Legacy of Leadership

Pete Grimmer continues a family tradition
of business excellence and community involvement

By Jon Shoulders

The list of Pete Grimmer’s career accomplishments is lengthy. He founded a highly successful strength training equipment company not one year out of college, he owns and manages several commercial and residential rental properties throughout Franklin, and more recently, he was instrumental in bringing Big Woods restaurant to Hillview Country Club, of which he is a co-owner and longtime member with his wife, Dana Grimmer.

Such achievements seem to speak to his individuality and personal initiative, but he’s quick to attribute some of the credit for his successes to the influence of and example set by his father, John.

“Dad did so much for this community, not just as the co-founder of a big company here, but with the way he was always involved in Franklin and the county,” Pete says of his father, who died last summer.

Even as a youngster coming up through the Franklin schools, Pete, along with his brothers, John Jr., Curt, Andy and Tom, was closely observing the way his dad conducted his professional business and relationships throughout Johnson County. An Indianapolis native, John worked for Cummins in Columbus for 17 years before striking out on his own and co-founding Grimmer-Schmidt Compressors, which would become a major Franklin employer and far-reaching supplier of air and natural gas compressors.

“Dad was an amazing businessman; it was inspiring to watch,” Pete says. “Observing a lot of his and my mom’s community involvement, I found over the years that I really wanted to keep that tradition going. He and his business partner were very friendly with bankers and real estate people here. Franklin was very good to him, and he was always trying to give back.”

Pete began channeling his father’s industriousness and entrepreneurial spirit even before finishing his undergraduate mechanical engineering degree at Purdue. As a member of the crew team he spent a large chunk of non-classroom time in the campus weight room and began formulating ideas for his own line of strength training equipment. After graduating in 1987, he rented some manufacturing space from his dad and launched Pro Industries, a Franklin-based supplier of athletic equipment and accessories. 

For the next 10 years Pete focused on developing training products and business relationships for Pro Industries, and furnished equipment for multiple college and pro football organizations, including the Colts, Packers and Bears. Along the way he noticed the rate at which his father’s compressor company was also growing and by the late 1990s decided to sell Pro Industries and work full time at the family business, where all four of his brothers have also worked at various points throughout their careers.

“Pete wanted to help carry on what his dad had grown,” says Dana, an Indian Creek High School and Ball State grad who ran Euphoria Salon & Spa in Morgantown for several years before selling the business in 2007. “His dad really saw the potential in Franklin.”

More recently, Pete has been helping Franklin reach that potential by spearheading a few residential and commercial development projects, including the spring 2017 opening of Big Woods restaurant at Hillview, a project he says was years in the making. After he and Dana became regulars at the Big Woods Nashville location, Pete eventually called the owner to discuss a presence at the country club, in the building formerly occupied by Scotty’s Brew Club.

“Big Woods was always our first choice there, and they had shown some interest in Franklin prior to my cold-calling them,” Pete says. “It was a pretty quick turnaround. We’re getting lots of compliments in our first year, and the parking lot’s always full.”

With Johnson County’s steady commercial growth over the past 10 years, John began to see a growing demand for quality housing on the city’s east side and purchased 87 acres of land from Franklin Community School Corp. in 2013 for residential development. Pete and Dana purchased the land, which sits adjacent to Hillview, from John Sr. prior to his death with the intent of bringing the project to fruition.

“We’re really focused on the east side with the new restaurant, and the housing I’m developing is integrated into the clubhouse and golfing,” Pete says. “We’ve probably sold a dozen lots, and this spring we’ll be busy with a lot of houses going up. We’re focused on promoting that development right now to really help out Franklin and the need for good housing.”

Fourteen acres of the Grimmers’ development were recently acquired by Emmanuel Church, the leaders of which are currently building their third campus on the property and expect construction to be complete by the end of the year. Pete feels the 30,000-square-foot facility will add to the area’s appeal and diversity.

These days Pete and Dana spend time between their residence on Lamb Lake in Franklin and a vacation house in Stuart, Florida, where Pete’s parents began visiting 25 years ago. Having both grown up on Lamb Lake, the couple have developed a love for water-related activities, like boating, fishing, water-skiing and paddle boarding. The Grimmers also spend time with family, including their five children: Dustin Wisehart of Franklin, Dakota Wilds of El Paso, Texas, Jensen Grimmer of Orlando, Florida, Derek Grimmer of Bloomington and Gwendolyn Grimmer, a high school student. The family has grown to include Dakota’s children, Dane, Mia, Mack and Beck and husband, Evan Wilds.

“Growing up in Franklin I really came to appreciate the town and have seen its potential with the projects I’ve been involved in,” Pete adds. “The fact that the college is right there in the center of the county makes it a little more diverse than some other areas. We like the progressiveness of the city, and we’ve enjoyed working with the city on these various projects. We feel like we’re on board with the city’s vision.”

Photo by Angie Jackson