Article Image Alt Text Brooke Robertson | Johnson Publications

The Perkins County Chamber honored Poppe’s Tax Service as Business of the Year as they celebrated 50 years in business at an open house on Wednesday, Jan. 16. Those present included (front row, l-r), Rhonda Menghini, LaVern’s daughter; LaVern Poppe, owner; Michelle Ross, Chamber president; Maria Eichner, daughter/employee; Sherry Chandler, employee. Back row: Brian Poppe, son; Steve Mailand, employee; Andrea Brueggeman, Dawnya Dreiling and Jeff Wallin, all chamber members. LaVern and his late wife Pauline two other children include Leland Poppe and the late Alan Poppe. 

Poppe’s Tax Service celebrates 50 years, honored as Business of the Year

Celebrating 50 years in business, Poppe’s Tax Service has been named Business of the Year by the Perkins County Chamber of Commerce. 

The business was honored by the chamber at an open house Wednesday, Jan. 16.

In 1969, LaVern and the late Pauline Poppe began the business in their home at 517 W Fourth St. The couple purchased the home when they married in 1958, paying $100/month. LaVern still lives there today. 

Daughter Maria Eichner of Ogallala, who started full-time in 1980, was 9 when the business began. 

Pauline handled processing and checking all the tax returns. This included adding and subtracting everything by hand and checking for errors.

“Now, you plug everything in the computer and the addition is done for you. The hours that were put into starting this business are unreal,” said Eichner.  

Beginning under the franchise H&R Block, the Poppes manually completed returns on onion-skin paper. They then mailed the returns to H&R Block in Hastings, who would check them and mail them back. If an error was discovered, the process began again. Not exactly time efficient for someone on a deadline. 

Eichner explained that the processor was kept in a basement room with cement floors. The onion-skin returns were run through the wet copier and then laid out to dry. This was one of her jobs. Her sister, Rhonda Menghini’s job, was to keep the house presentable for clients. 

“You had to be careful how you walked through the house. During tax season, we had to be presentable for appointments early in the morning. Dad liked to work early, starting appointments at 6 a.m,” said Eichner. 

LaVern said all five of their children played in the state basketball tournaments in Lincoln, and he and Pauline would work hard to get the returns finished so they could attend.  

“My wife worked most of the night getting things ready. Then we’d run the tax returns to the post office and take off for the state tournament,” he said. “One morning I had to go back home and take a one-hour nap before I drove clear to Lincoln.”

Poppe said they moved into the building that is now Cotton Empire for a short time before moving to their current location at 200 Central Avenue in 1976. 

In 1984, Poppes bought out of the franchise to computerize, a process H&R Block wasn’t quite ready for. 

While moving to computers streamlined the process, feeding pages through a dot matrix printer was a bit more time consuming than today’s electronic filing method. 

After a few years of testing, the IRS offered the e-file service nationwide in 1990. Poppe’s Tax Service jumped on board soon thereafter. 

In addition to Eichner, Steve Mailand of Grant joined the business in 2001, and Sherry Chandler of Ogallala has been there 17 years.

Ken Pankonin has been having his taxes prepared with the business all 50 years.  

With the growing popularity of online tax preparation, Eichner said it’s no different than what any other brick and mortar business is dealing with. 

“It never hurts to look somebody in the eye. In a small town, everybody’s here to help you. And competition makes you strive to be a better business,” she said. 

The Grant Tribune-Sentinel

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