Congratulations Steve D. Scheel: 2020 FMWF Chamber Of Commerce Legacy Leader Award Winner

Written by: Brady Drake

Few names in the Fargo Moorhead business community stand taller than Steve D. Scheel, Board Chair of SCHEELS and winner of the 2020 Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce Legacy Leader award.

Steve’s continued commitment to excellence and creativity has touched many throughout the region and helped provide opportunities for individuals wearing a SCHEELS name tag they may have never thought possible.

“I was a little bit taken aback when Tom Dawson (former chair and current immediate past chair of the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce) first wanted to talk to me and told me about the award,” said Steve. “I have been surrounded by good people in my life. You don’t win an award like this on your own.” 

This prestigious award recognizes the important role and contributions of long-time local leaders in both shaping and serving The Chamber, metropolitan community and region.

“The Legacy Leader award is The Chamber’s highest award throughout the year, and perhaps the pre-eminent award in the community,” said Dawson. “Steve is the epitome of a legacy leader. He has been not only instrumental in helping build a world-class sporting goods store, but has shared his leadership skills and energy with many causes important to our Chamber and our region. In addition, he and his company are unequaled in their philanthropic contribution to communities in which they do business. It is a privilege to present him with this well-deserved award.”

Steve has volunteered on a number of boards and committees around our region. He also spent 16 years coaching youth soccer and hockey in Moorhead and worked with the Hunter Education program in Fargo.

“I just really enjoyed it. I knew I wanted to be a teacher and a coach. My dad was the one that really convinced me to come into the business,” said Steve. “He told me I could still be a teacher and coach. I’ve always enjoyed working with kids. One of the greatest jobs I ever had was working as a water-ski instructor at a camp in college. It was just natural to jump on board and get involved. It’s just so rewarding.”

Steve’s Impact on The Company

While the impact of Steve D. Scheel at SCHEELS can’t be fully quantified or explained in the pages we have allotted for this story, perhaps his most interesting impact is the transformation of SCHEELS from store to destination.

The process towards becoming a must-stop location started in 1977, when Steve was able to open his first store in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. At the time, Steve wanted to make the store an all sporting goods store, his father and uncle who had built a successful base for the company as a home and hardware store originally said no. However, three years later, the Sioux Falls store made the transition to all sporting goods and began to outpace every other store in the company.

“I still hadn’t understood the difference an experience and attractions could bring to a store. I thought if we had the merchandise a customer wanted, when they wanted it, with the best customer service in the industry, we’d be just fine. We always pride ourselves on the almost excessive training of our people just to provide great customer service. But as I began studying, I looked out and I saw Nordstrom doing so well, and I saw Cabella’s doing so well. I wondered, ‘what can we do differently.'”

The first attempt to become a destination came in the Iowa City store in 1998 when Steve contacted the same company that built the Tree of Life at Disney World and had them put a giant sequoia in the middle of the store.

“This was great,” said Steve. “This was cool, but the tree just kind of stood there. Customers came in and took pictures of the tree and it was kind of interesting, but it didn’t have the impact we wanted.”

The lightbulb went off when Steve was reading about how Toys R Us in New York had just put a Ferris wheel in their store. In 2004, SCHEELS put its first Ferris wheel in its Omaha, Nebraska store. Now, almost every SCHEELS store opened since includes a Ferris wheel and many other attractions.

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.