, Wortmann to mark 50 years in business here

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HARTINGTON — A Hartington fixture will celebrate 50 years in business this week.

Roger Wortmann and Kenny Hochstein started Plumbing and Electric Service together on Dec. 8, 1969.

A special Open House is planned Friday to mark the occassion.

That was a scary time to start a business, Wortmann said.

When they first hung out the “Open for Business” sign, Wortmann was a newlywed, having just married Sherry Kollars in late November.

They were living in a house that a friend let them stay in. They were eating eggs and meat and drinking milk from his folks’ 160-acre farm and just getting by.

“We didn’t have any moeny. If it weren’t for my my mom and dad helping us out, I don’t know what we would have done,” he said.

While the timing might not have been great, Wortmann knew starting his own business was the right decision.

Soon after he returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1968, he began working for Art Kathol in Bow Valley.

With so many siblings back at home, he knew that if he wanted to stay in Hartington, he would have to find work off of the farm, so he did.

And he definitely wanted to stay in Hartington.

“I just love it here,” he said. “What better place is there to raise your kids than Hartington, Nebraska.”

His family and the Hartington community taught him the basics of life — hard work, faith, and family.

He learned hard work growing up on the farm and helping to take care of his dad’s hogs, and cattle.

That work ethic helped him succeed and the business quickly expanded.

In 1973, Jim Hochstein joined the business and P&E began doing more backhoe work. They did even more dirt work when Dick Donner shut down his dirt-moving business and sold the equipment to Wortmann.

Kenny Hochstein retired from the business in 1991.

Plumbing and Electric started downtown, but quickly outgrew that location. They then moved to a building on the southern edge of Hartington, but outgrew that one, too.

They ended up adding onto that building three times before they decided to start fresh with a new building just across the street.

They moved into their new location early in the 2000s.

“I just didn’t like the running around we had to do at the old shop. This is so much better, having everything right here,” he said.

The new shop has room for all 15 employees and their equipment.

Five of those 15 employees are family members

Roger and Sherry’s sons, Dean and Craig work for the company, as does their daughter, Julie Becker.

Sam and Jessie Hochstein, sons of Jim Hochstein, also work for the company.

Even though most folks his age are talking about retirement, it’s a subject Wortmann would rather stay away from.

“I love to work and I like working with people,” he said. “I would miss that the most if I retire.”

Wortmann said his two-year stint in the service has played a big role in his life.

“I have to truthfully say, my time in the service was a big factor in any success I might have had,” he said. “Over there, decisions had to be made and you made them and had to live with them. The same thing goes here. You have to make a decision and go with it.”