Little Ely model water towers are spreading world-wide thanks to entrepreneur’s vision

Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 5:11 PM CDT
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ELY, MN. (Northern News Now) - Ely’s population has shrunk 33% between 1970 and 2020 according to census data. That means small business people like Dave Schmidt have to think big to survive. Dave’s business is diverse and is called Wolfland Computer and Hobby. The store on Sheridan Street makes most of its money from fixing computers.

Three different water towers from Ely have been modeled and sold across the globe
Three different water towers from Ely have been modeled and sold across the globe(kbjr)

“Dave is such a great guy, he knows everything there is to know about computers. I don’t think I’d go to anybody else but him. said computer repair customer Prudy LaLone.

And I really appreciate my customers, that’s the most important thing. Without my customers I couldn’t be here.” said Dave Schmidt.

The hobby side of the business is arguably more fun than fixing recalcitrant computers. He offers plastic model kits like the ones his generation grew up with but 3D printing of accessories for model railroads and NASCAR dioramas is really creating interest.

“3D printing is pretty fun but there’s a steep learning curve to learn how to do it depending on what you’re printing.” said Schmidt.

Click above for the video version of the Little Ely story

Schmidt has learned that his years as a Navy contractor installing missile systems means he can make a good model missile. But, mini-water towers, especially Ely’s, have become his forte.

“It was a fluke, I just started thinking out of the box almost four years ago now and when I put it on the What’s Up Ely page it just went viral.” said Schmidt.

The model water towers are nicknamed Little Ely and photographer Eric Sherman has been posing them all over the world. They’ve popped up from Africa to the arctic.

“It was so much fun, it made people happy. That’s my whole goal of the business to make people happy, that’s what I like to do.” said Schmidt.