Habig; Ruckriegel Formally Inducted Into New Business Hall Of Fame

Arnold Habig (on left) with A. C. "Shimmy" Sermersheim, Ray Schneider and Herb Thyen, the founding member of the original Jasper Corporation which later became Kimball International.
Arnold Habig (on left) with A. C. “Shimmy” Sermersheim, Ray Schneider and Herb Thyen, the founding member of the original Jasper Corporation which later became Kimball International.
HUNTINGBURG (NNDC/Local Sources) – Junior Achievement of Southwestern Indiana, in partnership with presenting sponsors Bingham Greenebaum Doll, LLP and Ewing Properties, recognized two outstanding community leaders this Thursday, May 7 during the inaugural Dubois County Business Hall of Fame.

The two inductees are Robert L. Ruckriegel and the late Arnold F. Habig.

Dubois County’s Business Hall of Fame laureates and their families were honored at the 7:30 am breakfast held at the Huntingburg Event and Community Center Thursday morning, and was attended by approximately 350 Dubois County business and community leaders.

The induction ceremony included video vignettes about each laureate’s life, outlining their entrepreneurial and business accomplishments.

Growing up in Jasper as the third- oldest of 10 children, Habig held a variety of odd jobs in his youth, delivering newspapers and baked goods, cleaning offices, running a movie-theater projector and working in a Coca-Cola bottling plant. In 1926 he graduated from Spencerian Business College in Louisville, Ky., and worked briefly as an accountant there.

Returning home, he went to work at Jasper Machine Works. Then in 1928 he joined the Jasper Wood Products Company as an accountant and rose to become plant manager and a director. He stayed until 1950, when he was elected a director and president of the Midwest Manufacturing Company.

He also took over as plant manager of that company, which had some two dozen employees and a 25,000-square-foot production plant. The company, which changed its name to the Jasper Corporation, quickly grew under his guidance into a leading maker of wood cabinets for America’s top manufacturers of television sets and phonographs.

Sales more than quadrupled to $748,000 in 1950, and it had profit of $39,000. By comparison, Kimball International — the name adopted in 1974 — posted $1.03 billion in sales and reported net earnings of $55 million for 1998, with Mr. Habig’s sons holding top positions in the company.

In 1950, the Jasper Corporation bought the W. W. Kimball Company of Chicago, a venerable but ailing maker of pianos and organs founded in 1857. As a division of Jasper and then Kimball International it regained its position as a leading manufacturer of keyboard instruments, and in 1966 acquired Bosendorfer of Vienna, often called the Rolls-Royce of concert grands.

At plants in eight states and four more abroad, Kimball’s more than 9,000 employees manufactured a wide variety of consumer durables under its family of brand names, including furniture and audio speaker systems, as well as veneer, plywood and wood components.

Mr. Habig introduced a profit-sharing system to provide nest eggs for company employees and scholarship programs for their children. He was active in community affairs and supported various charities, particularly in the arts and education.

He led the company as president and then chairman from 1950 until 1990, when he formally retired from Kimball’s board. But he remained active in the company, most recently in a consulting role with the title of assistant to the chief executive up until his death in 1999.

Robert "Bob" Ruckriegel
Robert “Bob” Ruckriegel
Ruckriegel is co-founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of SERVUS, Inc. (formerly BR Associates, Inc.)

Ruckriegel was Buehler IGA Store, Jasper when he and Dave Buehler founded BR Associates back in 1964. Today, SERVUS! owns and operates restaurants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois. employing more than 3.500 workers.

It operates Long John Silvers, a quick-service seafood chain specializing in batter-dipped fish, chicken, shrimp, and hushpuppies; Dennys, a full-service family restaurant chain in the United States; and full-service coffee shop units and other well-known restaurants such as Wendy’s and Grandy’s and the company also provides chicken, country steaks, catfish, vegetables, and fresh baked dinner rolls; catering services to events; and franchise services.

In addition, SERVUS! owns and operates the Jasper 8 Theaters that feature a digital theatre, movie showings in 3D and 2D, an entertaining video game center, and a concession counter; and a portfolio of commercial real estate.

The company changed its name to SERVUS! in August 2014.