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Digging into the Family Business: Eau Claire County

August 08, 2017
Chris Larson '86 runs Eau Claire's Wissota Sand & Gravel.

Chris Larson ’86 showed up at a town board meeting to negotiate a road project and found himself seated at a table with six people, five of whom had earned degrees at UW–Madison.

“We all had different degrees, but we all talked about Madison,” says Larson, president of the Eau Claire–based Wissota Sand & Gravel. “There’s this assumption that you know what you’re talking about. A degree from UW–Madison carries clout and prestige.”

Larson graduated in 1986 with a double major in economics and agricultural economics, but he never envisioned going into his family’s gravel business, which has been run by the Larsons since the 1930s.

Larson’s grandfather, Ray Larson Sr., was a salesperson for Wissota Sand & Gravel through the Great Depression and accepted stock in the firm in place of a salary. That enabled him to eventually buy the business, and by 1953, he passed it on to Larson’s father, Ray Larson Jr.

“When I graduated, I didn’t realize how powerful my education was.”

After Chris Larson graduated, his father offered him a job after Chris’s brother left for a security-analyst position in New York City. Chris accepted and bought the firm in 1996.

He consolidated operations and focused on producing aggregates at Wissota’s location in Slinger, Wisconsin. The firm now has 11 employees and maintains an Eau Claire administrative office.

“When I graduated, I didn’t realize how powerful my education was,” he says. “College teaches you about the process of life and how you need to be persistent.”

Today Larson has two daughters enrolled at UW–Madison. “I tell them to use their educations to do whatever they want to do,” he says. “There’s no pressure to stay in the sand and gravel business.”

Thank you, Eau Claire County, for dedicated business owners like Chris Larson, who is using his expertise in the gravel industry to help build roads and structures — and a strong foundation for his community.

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