Wednesday, June 16, 2004

For couple, ‘Peanuts’ are always on parade

June 3, 2004
By Karl J. Karlson
The St. Paul Pioneer Press

If she ever needs cheering up, Mary Krech just goes to the front door of her contracting business and pushes a red button on a 6-foot-tall statue of Snoopy decked out as an organ grinder.
This starts concertina music that is so familiar that the words to "That’s Amore" pop into your head "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie....’’
The statue is her favorite, the one she is not willing to give up. She and her husband, Willie Krech, have several others. Of the 13 they bought at auction during St. Paul’s first four tributes to "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz, they’ve given away five and sold one.
Five of the remaining seven statues are lined up in the front of the metal building that serves as headquarters for their successful Total Construction and Equipment general and electrical contracting business in Inver Grove Heights.
There’s a spot there for a sixth, which they expect to fill at the Sept. 19 auction of this year’s "Doghouse Days of Summer" statues featuring Snoopy and Woodstock.
"We’ll check them out, see if any catches the eye,’’ Mary Krech says of their selection process.
Willie Krech concedes that their selection system is not very scientific.
"I bid sometimes to start the bidding or if I see a connection to someone we know,’’ he admits.
Which is why they bought the "Grease Monkey Business" Linus statue last year.
"We gave it to our mechanic, Joe. He keeps all our equipment running,’’ Mary Krech says.
The mechanic also helps their son, Bill Krech, with his drag-racing car, which they haul around the United States to 12 to 15 races each year. Bill Krech took over the sport from his father.
Willie Krech looks puzzled when asked if it there is any disconnect between drag racing -- "doing a quarter-mile in 7.22 seconds’’ -- and collecting comic strip character statues. He says "No,’’ but offers little explanation.
Mary Krech says they are usually very business-oriented with the company and don’t spend a lot of time or money on themselves. What they do make time for are the racing thing and the statue thing.
"My daughter-in-law convinced us to go to the first Snoopy auction, and I sort of got caught up in it,’’ she says, adding that she was never a big "Peanuts’’ fan.
The "Peanuts" celebrations, however, have helped them meet some real big fans at the auctions, she says, calling the sales fun events.
"The whole thing is fun. It’s good for St. Paul. There are smiles everywhere,’’ Willie Krech says.
The other statue they want to keep is "School Patrol Linus" with its safety theme "because safety is a big issue in our business. It’s a reminder,’’ Mary Krech says.
They would really like to buy a Minnesota Wild-sponsored statue because they are big hockey fans, but those usually have not been auctioned.
Asked why they don’t sponsor one themselves, Mary Krech says they’ve discussed the idea but never seem to act quickly enough. "Besides, if we sponsor one, then we end up with only one. If we go to the auction, we may end up with two or three,’’ she says.
The Krechs’ ‘Peanuts 13’
Here’s a look at the 13 "Peanuts" statues that Mary and Willie Krech have bought at auction during St. Paul’s first four summertime tributes to Charles Schulz. The list includes their cost and current location
"Joe the Grinder," a 2000 Snoopy, $20,000, lobby of their business, 10195 Inver Grove Trail, Inver Grove Heights.
"Snooper Jock," a 2000 Snoopy, $22,000, Inver Grove Heights Community Center, 8055 Barbara Ave.
"You’re a Winner, Charlie Brown," a 2001 statue, $5,500, in front of their business.
"You’re a Good Scout, Charlie Brown," a 2001 statue, $5,500, in front of their business but frequently lent to Scout troops for various functions.
"Charlie Brown on the Levee," a 2001 statue, $3,000, sold to its original sponsor, Mancini’s Char House in St. Paul.
"Class of ‘06," a 2002 Lucy, $4,500, home of their son, Kevin, in Cannon Falls, Minn.
"Find Your Heart in St. Paul," a 2002 Lucy, $2,000, remade as "Lucy the Electrician," in front of their business.
"Blueprint for Freedom," a 2002 Lucy, $2,500, in front of their business.
"Lucy Ross," a 2002 statue, $6,500, at their Inver Grove Heights residence.
"Grease Monkey Business," a 2003 Linus, $5,500, Inver Grove Heights, residence of their mechanic.
"Blue Boy," a 2003 Linus, $2,500, a gift to Nick Mancini of Mancini’s Char House in St. Paul.
"School Patrol Linus," a 2003 statue, $3,000, in front of their business.
"Teasing Hurts," a 2003 Linus, $1,750, Pine Bend Elementary School, Inver Grove Heights.