Longtime plumber Tony Schafers and new hotel owner Tammy Ensey will personify the theme of Saturday’s Old Settlers’ Day parade as grand marshals of the event.
Parade organizer Casey Case, a Kiwanis member, said the club chose two grand marshals to fit with this year’s theme, “Salute to Marion Businesses — New and Old.”
“Tony is the oldest known businessman in town still practicing,” Case said. “The [Historic] Elgin [Hotel] is not a new business, but Tammy is one of the newest businesspersons here in town.”
At 86, Schafers owns and operates Tony’s Plumbing, which has become an important household name to many residents over the years.
After being discharged from the Army in 1953, Schafers moved to town to help build homes for the Sisters of Precious Blood and their chaplain, who managed St. Luke Hospital at the time.
“We were married not long after he moved to town,” his wife Tillie said. “The Sisters hired him as the maintenance manager of hospital and he worked there for 30 years. He also worked for W.J. ‘Bus’ Hassinger plumbing afterhours.”
Schafers also worked for Marion Post Office, then received his plumbing license in July 1977.
“This job keeps me going but without my wife’s help I couldn’t do any of it,” Schafers said.
He called Tillie one secret to his business’s longevity and success.
“You got to have a good wife that does your bookwork, and don’t overcharge,” he said.
While Schafers is slowing down a bit, he has been working with his grandson, Jason, to train him and get him licensed to take over the family business.
Looking to the future, Schafers offered plainspoken advice to his grand marshal counterpart Ensey.
“My advice for her is to just do a good job, and don’t overcharge people,” Schafers said.
A multitasker at heart, Ensey was doing laundry while she was interviewed.
She said “knock-your-socks-off customer service” is one thing she has learned from older Marion businesses owners like Schafers.
“Some of these older businesses just bend over backward to get you taken care of,” Ensey said. “Their teamwork is astounding, but on the flipside you also have to be able to set boundaries to where you are not put in a compromising position.”
Before she took over the Elgin, she worked in human resources, sales and marketing, and information technology, with much of her time spent at Koch Industries.
After she and her husband, Jeremy, St. Luke Hospital CEO, had their first child, she left Koch to operate a consulting business on public policy. She also started her own travel agency and website building businesses.
“It was always my dream to sell my own product,” Ensey said. “I guess you could say operating the Elgin is the fruition of that dream.”
Ensey’s business will house a number of “Old Settlers” as the Marion High School classes of 1961 and 1971 will be staying at the hotel.
“We’re full up for the weekend,” she said. “Looking back at past calendars it’s pretty typical for the Elgin. Some people try to get five years early, but we only schedule two years out.”
In the future, the diversely experienced Ensey hopes her business can help facilitate destination tourism in the area as well as more community excitement and activities.
“There are so many good assets here in Marion and throughout the county,” Ensey said. “We want the Elgin to be a catalyst for experiences.”
Schafers and Ensey will ride in the annual parade at 11 a.m. Saturday in downtown Marion.