Crandon Hosts Third Generation Builders Of Trolleys Buses

By Zac Schultz | September 26, 2018


Trolleys are fun. Kristina Pence-Dunow understands that. “It’s an American history for one thing. Trolleys are an iconic form of transportation,” says the owner of Hometown Trolley.

Kristina Pence-Dunow sends trolleys from Crandon, Wisconsin to vacation spots around the country, and the result is always the same. “People will let city buses go by, but if they see a trolley they will wait and ride that trolley because it’s fun and it’s an experience.”

So riding a trolley is fun, but who knew making a trolley could be fun too? “When an employee is happy, the product is happy,” says Pence-Dunow.

When Kristina Pence-Dunow walks the floor of Hometown Trolley she is many things at once. She’s the owner, she’s the inspector and she’s also a mother. “Hometown Trolley is a family and a team company. So when I walk through the shop I’m like mother hen.”

In two cases, she literally is mother. Both her son and daughter are employees and Pence-Dunow knew many of her employees long before they came to work here. “Some of these people were kids in the same class as my children, so I know on their faces if they are having a bad day,”

Pence-Dunow knows about bad days too. In the early 90’s she and her first husband moved their fledgling trolley business from Illinois to Crandon. “It was a culture shock really, to come to the northwoods from Illinois.”

After a divorce, Pence-Dunow kept the company and decided to make it her own. “I was a single mom in the northwoods not knowing what to do. We had eight to twelve employees. I had to fire probably half of them to get respect and the rehire them as the ‘woman ‘ taking over when the husband is leaving, but to get their respect I learned every single process.

“When I took over we did one trolley a month and now we are doing two to three a week. We have 52 employees, and we are adding six more jobs as soon as we tear down the wall and can expand out.”

Occasionally, Kristina visits her trolleys in their new home. “We do have a big order coming up this summer, for Hawaii, so we will plan on a trip there and I will definitely be going on that trip.”

But it’s always nice to come home. “When you go away and you come back it’s cleaner air, cleaner water, space.”

Now remarried, Kristina has family all around her at work. Even her grandsons like to inspect the trolleys before they leave for warmer climates. “For some reason I was chosen to do trolleys and it’s grown on me and I love them. I love the trolleys, I love the colors, and I love the fact that we are building a happy product.

Zac Schultz

Zac Schultz is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project who thinks three-minute stories and one-line bio descriptions are woefully brief.

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