“We joined SCCA to learn from and work with other successful businesses in the Seward neighborhood.”
SCCA Member: Jim Welna, Welna II Hardware

The Family Business of Bussing

Seward is often thought of as a place where small business can flourish, and the existence of small, family-owned businesses on Franklin and in the surrounding area is an essential part of our vibrant and active business community. But Seward is also home to another type of family business, one that operates on a much larger scale.

In the offices at 2100 26th St, just east of Hiawatha, Jefferson Lines is exactly that. Founded in 1919, the business has been operated by the family of current President and CEO Charlie Zelle for 3 generations. This tradition has been reflected in the company’s people-centric approach and active interest in civic issues, which has served their business well in the last 90+ years. Originally named for the Jefferson route that runs from Winnipeg all the way down to New Orleans, Jefferson Lines currently operates in 13 states and aims to serve the national network of public and private transport in cities and rural areas.

Much of the success that Jefferson Lines has had comes from this commitment to connecting people with other transportation networks. Whether this means connecting with other bus companies to provide travel across the country or choosing urban pickup and drop-off locations with an eye towards public transit routes, it has allowed them to effectively allocate their bus routes and connect to niche markets such as those surrounding university communities. Jefferson Lines busses connect directly to campuses at the University of Minnesota Duluth and at North Dakota State University, and the company will soon be running buses through the Saint Paul Union Depot that is set to re-open this Saturday after its $243 million makeover.

By focusing on the customer experience, Jefferson Lines has been able to consistently compete and bring in new customers throughout their 13-state service area. Rather than focusing on reaching the lowest possible price point, the company has moved towards developing services – like wi-fi internet on many buses – that create a better traveling experience. Their broad and thriving network of cities and towns is a testament to the success of their approach, and their presence in our business community is a complimentary – if not obvious – asset to our neighborhood.

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