Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce honors Business Hall of Fame inductees

Clyde "Gus" Traeder, left, former owner of Traeder's TNT Yamaha and nationally recognized karting organizer and promoter, and Andy Nickelson, former owner of Dame and Hurdle Jewelers pose for a photograph. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Jan. 16, 2013 5:53 pm Updated: Jan. 30, 2013 6:15 pm

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

Four new inductees into the Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame share a common trait: Love of the Quincy community.

"Until you get away from here, you don't know what a gem Quincy is," said Andy Nickelson, former owner of Dame and Hurdle Jewelers and one of four 2013 inductees.

"The work ethic in Quincy is really unbelievable. The community has good, hard working people who are honest. Quincy has such a heritage."

In addition to Nickelson, the hall of fame inductees honored at the 125th annual meeting of the Chamber of Commerce were Clyde "Gus" Traeder, former owner of Traeder's TNT Yamaha and nationally recognized karting organizer and promoter; the late William Frederick Gerdes Sr., who became president of Michelmann Steel Construction Company in 1923; and the late Bernie Willer, philanthropist and former owner of Quincy's Hardee's restaurants.

All four men succeeded in a community they came to love.

"Quincy's just a good town," Traeder said after the Wednesday induction ceremony at the Ambiance.

Traeder told how Quincy area sponsors helped raise the prize money needed to host Grand Prix of Karting and other karting events that made the community "the karting capitol of the world." It's a racing heritage that Traeder hopes will continue.

"We hope to bring a race back to downtown Quincy next year," Traeder said.

Even better would be a karting event in South Park, which needs rehabilitated streets, Traeder said.

"That race in the park was the greatest karting race in the world," he said.

Nickelson, like Traeder, was applauded for years as a promoter of Quincy who worked in many business organizations and was a driving force behind the Maine Center's construction in the mid-1990s.

"It's always humbling to be honored by your peer group. The Chamber in this country is the glue that holds things together," Nickelson said.

Relatives and co-workers of the late inductees told how the community helped shape their business success.

Laura Gerdes Ehrhart, president and CEO of Michelmann Steel, said her great-grandfather would have felt very honored by the award.

"He cared a great deal about the Quincy community and the business community. I think the award probably would have astounded him, but he would have been very appreciative," Ehrhart said.

Frederick Gerdes arrived in Quincy in the 1920s, when the Michelmann company was producing boilers. As that market shrank, Gerdes came up with the idea of going into steel.

"He was the one who had the idea for the new direction. He really gets the credit for the fact that we're still here today," Ehrhart said.

Bob Daly and Spike Ehrhardt accepted a plaque on behalf of the Bernie Willer family. Both men worked with Willer when he owned the Hardee's outlets in Quincy.

"He gave me my first job and I worked for him for 50 years before he passed away. He taught honesty and a hard day's work and the value of a dollar," said Ehrhardt, who lives in Hannibal, Mo., and owns Ehrhardt Hospitality.

About 400 people attended the annual meeting, many of them looking at a panoramic picture that was more than 30 feet long. It showed Chamber members who gathered at the Quincy Riverfront in celebration of the organization's 125th year.

The Business Hall of Fame was started in 2006 to celebrate the history and accomplishments of the Quincy area business community. It is in the agency's offices on the second floor of the Oakley-Lindsay Center.

"We're got 34 inductees so far," Executive Director Amy Looten said.