HURON – Jack Wold came to town in 1918, establishing Huron Welding in a cramped, rented space in the Fair City Garage building that a man named Hugh Barrett owned.
Before that, Wold had homesteaded in western South Dakota and worked for the Homestake Gold Mine.
But in the era of blacksmiths, his welding business was unique.
“When my grandfather came here, if not the first, he was one of the first bonafide trained welders,” Jim Wold said.
Jack Wold often worked side by side on welding jobs with his friend Barrett, in a shop that measured 12-by-28-feet. That small area remains part of the Huron Welding building today, at Second Street and Kansas Avenue Southeast in downtown Huron.
But over the years the business has expanded to a labyrinth of rooms and shop areas that encompass 24,640 square feet.
By 1922, Jack Wold had purchased Barrett’s Fair City Garage building. He owned and operated his shop throughout the 1920s, the Great Depression of the 1930s and the economic recovery of the 1940s.
It was a challenge for any business owner to survive the depression years.
“I ran across some ledgers that said, ‘Took in 25 cents today,’” Jim Wold said of his grandfather’s books.
“I think real good advice is that when hard times hit, if you stayed the course and you got out of debt and you’ve taken care of your fundamentals you’ll make it,” he said.
“And, as a nation, I wish we could get a hold of some of that,” he said. “We’ve just gone off course that way so hard.”
Harlan J. Wold bought the business from his dad in 1954. He continued the repair and fabrication business the elder Wold had run for decades. In 1985, Harlan Wold sold Huron Welding to his son, Jim.
And now the business is flourishing under yet another generation. Joel Wold is general manager.
The company is embracing much more technology, and Joel Wold is putting his engineering degrees from South Dakota State University and San Diego State University to good use at Huron Welding.
“He can design anything a customer would want in three-dimensional CADD (computer-aided design and drafting) software on the computer,” Jim Wold said.
“He can actually manipulate it on the computer before you ever bring it out into the shop,” he said.
“So not only do we utilize that technology, but we draw upon other businesses both locally and around the country for supplying parts that are cut and formed or machined to the specifications that he lays out,” Jim Wold said.
“As far as small town welding shops go, we’re probably ahead of what some of them are, but as far as large manufacturers that’s fairly typical,” he said.
Huron Welding does a lot of contract work for local, state and federal governments, Joel Wold said. Not only can the welders produce what customers want, they can install it. Typically, federal government agencies have had to hire another company to do the installation.
“When they find out that we can produce the product and then mobilize and go to Yankton or Pierre or Big Bend or Pickstown and install the product as well, they are really surprised we have the ability to do that,” he said.
“I guess I would personally say that our capabilities are about as diverse for a small welding shop as you could find anywhere,” Joel Wold said.
While they are often filling large orders, they can also craft something as a handrail on a house.
Huron Welding still does those jobs, but he draws it out in 3D CADD so when the product is fabricated it has been designed exactly for that application and there are no surprises.
“It’s not a one-size fits-all deal,” Joel Wold said.
Large customers have included railroads and the Sanford Underground Research Facility at the former Homestake mine. The company has done work in the Twin Cities, with one project involving specialized architectural steel work on a multi-million-dollar home.
When the Ground Round Grill and Bar opens in Southtown in a few months, the foot rail at the bar will be a Wold product.
In its first century, Huron Welding has come far.
It all began with the vision and tenacity of John (Jack) Wold, a man who had gone to school to learn the new craft of electric welding and who was willing to take a chance in Huron in 1918, the city itself only 38 years old.
Jim Wold was only a young boy when his grandfather was still alive and so he has few memories of him.
“You know, I do remember my grandfather, but what I remember of him was an old man in a white recliner chair somewhere,” he said, laughing.
“Jack, he was quite the entrepreneur from what I understand,” he said. “His was the largest steel sales place in I don’t know how many miles.
“At that time, Huron was the hub where everybody came, and he brought in steel by rail on multiple rail cars at a time,” Jim Wold said.
The business had a rail spur in Morningside, not far from what today is Timber Roots.
Huron Welding has always been a family business, and that means all hands on deck. Jim and his siblings – Beth Picek of Huron, Marian Martin of Minneapolis, John Wold of Gillette and Steve Wold of Lead – all worked there as they were growing up.
Before Jim Wold began pouring a concrete slab on the east side of the building years ago, he uncovered hundreds of horseshoes as dirt was being prepared for the project.
As horses were shod with new shoes, the ones that came off were apparently pitched out of the open-air blacksmith shop that anchored that location during Huron’s early days.
But as a Huron business owned by the Wold family, it has never been a blacksmith shop.
And it continues to grow. Its newest branch is “Alliance Enclosures.”
Huron Welding’s talented craftsmen are up to every challenge that comes in the door, whether it’s fixing an office chair, fabricating a custom bracket or heading out of the shop to perform a job in the field.
Hugh Barrett, left, and Jack Wold work on a welding job at Huron Welding, a business that Wold began in 1918 in a small area of the Fair City Garage building owned by Barrett. This is a scan of a photo that hangs in the office at Huron Welding.
Next, owner Jim Wold, right, and his son, general manager Joel Wold, are shown in front of Huron Welding, a downtown business that is celebrating its centennial this year.