COVID Retirements

COVID Retirements

Retirement Congratulations!

We caught up with a few long-time employees that are starting their next chapter of retirement during this time of work from home and social distancing!  We’re happy to share a few memories they have as well as some well wishes from their supervisors.  Please join us in congratulating this dedicated group of employees by posting in the comments below.  From all of us at Colony Brands, thank you for your contributions and best wishes for a wonderful, happy and healthy retirement!


My favorite memory from working with Laura was prior to my time being her manager.  A few years ago, a team was assembled to modernize the shipping system.  That team ended up spending a lot of time stuck in a small room, which led to a lot of productive work and a lot of shenanigans.  I’d share a story but that’s on a need to know basis. 😊  We’ll miss you, Laura! – Scott Martin

Where do I begin? I can’t imagine any other place I would have wanted to spend my last 25 years of my 40-year career. I have been privileged to work with so many intelligent and dedicated co-workers in those years whom each and every one of I can call friend and family.  I have always respected Colony Brands’ dedication to the community. They are a cornerstone to the city of Monroe which I came to love, raised my children in, and will always call ‘home’.  My IT career has had the challenges (I love an intellectual challenge) of ever-changing transition which provided me with a sense of teamwork and accomplishment. I have felt appreciated and rewarded for my efforts.  I’m not sure I’m ‘ready’ to retire, but I do know I’m ready to spend more time with children and my grandsons and my aging parents who recently moved to the area. I’m looking forward to spending more time with my husband on the ‘year-round’ golf courses, exploring North Carolina, and all of the other places on our bucket list.

Some of my best memories are the Colony Contact Christmas parties, the days we all needed a cold one at Baummies or Bartels, my heart-to-hearts with Eleanor Smith, and working in the dungeon room with the first ever SC Data Center scrum team.  I still can’t figure out why Sam Butts was so surprised the first time an explicative came from my mouth? The best laugh is when Data Control called me one night and my son (10 or 11 at the time) answered, thought they were a telemarketer and when they asked for me told them, “It’s just not a good time.” Data Control and I had a good laugh at that in the morning and my apologies to the person who got stuck with the problem that night.

As hard as it is to say goodbye, it is easy to know that the leadership and the group of ‘young kids’ that I’m leaving behind me will keep up the good work so that when I can come home to visit I can rest assured that Colony Brands will be there for me to come in to say hello. See you all soon. – Laura Bade

Vanita Baumgartner

Vanita has always been enthusiastic and energetic for everything that has ever come her way.  From her days in Quality Assurance to her role in leading our manufacturing teams in both the Bakery and Cheese Operations, her dedication and hard work have greatly benefited our company. As a member of our food business, her contributions to our Corporate Food Safety Program have been invaluable to both our organization and its customers.   Through the years, she has passed on to her team the knowledge that devotion to customers and understanding their needs is what makes our company successful.  Though she is retiring, retirement will surely offer her many new opportunities, which I know she will embrace wholeheartedly, just as she did at Colony Brands.  She will be greatly missed. – Mike Williams

“Retirement”…   Is that a happy word?  In my case, I will exclaim and proclaim, “YES”, I’m ecstatic to launch headfirst into this new stage!   My time here at Colony Brands has filled my memory bank with generous portions of happy reflections.  New job challenges, new titles, new departments are all part of the history that I have compiled.  I would say I have two things that significantly stand out in my last 24 years.  One, for sure, was my international business trip to China, where Joe Tomasiewicz chaperoned me during this new travel adventure.   Experiencing that culture first hand was eye-opening and astonishing, to say the least.  I will never forget one of our employees in China telling me she had never seen a rainbow and figured they occurred only in storybooks.   The city she lived in was Shanghai with a population of 24 million and there was always a hazy/smoggy sky that did not show the sun, the stars, or a rainbow clearly.  Good grief, down in Ole Brodhead area, we quite clearly witness rainbows, starry night skies, and the sun, but in contrast, our population is 3,000.   The other fond memory was my training on Customer Centricity.   John Baumann approved a group of us to go to the Disney Institute for customized training.  We were called the OTG team (On-The-Ground).   That was the BEST training I have ever experienced on the job.  Our company has had a journey building a customer-centric culture which I’m sure will continue to evolve.  Best of luck, Colony Brands.   I see a bright future for all connected to this company.  For me and my future, I’ll spend much more time on the farm, in the barn, tending horses, in the saddle, and traveling out west. – Vanita Baumgartner


I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ruth on her upcoming retirement.  Ruth truly loves Colony Brands and is an extremely dedicated employee who is always willing to go above and beyond.  The team will miss Ruth’s knowledge and positive attitude that she brought to work every day.   I want to wish Ruth the very best and hope she can travel the world. – Kim Schiferl

It’s so hard to put this into words — Colony Brands has been my life. I have been employed here for more years than anything else I have ever done. Wow the changes! Over my 47+ years working here we have gone from key punch cards to magnetic tapes to personal computers to everything being in the cloud to working from home and virtual meetings. Although I’m very excited for retirement, I also feel a bit bittersweet to end this part of my life. Working here for me has always been about the people and Colony employees are the best!  I am grateful for all the opportunities that Colony Brands has given me, and I am thankful for the Kubly family and their generosity. “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” A.A. Milne – Ruth Bergemann


Working with Don Berger over the years has been a real joy.  For many years, as leader of our outside client division and as the point person for our corporate acquisitions, I was able to work closely with Don as a peer in many settings and in many situations.  In recent years I worked with Don more closely as CFO, and will be very sad to see him retire, but happy for him and his wife Mary.

Don has always been the consummate professional in every way and has helped me tremendously to learn how to be a good CFO.  Many times, I’m sure, Don’s patience was tested with my learning process when I moved into the accounting and finance area, but he never showed the slightest hint of frustration.  His teaching and training of me over time has helped me to better understand how the financial side of the company works and has given me a deeper appreciation for Don’s skills and ability.  I wish we had been given more time to work together, but I know that Don has a great family that he treasures and looks forward to spending even more time within his retirement.

Colony Brands will be losing a great guy when Don Berger walks out our door for the last time.  He’s a good man, a good dad, a good husband, and the kind of community-minded person that every town needs.  I wish him the very best in his retirement and will miss him. – Bob Erb

I answered a blind ad in the Wisconsin State Journal and started working at The Swiss Colony, Inc. (now Colony Brands, Inc.)  I thought I would be here for three to five years.  Thirty-plus years later I wonder where the time went.  There has been a lot of change in a company that is more than ten times larger now than when I started.  There were two catalog companies – The Swiss Colony, Inc. and Seventh Avenue, Inc. as well as affiliate companies such as Swiss Colony Stores and SC Data Center. Others followed with Food Collection, Tender Filet, Midnight Velvet, Ginny’s, Country Door, Monroe & Main, etc. We also had acquisitions – I was part of the teams performing pre-acquisition examinations of Ashro, Montgomery Ward, and CB1.

The accounting department was in the main building and consisted of rows and rows of gray metal desks in two large open rooms.  We had one PC for the whole department, and you signed up for half-hour slots to use it. Work attire was a suit.  Gradually it moved to business casual with designated “jeans Fridays”.  Now it’s jeans every day. About twenty years ago space became available in SC West and we were happy to move to a new area with cubicles and carpet.  No one missed the old location.

I arrived in August and in December I was assigned an inventory observation at our Northside Cheese operations.  After finding some procedural counting issues, the cheese operations had to do a recount which took an additional two days to complete.  I don’t think I was welcome at Northside for some time after that.

I also remember walking to work the day after a snowstorm in early December because the roads weren’t cleared.  Arriving at 9 AM, I answered phones until 10 PM.  We answered phones at our desks and wrote up each order on a separate order form.  Every hour someone came by to pick them up for keying into the computer. The “good old days”.

Through the years there were numerous events that required accounting attention such as the ammonia spill, listeria issues, the Madison Central Storage fire, the Comanche warehouse fire, and the floods affecting our Savanna operations.

In 2007 I became the Controller.  The number of staff I was responsible for increased dramatically. I was fortunate to have an excellent group of managers and staff to ensure the accounting department continued to function as expected.  So often when there were problems to solve, they came up with solutions.   I’ve always appreciated their proactive approach – looking for better ways to do things before they become problems.

Most memorable are the people I’ve worked with both past and present. I am about to join in retirement, many of those I started work with.  I’ve benefited from their knowledge and advice throughout the years and appreciate the time and effort they gave to help me understand the company and people I worked with every day. Through the years I worked for Dennis Dreikosen, Jim Ramsey, Don Hughes, Bob Erb, and now Tom Newell. Each provided me with a different management perspective to learn from.

Badger Days are always special.  It is a time to meet friends and associates from the past as well as the present. It’s a chance to see and talk with individuals outside of the normal work environment.  It is also a time when most of the accounting department is working but not at SC West. In the first few years, I was expected to play golf with various bankers and auditors.  Needless to say, golf is not my game, and breaking 125 on an 18-hole course was a good day for me.  This problem was solved when I became involved with the Badger Days Raffle.  I now spend my time distributing and selling raffle tickets and collecting and accounting for sales receipts.  This would have been my last year helping with the Badger Days Raffle.  Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen, but I still have the memories.

I enjoy my job and the people I work with. Colony Brands, Inc. is a great company to work for.

Will I miss it all – yes.  Will I enjoy retirement – definitely! – Don Berger


Kevin has been a valuable employee for Colony Brands for 20 years producing the guides that go into our packs and other printing needs such as the Badger Days Raffle tickets and materials for community groups. He always had a positive attitude and did a great job meeting expectations and juggling many surprise needs along the way.  Kevin will keep busy with many hobbies and an extensive Honey-Do list. Good luck with your retirement, keep in touch and thank you for all your years of dedicated service.   – Jim Paul

Leaving the workforce is often bittersweet but the time I have spent with Colony Brands has been a real pleasure. I became employed at “Swiss Colony” after a phone call from Shirley Hartwig of the Print Shop. She had heard that I was one of the very few in the area that could operate a “Heidelberg  Kord” – the main printing press in the shop. Luckily both of our needs were met. A vacancy was filled, and I had the opportunity to work a regular day job which was important since our children were just entering the years of sports at high school. Now I leave and the Print Shop will close but the memories of the people and how well the company is operated will continue to be with me. Been GREAT! – Kevin Finkenbinder


Sue has been a very dedicated employee over her career here at Colony Brands and she will be missed.  She has used her knowledge of our systems over the years to manage the Monroe Fulfillment Buildings Finished Pack inventory to make sure we always have inventory on hand to meet our external customers’ demands.  She has also done a great job of managing the Receiving clerical staff to make sure we were always meeting all of the needs of our internal customers. – Rob Hodgson

I started in August of 1983 as a temporary employee in Resource Planning, working with Werner Weissenfluh, Nils Adolphson, Joe Nusbaumer, Lil Schindler, and Judy Waelti.  They were a special group of mentors and we had a lot of fun times.  I became a regular full time employee the very next year.  I worked on the first PC that the company owned, sharing it with John Grochola and Shirley Holland.  It had its own room and we each had our own assigned times to use it. I only intended to stay at The Swiss Colony for about three years, never thinking that I would stay until retirement.  I go clear back to the days when smoking was allowed in the offices.   After seven years I moved over to the Monroe Fulfillment Building and worked for and with too many great people to list.  I have taken care of the inventory in the Monroe Fulfilment in some capacity since then, ordering up to 44 semi loads of finished packs from independent outside storage facilities during the Christmas Season in a day.  In the offseason, they rolled out two tennis courts and put up basketball hoops and exercise equipment for all the company staff to use.  There was even a pole vault pit and high school students came in to practice.  It was not uncommon to hear balls bouncing in the summer months while we worked in the office.  Eventually, the steel racking for storage filled the areas and our seasonal health club was gone. Some of my favorite memories are the Casino Night held on the Receiving Dock, Warehouse Sales, Booster Bowling Parties, handling Vendor projects like Weight Watchers, Oshkosh’b Gosh, Fannie Mae, Spillsbury Puzzles and some I am sure I have missed.   There was the time when we handled the shipping of shoes, and at one point we had 200,000 pairs in our building.  The ever-changing environment of the Monroe Fulfillment Building and Colony Brands itself has kept me engaged for 36 years of my life.   – Sue Gratz


Rob has been an inspiration and a role model to his team as well as to his colleagues.  Though he is retiring, the culture and attitude that he has built will stay with us forever.  From his time working in Madison and Mauston to his years here in Monroe, Rob has been the consummate professional.   Whether it be managing our Food Production and Fulfillment Teams to directing our Non-Food Operations, he has exemplified excellence and has instilled the same traits within his team.  He will be greatly missed as a manager, as a teammate, and as a friend. – Mike Williams

First, I want to thank the Kubly family for the opportunity to work for such a family/community-oriented company.  After 39 years it seems crazy that I will not be getting up and coming into work every day.  Some of my many memories include: starting right out of college as a temporary employee and running a bundling machine in MFF for a season; being hired as an RFT employee and learning the receiving operations from Walt Bauman; working in the Madison facility and running the Thomas Garroway project; having the opportunity to run the Mauston facility and learning our standards program in great detail from Greg Walsh and Sonil; returning to Monroe to run Packing Operations and MFF receiving operations; and, being promoted to Director and put in charge of Packing Operations, MFF operations and NF Operations.

I will truly miss the group of employees I work with daily and the employees I worked with over my career.  It was a great 39+ Years. – Rob Hodgson


Congratulations on your retirement Deb!  All your hard work, friendships, mentoring and years of dedication to Colony Brands have been a very important part of our team and helped to make the company one of the best. It was a pleasure working with you and your loss will be greatly felt.  Best wishes in your retirement – enjoy your time gardening and those beautiful grandkids.  P.S. – I will always miss our “3:00 egg time”! – Erin Buhlmann

Working in Corporate Purchasing, I’ve had the privilege of working with all departments and many wonderful people, supporting their needs to fulfill their jobs.  It’s an honor to work for such a great company that has become so diversified since I began in 1973.  I have been privileged to work during “fall season” in other areas over the years lending a greater appreciation for our catalog customers by taking phone orders, by hand in the early years and by phone much later; as well as the fulfillment areas in Peosta when Ginny’s catalog fulfillment was moved, Sun Prairie and Monroe Fulfillment.  Several years and many fun times were had joining the Jolly Santa Crew and working Badger Days.  When I first came to work our breaks and lunchtimes started and ended with the ringing of the cowbell over the intercom, my only wish on my last day is to hear that cowbell one last time for the good times – not many will remember.  Thank you to all with whom I’ve worked with recently and fond memories of those who have passed over the years…all excellent people that I’ve been blessed to work with! – Deb Johnson



Being your manager over the past few years has been such a great experience. I appreciate all the hard work you’ve done and how much effort and care you’ve put into your job every day. I know that the last few months working at home isn’t exactly how you imagined your time going at Colony Brands, but I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed our daily touch base calls and it is truly one of the bright spots of my day. Your knowledge and expertise in the credit area will be missed, but I think your positive attitude is what all of us in IMS will miss the most.

Thanks for the great memories over the years and HAVE FUN in retirement. – Andrew Aurit

I am grateful for the generous PTO time Colony Brands gives that enabled me to take numerous extended trips every year.  I am also very grateful for the education reimbursement program that helped me turn my Associate Degree into a Bachelor’s Degree.

I will miss all the potlucks and treats in my area and in the breakroom.  I remember one April Fool’s Day that I sent out an email stating there were treats in the usual spot.  In that area, I had put a sign that said, “APRIL FOOL’S!”

I heard that the cube walls are going to be raised. That would make it harder to shoot rubber bands and throw stress balls at co-workers-ha ha! – Julie Miller


I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Dave Moon on his retirement.  Dave started at Colony Brands on October 15, 2000, as a Marketing Manager in our Green County Foods division.  Two years later in November of 2002, he transferred to the Internet Team where he pioneered our Internet Merchandising department.  He wore many hats back in those days and was a key contributor to the growth of our internet business.  Over the years he has worked on almost every brand but most recently has led the Web Merchandising efforts for our Swiss Colony brand.  I would like to thank Dave for his many years of service and dedication to our company.  He was always willing to pitch in and help on whatever was needed, and we could always count on Dave for his witty one-liners that brought many laughs.  We are going to greatly miss Dave but wish him well on his much-deserved retirement! – Holly Vondra

Colony Brands people are the best.  I will miss them when gone.  Best wishes to all who have made my employment at CB great. – Dave Moon


Pam is the epitome of an ideal Colony Brands team member.  She is customer-focused, positive, helpful, flexible, efficient, always looking for improvements, and has been a guardian of Colony Brands resources. She has set a high bar for all of us with her Customer Service Brand.  Pam is well respected within her internal and external networks. We will miss her smile, positive energy, and her “Cam” (pet dog) stories. She is moving on to a well-deserved retirement.  We wish her all the best!  She will be missed! –  Lori Severson

I started at Swiss Colony in Sept of 1989 in Special Buyers.  I came back in Sept of 1990 and worked until Christmas.  After Christmas I moved to Accounts Receivable adding Checks.

I started working in Purchasing in April 1991.  I’ve always been blessed with managers who are great and also great role models.   This really helped the years fly by quickly.  It’s hard to believe I’ve been here almost 31 years.  In retirement I’m looking forward to spending time with family and friends and hopefully do some traveling.   – Pam Rote

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