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Small Business Spotlight: Aqua Pure Water Solutions

Alerus | JUL 18, 2015

Most of us living outside California likely don’t spend much time thinking about water; it is plentiful, clean, and we tend to take it for granted. But water is big business, involving everything from government agencies to major corporations to small businesses. Aqua Pure Water Solutions in Grand Forks, North Dakota, is one of those small businesses, and the story of the company and its owner is a colorful one.

About the Owner

In the late 1970s, Mike Noland was a college student in Winona, Minnesota, who wasn’t sure where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do. He did know that he had met the woman of his dreams, and they married in 1979. He also knew that college graduation was upon him, and he needed a job. At the time, Mike’s father worked for Culligan, an international company specializing in water softeners, water filtration systems, and bottled water, at a location near Duluth. After 30 years in the business, Mike’s father was ready to bring in a new person who might have the potential to take over one day, and if that person was his own son, so much the better.

The father and son reached an agreement, and soon Mike and his wife moved north so Mike could start learning from, and working with, his dad. As time went on, Mike showed potential and, for his part, had really come to enjoy the business and the customer service aspect of it. After about five years, Mike’s father and a Minneapolis-based business partner gave Mike the opportunity to manage a Culligan store in Clinton, Iowa. Mike accepted, relocating quickly to Iowa in what would become one of many moves that would occur over the next few years.

A two-year stint running the Iowa store ended when he was relocated to Pennsylvania to operate two Culligan stores. A year after that, it was on to Corpus Christi, Texas to help yet another store get up and running. The next year, a store in West Palm Beach came calling. Moving around was great, yielding some great friendships and seeing the country, but at the same time Mike’s family was growing. He and his wife began feeling like so much moving was unfair to their young kids, and so started looking for a place to settle down more permanently. 

After much thought, the couple decided to make their home in Grand Forks, about an hour away from Lakota, where Mike’s mother grew up. It was 1991, and Mike purchased a Culligan store in Grand Forks, which, through a great deal of hard work and sacrifice, he would eventually turn in to Aqua Pure Water Solutions.

Mike sells Hellenbrand products, which are considered some of the most reliable and high-performing water solutions available today. Mike is committed not only to selling excellent products, but also to offering the best possible service to every customer. The goal is to do a job one time, with a reliable product, so that the customer can stop thinking about water treatment and get on with what is really important in their lives. Aqua Pure offers its products and services across a wide area, spanning east to west from Crookston, Minnesota, to Lakota, North Dakota, and north to south from Grandin to St. Thomas.

Perseverance Defines a Family and a Company 

When Mike bought his Grand Forks store in 1991, he knew, as every business owner does, that there would be some challenges ahead, both personally and economically. He credits his wife with keeping the business afloat during those early years. She worked side by side with Mike during the early years of the company’s existence, and never took home a paycheck. Yet she showed up, day after day, to support the business and her husband, always believing that operating as an independent company would ultimately prove to be the right move.

Then, in 1997, the company’s main office fell victim to massive flooding that inundated Grand Forks. Two feet of dark, murky river water threatened to snuff out the fledgling business before it had truly hit its stride. When the water finally receded, Mike and his wife, ever-supportive of each other and determined to succeed, salvaged the operation by working during the day and remodeling the building at night. The irony of a water company having its existence threatened by a flood was not lost on them, but they rebuilt nonetheless, and guided the company through perhaps its most difficult time.

About the Alerus Relationship

Mike got his first-ever business loan from First National Bank North Dakota (now Alerus), in 1991. He had no credit at the time, but Neil Jacobson was willing to take a risk on him. As the years went on, Mike Compton became the primary point of contact between First National/Alerus and Aqua Pure. Today, Mike Helt plays that role, and does it well.

Aqua Pure is an Alerus customer, but the converse is also true – Alerus is a longtime customer of Aqua Pure. Over the years, that has brought Mike into contact with many Alerus employees, and he says he always feels at home in an Alerus branch. “I most often use the Express branch in Grand Forks,” he says, “and the tellers there know me. We joke around, give each other a hard time, and it makes going to the bank a fun experience.”

One interesting part of Mike’s long relationship with First National/Alerus is that Mike’s cousin was at one time a personal banker at First National, who was transferred from Grand Forks to Northwood. When the transfer occurred, Mike bought his cousin’s house in Grand Forks. A small world, as they say.

Getting in Touch With Aqua Pure

If you are in the market for a water solution for your home or for a commercial application, you can reach Mike Noland and the team at Aqua Pure by calling 701.772.5221. You can also check out the company’s website for more information.

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