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Vying for top dog status: CJ, Inc. thrives in tough global market

Brush cutters are only one of many different skid steer attachments made by Top Dog in Detroit Lakes. DL NEWSPAPERS/Paula Quam1 / 2
The company now works out of a building located at 1035 Hwy 59 S. in Detroit Lakes. DL NEWSPAPERS/Paula Quam2 / 2

It’s challenging to be considered top dog in the manufacturing business where competition can be fierce.

But for Detroit Lakes business owner Darren Bremseth, being top dog isn’t just a goal — it’s his business.

Top Dog Attachments, a skid-steer attachment manufacturing company, is one of three branches of business that fall under CJ, Inc, which is owned and operated by Bremseth.

The 1992 Detroit Lakes High School Graduate worked for 19 years at CJJ Inc., located behind the Sandbar in Detroit Lakes.

He first learned the ropes of manufacturing for the business that produced skid steer attachments and automobile frame straighteners; he then learned the business of selling them.

So when previous owner Charlie Beaton was ready to retire, Bremseth was prepared to buy the business he had spent nearly two decades learning about.

In Nov. 2012, he did just that and moved his new business across town to a building along Highway 59 south.

Bremseth re-named the parent company CJ, Inc. and began to figure out ways to help grow the three branches of his company — Top Dog Attachments, Star-A-Liner and AutoBodyShop.Com.

The next chapter

Bremseth knew he was investing in a business where he would need to do one thing — make his product stand out from the large number of competitors —mainly in the skid-steer attachment area.

“It was tough to make a good product better,” said Bremseth, “but what we did is we changed the quality of the steel to an A50, which is a better quality, and everything now is laser cut, and that’s a more precise cut.”

With decals on some of his equipment that read “American Made,” Bremseth and the experienced staff he brought over from CJJ Inc. began kicking out what they believe are top-of-the-line products made even better.

Those products are distributed through three different channels.

Top Dog Attachments

This is the branch of CJ, Inc that produces just about every kind of attachment imaginable for a skid steer.

“For the rock, brush cutters — everything,” said Bremseth, who says he sells to implement dealers, private buyers, Macs Hardware in town and customers all around the U.S.

Frame straighteners

CJ, Inc. also has two separate business branches that produce automobile frame straighteners — Star-A-Liner and AutoBodyShop.Com.

“Both of them are made to straighten the frame of a vehicle to bring it back to the manufacture’s specs,” said Bremseth. “Star-A-Liner is more for entry-level purchases, so they’re very affordable,” he added, pointing out the contrast of the frame straightener sold through AutoBodyShop.Com, which was visibly larger and more state-of-the-art. “Those usually go to the large dealerships and places like that,” he said.

Going global

When buying a large, steel, made-to-last product like what is made at CJ, Inc., the challenge lies in finding new customers.

That’s why Bremseth and his crew don’t stop at the state line or even the country’s border.

The eight employees generate drawings and create from scratch (with the help of some local sub-contractors) the products, which are then shipped to different parts of this country and at least 15 other countries.

“We’ve sold frame racks to Malaysia,  Saudi Arabia, Japan, and then a lot to the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada…” said Bremseth, pointing out one of his skid steer attachments that had the name “Top Dog” punched out of the metal. It’s a piece of equipment that may have started in a small shop in Detroit Lakes, but very well could end up half way around the world.

“Our goal I think is like most small businesses — and that’s just to grow,” said Bremseth, “and I see a lot of potential for that in this industry.”

And attaining that goal means constant attention to possible changes in the field.

“Vehicles change, manufactures change, so you have to keep up with what they’re doing — the frames the way they’re anchored … you have to have the right product for all of that,” said Bremseth.

For more information on the products, log on to for the skid steer attachments, for the entry level frame straighteners and for the more advanced frame straighteners.

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Paula Quam

Paula Quam is the editor for Forum Communications Co. newspapers in Detroit Lakes, Perham and Wadena, all in Minnesota.

(218) 844-1466