Ending over 70 years of quality business service in Stratton by the League family, League Builders will close their doors in Stratton on December 31. The League Builders Era began when Roy League returned home from the Korean War in 1951 and went to work for the Lionberger Lumber Company.
In 1976, Roy and his wife Ila purchased the business and officially began the League Builders Company.
Roy and Ila’s son Gary would return home to work for the company and then Denis returned home and also joined the business after five years in Lincoln obtaining his construction degree.
League Builders acquired the Benkelman Lumber Yard in 1979. In 1982, Gary left the company and went to work in McCook and then on to Colorado. Gary is now semi retired and lives in Missouri.
Denis and his wife Deb (Ragan) are both Stratton graduates. Denis graduated in 1974 and Deb in 1976 and then they were married in 1977. They have two sons, Dustin and Derik. Deb is the Clerk Magistrate in Dundy County and she too will be retiring but it will be another year before she does. Denis League and his dad continued to operate the Leagues operations together until his dad passed away in 2014.
Denis has continued to operate the business, but has decided it is about time for him to retire and turn the open sign to closed.
Denis has been trying to sell the business over the last year but has not had any luck. “It’s a good business, it’s done well by me and I have had a decent living, paid all of my bills and been able to do some nice stuff. I just can’t find someone to do it, and my kids can’t come back and do it. I had one person who has been pretty interested in it but backed out.” Denis says that he has gotten a lot of push back from the local construction crews, “They have been really loyal to me and supported local as best as they can. I am very appreciative of all of their support over the years.”
Looking back on nearly 50 years in the profession Denis expressed concern about getting local tradesman back to the Southwest Nebraska area. “We need to put out there that going to a trade school is not a down side anymore, I don’t know why, people used to kind of look down on it, but you can make as much money as people getting MBA’s or maybe even more, you just need to get away from the stigma of trade school. Trade school is a good way for people to go.”
Over the years, the business has had several employees, especially when they were in Benkelman, and they ran a construction crew too. Denis says that probably his favorite part of having the business over the years was the construction crews, “we tried not to compete with the local contractors and picked up what they didn’t have time to do. We did a lot in Stratton but we also covered Trenton and Palisade too. Finding someone that you would really want to work on your house before you send to your house was always a concern.”
Linda (Rains) Brennan has been a very valued and long time employee of Leagues and she will be retiring too. Denis said that she started working at Leagues while he was still in high school.
The Benkelman location closed in 2018 and the Stratton location will officially close December 31, but Denis says he’ll still be around, “it might kind of be by appointment, I plan on spending some time down here in my shop, making some things and doing some projects so I’ll be around. Probably next spring I’ll do an online auction of some sorts. The online auctions seem to go everywhere.
Making the decision to retire and close a business is never an easy one, but Denis explains “we went to that Ireland football game a couple years ago and that’s when it really hit me, I don’t mind not going to work every single day. I watched my parents work until they were 80 years old and then they didn’t have the desire to do things. I think back to when I was no more than 10 years old, helping down here, and then I went to school and had a steady job all the way through school, I’ve always had a job. So why do you work all of the years and not enjoy it? We are fairly healthy, and have a lot of things we would like to do, there’s no sense in waiting until we are too old to enjoy it.”
League Builders is still for sale, if you are interested in talking to Denis let him know, ideas of forming a group to keep it going have been thrown around, but no one has stepped up to do it – yet. It’s not to late. Denis wants to extend his and his family’s gratitude for all of the support over the years.
Best wishes to the League family, and many thanks for the years of dedicated service to the communities.