It's the end of an era for Lien Electric

Downtown Worthington appliance store was in business for 70 years.

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Lon Lien outside in front of the Lien Electric store. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — With a “For Sale” sign in the window for the past few weeks, a 70-year-old downtown Worthington business has closed its doors for good.

Lon Lien said the decision was made primarily because of COVID-19 and the inability to get appliances as an exclusive dealer for General Electric, though he notes he’s also of retirement age.

“It’s always been on the horizon that I was going to retire at some point, but COVID really tipped the scale,” he said. “I haven’t been able to buy much of anything since May or June. My inventory is pretty well gone.

“I jokingly say that freezers went the way of toilet paper. Word got out that when JBS was shut down for a while that meat was going to be in short supply and expensive,” he shared. “People were buying meat to stock up, and I sold out of freezers immediately. I still can’t buy a freezer as far as G.E. is concerned.”

Lien said that G.E. was shut down for a period as a result of the global pandemic, and its inventory was depleted. Now, he’s been told the company is in a labor dispute and he’s still unable to purchase appliances for his storefront.


With his inventory essentially gone, Lien continued doing service calls during the pandemic. He plans to wrap up that part of his business once the building is sold.

“I’ll just liquidate what I have left and cease to exist,” he said of his parts inventory and tools.

Lien Electric has been a fixture on 10th Street since December 1950, when the-then Thorsness Hardware store was sold to Lon’s father, Orville Lien.

Orville, a World War II Navy veteran who was medically discharged from the U.S. military and then found work at Lockheed in California, was told of the entrepreneurial opportunity by his uncle, P.O. Lien, who owned the Lien-Richardson variety store in Worthington at the time.

“He got a letter from P.O. that there was a hardware store available for sale in Worthington and he might be interested,” shared Lon. “Dad got in his jalopy and drove to Worthington. He borrowed some money from his father and bought the hardware store.”

At some point, Orville pivoted from hardware and appliances to primarily an appliance store. Lon Lien grew up in the business.

“I spent a lot of time in the store here,” he said, adding that one of his early jobs was repairing small kitchen appliances like toasters, which his dad also sold years ago.

When Lien was in high school, he worked for the city’s parks department, and then found a job digging wells for Johnson Well Company in Bigelow as he waited for his draft number to be called during the Vietnam War.


Injured on a well-digging job, his draft number was called while he was still in the hospital.

“I was medically deferred and had to think about a career change,” Lien said, adding that he enrolled in a vo-tech and pursued coursework to become an electrician.

By then, Lien Electric was already providing electrical work as Orville partnered with cousin Leonard, an electrician, to expand the business.

“That’s when Lien Electric really branched out from not only appliances to electrical work,” Lien said. “That was my major contribution to Lien Electric during most of my working years — being the electrician.”

The father and son worked side by side for decades, with Orville still showing up to work each day at the age of 94. He died two years ago at age 98.

This year, Lon Lien marked his 50th year in the family business. Now that it’s closed, he said he’ll miss the relationships he’s built with customers.

“I’m so very appreciative of all of the customers Lien Electric has had over the years. I’ve just enjoyed that aspect of it,” he said.

Lien has not only been a businessman, but a leader in the community. He is a past president of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce, served many years on the King Turkey Day board of directors and committees, was chairman of the 10th Street Improvement Project, volunteered as a Cub Scout leader, is an elder in his church and continues to serve on the Worthington-Crailsheim International Committee with his wife, Ginny.


The Liens aren’t planning to leave the community, and he plans to continue to be involved in local events. He also hopes they can do some travelling.

“My wife and I, we’re a blended family. We have eight children between us and they live all over the country,” Lien said. “We would like to travel to see them and our grandchildren.”

Lon Lien outside in front of the Lien Electric store. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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