A Look at Brooklyn Elevator and How It Came To Be...


On January 20, 1975, Mike Thys began working at M&N Grain at Victor, Iowa.  A long time employee, Leonard Van Hamme, had fallen off a railroad car and broken his leg.  Mike told the owner/manager, Don Nowotny, when he called looking for some help that he would be able to help out for a couple of days; after fourteen years of employment, working his way to assistant manager, Mike, in 1989 purchased Brooklyn Elevator, Inc. of Brooklyn, Iowa.

In 1973, Raymond Hopwood and Junie Manatt purchased from Carmen Johnson, Johnson Feed and Grain and started the corporation of Brooklyn Elevator, Inc.  Ray, referred to by most in the area as "Hop," became the manager and built and grew the business.  In 1983 the elevator in Guernsey was purchased from Wilder Grain and Guernsey was added as a second location.  Hop continued until 1989, when he decided for health reasons that he needed to step down.

Hop and Junie sold a small portion of the stock of the corporation to Mike Thys with the intent, by a purchase agreement, that Mike would become the sole owner.  The original meeting was held on a Sunday morning after 8:00 Mass in Junie's office at Manatts.  Junie sold the remainder of his stock to Hop in 1990 and Mike bought a full 25% of the outstanding shares from Hop.  In 1992 Hop passed away from cancer and his surviving wife, Janice, made sure that Mike could continue as the sole owner of the company.

Mike was not without his challenges with his purchase of the corporation. Getting grain quality under control and finding an economically feasible method to bring the equipment back into better operation while still being able to pay for the purchase made for some sleepless nights.  Progress came slow with set-backs along the way.  Little by little, with the help of good employees, the company progressed.

In 1997, Brooklyn Elevator along with a partner, bought Rohrer Bros., Inc. in Victor, IA; a full service fertilizer and chemical company.  In 2001, Rohrer Bros. bought Victor Oil Company from the previous owners of Rohrer Bros., Dick and Don Rohrer.  In October of 2005, Rohrer Bros. purchased all stock and interests of Rohrer Bros. & Victor Oil from Mike's partner, making Mike the sole owner of all three companies.

Victor Oil expanded in the spring of 2007 by buying Plants Oil of Malcom, IA, and now operates bulk plants in Victor and Malcom.

In the fall of 2008, Brooklyn Elevator purchased the Marengo Elevator Company in Marengo, IA.

In 2009, Brooklyn Elevator also purchased M&N Grain in Victor and now operates four locations.


Mike's oldest son, Paul, joined the company in 1990 at the age of 10 years old.  He began by mowing grass and as he grew, progressed through all of the outside duties at the elevator.  After graduating, Paul joined the Rohrer group working his way up as an operator through various trucks, applicators and sprayers.  Paul still remains with the company today as the general manager of Rohrer Brothers, Inc.

Mike's second son, Adam, waited a little longer and came at the age of 12 doing odd jobs; mowing and general help until at the age of 13 he began helping during harvest on the weekends.  Adam continued to progress learning the equipment and all associated outside duties.  Adam, after graduating from college, remains with the company today as the outside manager of operations and merchandiser at the Brooklyn location. 

Daughter Ellen came to work at the age of 13 mowing grass, painting and running the scale during harvest weekends.  Ellen's first summer was mostly spent painting the new towers that the company built for the new bin construction.  The towers were Ellen's "favorite."  While going to college, she worked at the elevator during the summers driving truck, cleaning bins and dumping grain.  After graduating from college, Ellen worked for an independent, full-service elevator, fertilizer and chemical company in Rochelle, Illinois. In September of 2012, she returned home with her husband, Zack, and now works as an assistant dispatcher at the Brooklyn location. 


Today, Brooklyn Elevator, Rohrer Bros and Victor Oil are family operated as three separate companies but function as one by sharing labor and equipment.  They have become a diversified company operating dump trucks, hopper bottom grain trailers, floaters, sprayers, end loaders, trucks, grain storage and handling equipment.  The company has three shops with two of them doing extensive repair and metal fabrication work.

The company is proud to be an independent, family operated business in a high risk, high capital environment. We are proud to provide quality service to our customers, community and also employment opportunities for the surrounding area.  It is a company that continues to grow at a time when many independents are leaving the industry.