Life's Better Here: Berne 2013 (VIDEOS)

By Emma Koch

August 1, 2013 Updated Aug 1, 2013 at 1:26 PM EDT

BERNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) -- Time to profile another local hometown and we never seem to have any trouble finding positive things happening in Berne.

They say Berne's majestic Munsterburg clock tower is the first building in town to catch the morning suns rays, brightening up this beautifully landscaped corner of town as the rest of Berne is waking up.

On this morning, however, things have gotten active early, with most of the action in a little office on Monroe street. A crowd has gathered at the office of Smith Brothers Furniture because Smith Brothers is hiring, big time, further proving that American manufacturing can be a success.

“We're adding 30 % to our plant to keep up with our business…it's turned out very well,” Steve Lehman, President, CEO and part owner of Smith Brothers said.

Lehman was born and raised in Berne and he knows each of his 350 employees by name. Twenty years ago when American companies were sending manufacturing overseas to china, Smith Brothers bucked the trend, invested in technology, invested in its workforce and stayed in America.

“Our business model is built on selection with customizing capabilities quick delivery, good service and great quality….and that was our defense against the china model,” Lehman said.

That, and treating employees like partners instead of opponents.

“It's not rocket science, Eric it's not rocket science,” Lehman said. “It really does work we just take care of our people. We do a lot of family things together. We hide Easter eggs in the spring and we give away a thousand dollars in Easter eggs to our employees…so we have a lot of fun.”

The formula works. Smith Brothers is expanding its factory by one third, hiring dozens of new employees over the next couple of years to keep up with demand. It's a winning combination, a contented workforce, lots of beautiful, quality products and a company philosophy that mirrors the town around it.

“Hard work, workmanship, pride in your work, team work and good values so it all works together, it's part of the culture,” Lehman said.

Berne is a town with Swiss heritage with more than 100 years of history. And it turns out one of the oldest buildings in town happens to be a restaurant.

A building that has been there since 1893 has been the Palmer House longer than anything else. Before that, it did it all.

"We've owned it for 27 years along with another couple, but it's actually been here for 71 years,” Saundra Minger said. “And it's been different things over the years. It's been a hat shop, a clothing store, it's been a barber shop, it's been a post office, it's been the bank in Berne."

At this little restaurant, the waitresses take your order in classic Swiss attire. Every Friday, you can enjoy their buffet, somewhat of a tradition at this little eatery. Every other day, try one of the many homestyle meals they offer and top it off with some of their famous pie and good conversation.

"It's a friendly town. You know your neighbor,” Saundra Minger said. “You feel safe here, and they come in here, they visit as you can see. And everybody knows everybody else."

Across the street at the Gathering House, you can find a light meal, antiques for sale, and a variety of baked goods including some very big cookies.

"Twelve different kinds of cookies,” owner Dorothy Coyne said. “And then we make our own bread and soup is started from scratch."

Coyne recommends you try their grilled cheese sandwich made with some of their homemade bread. But if it's your sweet tooth that's got you craving something, this is the place. Especially with Swiss Days beginning Thursday, she's been stocking up for weeks.

"I'm already starting to get ready,” Coyne said. “I'm buying extra ice cream, putting it in the freezer and buying supplies. I went to Fort Wayne yesterday and bought 8 bags of flour - 25 pound bags. And 50 pounds of sugar. That'll just get us started baking cookies."

That many cookies and an annual festival right around the corner is what makes life better in Berne.




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