Three generations of Tjaden Electric
BADGER — When Jim Tjaden started Tjaden Electric in 1978, he didn’t have any employees, or even a company vehicle. Sometimes his brother would help, but for the most part he was by himself.
Tjaden had worked for a couple area electricians for several years.
“It got to the point where I was making the most money I could make without being part of a business,” he said. “So I said I’ll try it myself and see if I can make it work.”
Tjaden Electric started small, but he sure made it work.
“I worked over at the Frigidaire plant over in Webster City, I spent most of my time over there,” he said.
Tjaden did contract work for the manufacturer, later known as Electrolux.
Eventually the business grew and Tjaden hired employees to help with the workload at the manufacturing plant. The guys would take their own trucks filled with their own equipment to their job sites. In 1994, Tjaden Electric finally added its first company vehicle — a retired ambulance van from the Badger Fire Department.
Today, the business is in its third generation. Tjaden had sold the business to Shane Harrison in 2000.
Harrison, who grew up in Badger, has known Tjaden for most of his life, and worked for him for more than 20 years before buying the business.
“When I first started, Electrolux was in the process of closing,” Harrison said. “We did some work off and on and then they closed down, so it was like starting over.”
So Tjaden Electric had to go from being an industrial contractor and pivot to new avenues of work.
“We had to change our suit a little bit and go toward residential and commercial, as well as industrial,” Harrison said.
Today, the business also does agricultural electric work.
“It was kind of a nice change,” Harrison said. “We were in there for so long it was almost like we were employees of Electrolux.”
After running Tjaden Electric for 22 years, Harrison handed over the business to his son and daughter-in-law earlier this year.
New owners Cody and Cassie Harrison are planning to keep much of the business as is, but they’re also looking at possibly expanding in the future.
“We want to improve in the areas that we can and we’re trying to figure out where we want to expand to if we want to find ourselves in different areas,” Cody Harrison said. “We’ve talked about maybe getting another office established in the Ames area. I can’t help but want to go forward and try to expand and try to do better all the time.”
Though the Harrisons aren’t Tjaden’s family, Tjaden is still proud of how they’ve held up his name all these years.
“I’m happy that it’s keeping it going,” Tjaden said.
A lot of the other contractors the company works with don’t even realize that the Harrisons aren’t Tjadens.
“We had a contractor we’ve worked with for over 20 years and he always assumed I was Jim’s son,” Shane Harrison said. “He thought I was Shane Tjaden.”
He said he doesn’t even bother correcting people.
Though Tjaden Electric started 44 years ago with just one employee — the owner — today there’s 22 employees. The business currently has five employees of 20 or more years, and 10 employees with 10 or more years at the business.
“We’ve got some of the best employees,” Cody Harrison said. “They do great work and it makes my job a lot easier.”
Cassie Harrison will be running the business’s front office.
“I just want our customers to know that even though ownership has switched, it’s still the same business,” she said. “You’re still going to get great quality work.”
Cody and Cassie Harrison hope that one day, they might see Tjaden Electric be handed down to a fourth generation.
“We’ve got two little girls and I hope to (pass it on) if they’re interested in it,” Cody Harrison said. “It’s always been a family business and I want to keep it a family business.”