Ed Tschiggfrie vividly remembers the construction project that changed Dubuque when it began 30 years ago.
His company, Tschiggfrie Excavating, was instrumental in the construction of Iowa 32, which brought the west end of the city roaring to life and made crosstown transit fast and easy.
"We turned the very first scoop on that project," Tschiggfrie said. "I remember saying 'this freeway is going to make Dubuque grow up' and that was the exact thing that changed this town."
Tschiggfrie has watched Dubuque grow up for a long time. Tschiggfrie Excavating has come a long way from humble beginnings in the fall of 1963.
"I guess you just don't stop and think," Tschiggfrie said. "All of a sudden it's here and it seems like it was just yesterday. When you're having fun, time flies."
Today, Tschiggfrie tackles a variety of projects from the construction of subdivisions and trailer parks to governmental contracts and emergency repairs. But in late 1962 the company in its entirety consisted of a bulldozer and a married couple searching for paying work.
"We bought a bulldozer for about $2,400," Tschiggfrie said. "I didn't even know how to start it, but we got it started and headed down the gravel road, and it seemed like every farmer we passed was stopping us and saying 'can you do this or do that for me?'"
Ed Tschiggfrie and his wife, Joan, bought additional equipment and hired their first employee later that year, and by the fall of 1963 they were officially in business.
The company started performing work for private residents -- digging basements and breaking ground on new homes -- but they were on hand to help other city and private workers with a much bigger job in 1965 when the rising river threatened to overflow and cause massive damage in downtown Dubuque.
"In 1965 I worked on the temporary dike on Hawthorne and where Kerper is now," Tschiggfrie said. "I remember all night long I was on top of that dike ... all night long we fought the water and we thought we were going to lose the flood wall, but we held it."
Since then, Tschiggfrie Excavating has shifted to governmental jobs, which make up the majority of its projects. The Tschiggfries pride themselves on being ready and willing to roll their equipment out to lend a hand in the case of local emergencies; they've always been available to assist with flooding, water main bursts and train derailments during the past 50 years.
"When the phone rings late at night, you never know what it's going to be," company treasurer Vicki Tschiggfrie-Erickson said.
The Tschiggfries pride themselves on diversity when it comes to the projects they undertake.
During the past 20 years, the company has assisted in developing a number of subdivisions and even taken on solo projects such as Alpine Park Community.
Ed said he believes the park was an important project that meets a clear community need.
"A lot of our subdivisions we built were more on the high end," Ed Tschiggfrie said, "but we wanted to build something that was more for the Dubuque people, especially the empty nesters who wanted to downsize at a good, secure park."
The park is affordable but unique. It boasts one of the first certified storm shelters in Iowa, among other features.
Regardless of the undertaking, family is a clear component of any project the Tschiggfries work on. And in the 50 years they've been in business, their family has extended significantly.
Loyal employees tend to stick around at Tschiggfrie Excavating, and Ed and his son, Rod, aren't surprised to see longtime workers' children steadily joining their parents at work or taking over positions they once held.
"We know everybody's family and spouses. It's all a first-name basis here and it's an open-door policy; we all work together as a team," Rod Tschiggfrie said. "All along it's always been the employees of the company. Anyone can go out and buy a brand new dump truck or a brand new back hoe; it's the people that make a business. That's what's made the company so successful for so many years."