Grass Valley’s Hansen Bros. Enterprises: A history of hard work
Walk into Orson Hansen’s office and you’ll see piles of work orders and documents stacked on his desk.
On the walls are plaques of achievement for his company’s years of community service, and placed on a cabinet behind him are miniature models of trucks and tractors that resemble the same equipment his family’s construction company, Hansen Bros. Enterprises, have used for more than 60 years.
“This is no 9-to-5 job,” Hansen said. “It takes a lot of hard work by a lot of good people, and you’ve got to want to be doing it, too. A lot of people don’t want to get their hands dirty; they don’t want to be outside when it’s hot in the summer and they don’t want to be outside in the fall or spring when it’s wet or cold. It takes a person that wants to be able to see what they’ve accomplished at the end of the day.”
Hansen Bros. Enterprises was established in 1953 by brothers Arlie, Iver and Karsten Hansen. Arlie Hansen worked in the construction industry, Iver Hansen was an engineer and Karsten Hansen worked for the state as a painter.
To start their business, the three brothers pooled their resources to buy a loader, dump truck, trailer, small bulldozer and a pickup. Arlie Hansen worked full time for the company, while Iver and Karsten Hansen continued with their own jobs, but also spending their free time working for the business.
In February 1954, a tragic job site accident took the life of Iver Hansen, and after the accident, Karsten Hansen quit his job and moved to Grass Valley to focus on the new business. Five months later, the Hansen brothers purchased the Bear River Gravel Plant which consisted of a gravel screening plant, four trucks, the mining claim and land.
“It was a slow gradual process,” Orson Hansen said. “It was three or four years before they hired someone to work for them. It was different back then, you did not have a computer, you used the phone, you wrote a letter, that’s how you did it. There was a lot fewer people in the area at that time. Two of the big mines were still going, and a lot of sawmills were in the area.”
Over the ensuing years, the Hansen Bros. purchased many other projects from the rock crushing operation at the Allison Ranch Mine, to a gold recovery plant located at the site of the Empire Mine, a project that would span 10 years.
In 1961, a fire burned the company’s original shop building located at the house of Arlie Hansen and his wife Sibley, so equipment and truck maintenance operations were moved to property on La Barr Meadows Road, where the company’s main office is to this day. The Hansen Bros. would also incorporate their company holdings, keeping it in the family.
“This may sound strange or corny, but there’s a pride of ownership,” Orson Hansen said. “It’s something that I watched Dad and Mom work really hard at, my uncle Karsten worked tremendously hard at, I know that some of the hours that I’ve put in are pretty brutal. It’s that kind of business, it’s a very normal thing for us to be out here at 5 o’clock in the morning on a weekend, and you’re still going to see a lot of activity out here.”
Over the years, Hansen Bros. would make a name for itself as a responsible, hard-working and trustworthy corporation that didn’t cut corners.
Orson Hansen’s sister, Sue Peterson, still works for the company as a consultant and says she remembers working for her parents as a bookkeeper at the age of 15.
“My parents worked a lot, an awful lot, and Dad frequently worked on a Saturday,” Peterson said. “And sometimes Mom would pack up a picnic lunch, usually something really good like fried chicken, and take us all out to where Dad was working. So he probably would have been on a dozer doing earth work, and we would stop and have a picnic lunch together and that was a way that we could still spend good time together even though he was working a lot.”
Peterson says she remembers one specific spot on the side of Highway 49 going southbound toward Auburn near Alta Sierra Drive, where her family had a mid-day rendezvous with her father.
“It’s a visual that I have in my mind. I always remember it every time we go down the hill,” Peterson said.
In the mid 1980s, Arlie Hansen decided to step back from the company after battling heart and health problems. He would die in 2001. His son Orson Hansen would take over the business along with his sister Sue Peterson, and a myriad of other family members who still work for the company to this day.
Orson Hansen’s cousin Frank Bennallack has worked for Hansen Bros. for more than 30 years and says working with his family makes the work atmosphere that much better.
“We have a great working relationship,” Bennallack said. “It’s a great company and our family started it; and we just take special pride in working together and for the good of the community.”
Orson Hansen’s son, Jeff Hansen, is a fifth-generation Nevada County resident, and says having a family-owned business gives them a little more control and tradition that allows the company to give back to the community that they love.
“We all depend on each other every day, and it’s the right thing to do,” Jeff Hansen said. “Everything from supporting a lot of youth activities, from the arts and sports and schools, the Lions Club, Elks Club, it goes on and on and on.”
Orson Hansen added, “It is community. We’ve been here, we want to be here, and we want to stay here. So we give back to the community as much as we can.”
As the years have passed, Hansen Bros. has grown from a small two-man business to, currently, a workforce of more than 100 local employees. Jeff Hansen says the company has maintained and developed relationships with customers for so long “that we’ve worked for the fathers, and now we work for their sons.
“It’s a rewarding feeling to drive by a project whether it’s a new section of highway or section of sidewalk that we’ve poured or paved or supplied the materials on,” Jeff Hansen said. “Just to know that we’ve helped in so many different projects over the years is something to be proud of.”
That longevity, Orson Hansen says, comes from hard work, stubbornness and a collection of good people that take pride in what they do.
“I feel good about all the stuff that we’ve accomplished,” Orson Hansen said. “A lot of people don’t realize when you see the truck going down the road, or you see the equipment out there, there’s a tremendous number of people behind the scenes that if they weren’t there, it would just come to a shuttering halt immediately. You’ve got people in the shop working, you’ve got people in the back working, and you don’t see them but without them none of this is going to happen.”
Orson Hansen added, “It can be very challenging, but it just takes a lot of hard work and dedication.”
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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