The waist-high water from a year ago is merely a memory at Klock Werks.
Today, it’s all business. And business is as good as it’s ever been for the Mitchell custom motorcycle maker.
Company President Brian Klock didn’t want to be the victim then, and today, he says bouncing back is still the only way he could see his business responding. Mitchell had more than 7 inches of rainfall in a span of 48 hours between Sept. 10-12 in 2019 — some outlying areas around the city received nearly 9.5 inches of precipitation — and Klock’s neighborhood south of Havens Avenue had some of the most extensive water damage.
“You can be bummed out, for sure," he told the Mitchell Republic earlier this week. "But any time you play the victim, you’re saying woe is me. This is what I’ve been given. I don’t want to waste the opportunities that have come along for me. When you are believing in community, you will win.”
Klock Werks’ business dates back to 1997 and the company’s namesake said this week that 2020 has marked his best year of business yet, in part because it’s been a good year for motorcycling interest.
“Ironically, it was the best year ever in the history of the company,” Klock said. “For one, the motorcycle community rallies around their own and it was the grace of God bringing people into our fold that wanted to help. We had great people in this business saying, ‘If you love Klock Werks, buy Klock Werks.’ And this team is just so resilient. We built and re-did everything in there and we hustled hard to stay on our feet.”
Klock Werks has been back in its main showroom for the last four months, but has still been re-installing art and memorabilia into its proper place. The company built metal-framed desks that are more flood-proof in case the building ever has water issues again. The building’s back warehouse area is still getting organized, Klock said, but orders are being fulfilled and shipments are smoothly going out to customers.
“We’re putting it all back together as we can, but it’s good to be busy,” he said.
A wet year
Klock Werks is just one of the businesses and properties in Mitchell that has rebounded from the shocking flooding a year ago. Davison County Emergency Management Director Jeff Bathke said flooding issues are a natural occurrence when an area gets that much rain in a short amount of time.
“We did what we could,” Bathke said. “But when you get the type of rain we got in that short amount of time, and considering how wet everything was, there wasn’t anything you could do.”
In the last year, Bathke has worked as the go-between person with local residents and the Federal Emergency Management Administration. Davison County had 424 households or properties receive $1,188,589.28 in federal assistance from FEMA. Nearly $1.1 million of that was geared toward housing assistance, ranging from short-term lodging in hotels to rental assistance for temporary housing or funds for individuals to repair or replace their homes. Locally, another $93,509 in funding from FEMA was put toward other personal needs in the county, such as disaster-caused expenses related to medical events, child care, essential household items, moving and storage and some clean-up items.
Bathke said that the FEMA process was bureaucratic and burdensome for some local residents to get timely assistance.
“There were some people where we really had to fight to get FEMA to approve them for assistance,” he said. “Places with completely collapsed basements and they went several months without liveable conditions. And some of them still don’t have completely liveable conditions, but they might be making it work.”
Overall, $4.85 million was approved in individual financial assistance for more than 1,300 households in southeastern South Dakota related to damage from storms, flooding and tornadoes in September 2019. Another $3.5 million was approved around the region for public assistance for governments and nonprofit organizations.
In an already wet year, the flooding ended up being a matter of circumstance for the Mitchell area. By the end of September 2019, Mitchell had received 14 inches of precipitation more than normal, part of a two-year span in 2018 and 2019 in which Mitchell received almost 60 inches of precipitation. September itself in Mitchell broke a 33-year record.
Bathke said that even though most of the county’s preparations and sandbagging was well-intentioned, most of it didn’t help because the amount of rain meant there would be flooding damage in some locations regardless.
“We’re always focused on preparation and that’s important,” Bathke said. “But what we saw in September, our time was better served by connecting with people after the storm and getting them what they need. I don’t know of anyone that put sandbags around their property that didn’t still have flood damage.”
Since then, Bathke said, the region has been fortunate to have a mild winter and a relatively dry spring. Through Sept. 10, Mitchell has received 13.94 inches of precipitation, down 3.21 inches compared to a normal year and down more than 14 inches compared to last year at this time.
“We were lucky that we had a mild winter, and we had some people that were able to make repairs over the winter,” Bathke said. “We were pretty nervous about the spring and we were lucky with that, too.”
A successful partnership
In a business that is all about being unique, Klock Werks had something special up its sleeve for Thursday. It has partnered with Jack Daniel’s whiskey and Dixxon Flannel shirts to sell a special edition shirt that has become popular with motorcyclists.
There has been a long partnership between the three companies but Klock is grateful for the role those companies played in helping Klock Werks stay up and running. When Dixxon and Klock Werks partnered on a new shirt last year, Dixxon founder Danny Dreyer donated his share of proceeds back to Klock Werks, which Klock said helped pay for supplies to rebuild the shop’s interior.
In the first five hours of the special sale on Thursday, 1,500 shirts had been sold either in the Mitchell store or online.
Klock Werks should benefit from upgrades to the area’s streets, a long-awaited project that will drain more water out of the area and to the nearby Dry Run Creek. Klock said that will help make the investments he’s made worth it.
“We’re thankful for where we’re at and the progress we’ve made in the last year,” he said.