DENVER, Colo. – After buying Groenewold Fur and Wool from his father in 1958, Grant Groenewold grew the company into a major player in both the wool and fur industries. For his efforts, he will be honored at the ASI Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Ariz., as one of two recipients of the Wool Excellence Award.
Grant and Charlie Chase – the other award recipient – will be honored during the Wool Recognition Lunch on Thursday, Jan. 28, at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. The Wool Excellence Award is sponsored by the Wool Roundtable, which includes representatives from various segments of the wool trade, such as wool research, buying, production, warehousing, processing and fabric manufacturing.
Grant was born July 4, 1931, in Freeport, Ill., to Gertrude and George Groenewold. His father was an immigrant from Germany. For a few years, Grant lived in German Valley, Ill. He also lived in and attended school in Forreston, Ill. Eventually, Grant worked for his father at Groenewold Fur and Wool Co. and later enlisted in the Army, where he served for 15 months in the Korean War from 1951 to 1953.
After his discharge from the military, Grant worked for M. C. Kraft, a hide and wool business in Springfield, Ill., for 18 months. He returned to Forreston once again in 1958 and purchased his father’s business. It was a small business consisting of one building and two trucks secured on credit.
At that time, Grant was both the fur buyer and the wool buyer. He would buy wool directly from the producers and secured several shearers to also buy wool. He would deliver a load of wool to Caron Spinning Mill in Rochelle, Ill., and then continue on to pick up another load for the following day.
Grant began to export wool in the late 1960’s to BWK in Germany, near his grandfather’s home in the town of Emden. He exported wool to Poland, England, Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, Egypt, India, China, Japan, Argentina and Holland.
Groenewold Fur and Wool Co. also began exporting fur in 1960. GFW is now the largest wild fur buyer in the United States. Groenewold Fur and Wool Co. services customers all across the world. The company employs 15 full-time and 21 seasonal employees, many of whom have worked there for 20-plus years. They have approximately 125 wool buyers across the Midwest and eastern United States. Grant has custom-fabricated trucks, trailers and machinery designed specifically for the fur and wool industries, and believes in operating a business with low overhead costs. His goal is to sort and package as close to 1,000 pounds of wool per man hour as possible.
Grant and his wife of 56 years, Beverly, still live in Forreston. They have four children and eight grandchildren. Groenewold Fur and Wool Co. is now owned and operated by Grant’s three sons, Greg, Guy and Gary.
ASI is an equal opportunity employer. It is the national trade organization supported by 45 state sheep associations, benefiting the interests of more than 79,500 sheep producers.