Trolleys roll on with new owners

Bob Raleigh’s widow sells company to Zimmerman, Chial

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Dick Zimmerman, left, Joni Zimmerman and Rick Chial are the new owners and operators of the Stillwater Trolley Co. Joni Zimmerman and Chial purchased the operation from widow of company founder Bob Raleigh this month. (Submitted photo)

The Stillwater Trolley Co. rolls on under new owners who took over late last week.

Joni Zimmerman and Rick Chial purchased the company Aug. 15 from the widow of late founder Bob Raleigh, according to Dick Zimmerman, Joni Zimmerman’s husband. Dick Zimmerman said he and Chial previously worked for Raleigh at the company.

Dick Zimmerman said Bob Raleigh’s widow, Karen, wanted to sell the business and gave Zimmerman and Chial first option to buy. Zimmerman added that it took his wife and Scheel about 30 days to put together an offer Karen Raleigh accepted.

“Rich has worked here eight years. Having been long-term employees, we thought it would be good to buy the trolley,” said Dick Zimmerman.

Bob Raleigh started the trolley company in 1989, operating the service for 24 years until he died in early June at his St. Joseph, Wis., home from complications arising from adrenal cancer.

The company offers 45-minute narrated tours of Stillwater, wedding party and special event transportation and field trips and educational tours. Zimmerman said the company offers five tours a day from 11:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Sundays through Fridays and seven tours from 11:45 am. to 5:15 p.m. Saturdays during its six-month season.

“Our season is the first of May through the end of October.” he said. “That’s probably the parameters we’ll run under.”

Zimmerman said the trolley company’s new owners do not plan major changes. The group wants to develop cooperative ventures with other local tourism-related businesses that are beneficial to both parties, he added.

He added that the company’s new owners plan to attend tourism-related trade shows “to generate more traffic” for their business.

Dick Zimmerman said the trolley company is seeing more business this year from tourists, adding that he believes downtown Stillwater is seeing a tourist boom this summer. However, he added the company will stick with its current tour schedule for the remainder of the season.

“I don’t have any (numbers). We just see it by bring around every day,” he said. However, the company plans to continue using four trolleys for tours, he added.
“We’ll stick with that right now,” he said. “The extra trolleys we need for weddings and groups.”

Those latter two are where Dick Zimmerman said Stillwater Trolley sees continued growth.

“We’re getting more and more weddings every year. We can do five to six weddings in a Saturday,” he said.

With a few months left in the company’s business season, the new owners want to continue what Bob Raleigh started and build the business for the future, according to Dick Zimmerman.

“We’d like to continue the business as Mr. Raleigh built it over the years. We’d like to build it (up),” he said.

Contact Erik Sandin at erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com

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