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Cassie (Herrmann) Wenzel ’07 and her husband, Jacob Wenzel, are the owners of Wenzel Properties LLC. They’ve been renovating properties in Manitowoc, Wis., the past 11 years.

Alumni Profile/Finding Beauty in Forgotten Homes

Steel-toed boots and an old St. Norbert College sweatshirt. That’s what Cassie (Herrmann) Wenzel ’07 wears to work pretty much every morning, and she wouldn’t want it any other way.

“It’s not a glamorous life by any means, but it’s a life I really enjoy,” she says.

Cassie and her husband, Jacob Wenzel, are the owners of Wenzel Properties LLC. They’ve been renovating properties in Manitowoc, Wis., the past 11 years.

Cassie and Jacob, who works full-time as an electrician, do all the labor themselves, never outsourcing to contractors. “We’re both very used to hard work,” says Cassie. “We grew up on dairy farms where our parents always did the work on their own.”

The Wenzels’ path to the property business began as a hobby. They bought their first property after Cassie graduated from St. Norbert when, due to the Great Recession, there were many low-priced properties for sale in the area, including on Marshall Street on the south side of the city. They soon expanded to a single-family residential area on the north side and then to their nearby hometown of Valders, Wis.

“It’s been a hobby that helps pay the bills. When we’re working on our own projects, the days just fly by,” says Cassie. “My goal, our goal, is to not be stuck in the corporate world, and Jake and I are almost there. Sitting in an office every day, not getting to work with our hands, not controlling our own day-to-day just wasn’t the life we wanted.”

So she left her job in public relations at Wisconsin Public Service four years ago to focus full-time on renovating properties. Since then, Wenzel Properties has grown from 14 units to 46.

One of their proudest remodels was a more-than-yearlong flip converting a dentist’s office into a six-unit apartment complex. The second floor, vacant for more than 30 years, had shag carpeting and green paneling. When they ripped up the carpet, they discovered 5,000 square feet of gorgeous maple hardwood floor, which Cassie refinished herself.

“Getting to work every day in my steel-toed boots and my old college sweatshirt shows exactly who I am,” says Cassie. “I’m someone who wants to bring out the beauty in buildings that have been forgotten.”

Curb appeal
As Wenzel and her husband buy and renovate properties in the same area of Manitowoc, Wis., the value of the properties and of the neighborhood as a whole improve. 

“We hear how Marshall Street used to be really bad, but the whole street has changed since we've stepped in,” says Cassie. 

Her husband, Jacob Wenzel, agrees. “You take this property that's rundown that no one wants, but then you fix it up and you get this great tenant. That first night you drive past seeing it lit up and full of life, that's probably the most rewarding thing.”

The Wenzels oversee 46 units, ranging from single-family residences to a rundown lumber yard that they hope to turn into an office and storage facility. 

July 1, 2019