Worthington's Johnson brothers are back home - and back in business
WORTHINGTON -- Johnson Builders and Realtors is truly a family business.
Brothers Kyle and Jason Johnson are close in age. They also both played hockey in their youth, went to the same college at the same time for a while -- and returned to Worthington to be part of their family business.
The Johnsons each worked construction for the family business during high school and college, too. But they now work in different parts of the enterprise -- Kyle, the older of the two, is on the construction side, where as Jason is in real estate.
Kyle, the older of the two, is fond of his past and present in Worthington.
"I grew up in Worthington, played hockey and did the normal childhood things," Kyle said. "And I graduated (high school) in '03."
After high school, Kyle attended Minnesota West Community and Technical College in Worthington before transferring up to St. Cloud State University, where he earned a degree in business in 2007.
"After graduating, I decided to come back to Worthington and joined the family business," Kyle said.
But Kyle was no stranger to the family business. In high school and college, he worked as part of the construction crew during summers and seasonal breaks.
"I started when I was 16. I would come back and work during college, so I was no stranger to the crew," Kyle said. "Then I decided to come back (after graduating) and work full-time."
Kyle said while he was in college, he wasn't entirely sure he would be coming back to Worthington. He added, though, that there was a part of him that knew he would eventually return.
"It was something that always interested me," Kyle said. "Johnson Builders and Realty is something very important to me. It was a big part of growing up. My great grandpa started this in 1938, and it's important to me. It isn't my life, but it's a big part of my life."
While in college, Kyle met the woman who would become his wife -- Andrea. He also lived with brother Jason for a while during his time in St. Cloud.
"I met my wife at St. Cloud State and she was a year behind me, so I wanted to stay up there for a year while she finished," Kyle explained. "But I let her know I wanted to come back to Worthington afterward."
Kyle said he explored other avenues of jobs after college.
"I knew right away working in a different field that here was were I wanted to be, not up there," Kyle said.
Kyle stated that the decision to work on the construction side of the business after returning was made when he and Jason lived together in St. Cloud.
"I remember asking Jason what side of the business he would like to be on. And he said the real estate side and I said, 'OK,"' Kyle said. "I think I would have been equally happy on either side. I think the sides we have chosen were the best fits. Not that he couldn't do the construction side and I couldn't do the real estate side, but I really do enjoy construction."
Kyle, who said his choice wasn't overly formal, enjoys building things, and is involved with the projects start to finish as construction manager.
"Basically, what I do is that I'm involved with every step of the project. From meeting with the people, I can work with draftsmen and architects and work with the planning phase. I work with getting people and the numbers together, and then I will oversee the project and will work on the projects, too. So I'm really involved, every step of the way."
Kyle added that he enjoys getting to work closely with his uncle, Mike.
"My uncle and I were very close when I was growing up," Kyle said. "He's always been a role model to me and a mentor to me. I've gotten to know him so much more in the last four years now."
Kyle also has a good working relationship with others, like Bob Paplow.
"I knew him growing up. We hired him the year I was born," Kyle said.
Kyle said working with his dad and Jason is also fun. So is his involvement with the local hockey association, which began when he was growing up and continues today.
"Now I'm actually a board member and an ice coordinator," Kyle said.
Kyle also said he has gotten more involved with the Methodist church since returning to Worthington. He and Jason are also both involved with an old-timers' hockey team, the Worthington Wombats.
"A lot of us went away to college and now have come back, and we get together a bit," Kyle said. "We try to get together in the summer ... it's fun to spend time with those guys."
Kyle and Andrea have a daughter, Jaelynn, who is 1 1/2 .
For Jason Johnson, Worthington has always been home.
Born and raised in Worthington, Jason also spent his youth playing sports and competed on the WHS hockey and tennis teams.
Like Kyle, during the summer after his sophomore year in high school, Jason began working for his family's business.
"I worked 40 hours a week on the construction crew," Jason said. "It was a little different -- my friends had jobs where they worked 20 to 25 hours a week."
He worked for five summers, as well as during spring breaks and Christmas breaks, when he was in school.
"So I got experience there," Jason said.
Jason also went to St. Cloud State University for his first two years of higher education, but transferred and finished in Augustana College (in Sioux Falls, S.D.). He earned a degree in business administration with an emphasis in entrepreneurship.
Jason said he had a notion of getting his degree and coming back to work for the family business.
"Basically, I went to college because that seemed like the thing to do, like many people," Jason detailed. "I knew I was going to get some business degree, so for the first two years I took economics classes, and I took an accounting class and enjoyed it."
Jason noted that the further he got into his schooling, he knew he would be coming back to Worthington.
"I had a great opportunity here," he said. "I thought to myself I needed to at least try it."
Jason, who got his real estate license in 2008, likes the work he does these days.
"I have really enjoyed learning the business. I get the opportunity to work very closely with my dad," Jason said.
He loves to work with people to buy and sell houses, and tries "to make it as easy as I can." He also continues to learn about the business from his father.
"It seems often I learn something new or ... have reinforced something I learned, but forgot," Jason said with a laugh.
He said he feels he learns beneficial things from his dad but believes it also works the other way around, too.
"I grew up with computers. I love the technological part of it that just continues. We're able to work with each other and benefit each other very much."
Jason said he'd like to think he teaches things to his dad, but admits he has learned a lot more from him.
Technology has changed the way business is done, Jason pointed out, but the changes are not as drastic in Worthington than in some other locales.
"I don't go out there with an iPad to get electronic signatures," Jason said with a laugh. "But we see where that will start coming into play."
Jason said along with working with his family, like Kyle, he enjoys meeting members of the community.
"There was a lot of people I knew they existed, but I didn't know what they did," Jason said. "I've been fortunate enough to join the Noon Kiwanis (club)."
Jason has liked getting to know many older community residents who are still working.
"I've really gotten to know and become friends with people who are five years, 10 years older than me ... so now to be sort of an equal has been interesting and enjoyable to me," he said.
He also truly likes being back in Worthington.
"There are a lot positive things going on, and I really enjoy getting to know people I really didn't know," Jason said.
He thinks there are aspects of the community that are overlooked.
"There are people my age that couldn't wait to get out of Worthington, and I would come home (from college); I was here more than 50 percent of the time on weekends," Jason said. "I always knew I would be coming back, and I'm glad to be here."
And Jason added that he's not the only who has returned home.
"Some have really surprised me and some haven't," Jason said. "The next five years will be interesting to see who comes back."
Jason said Worthington offers plenty to do, too.
"Say, for instance, I were to visit St. Cloud for a weekend. I think it would be very likely that we would say, 'Hey, let's go bowling.'' Whereas we have this in our town," Jason explained.
Like Kyle, one of the things Jason does is continue to play hockey. The Worthington Wombats, are made up of 10 to 17 men who show up each week and play different towns.
Jason and wife Marie have a 20-month-old daughter and are expecting a second child.
Daily Globe Night Editor Joe Froemming can be reached at 376-7315.