WEBSTER, S.D.-The teenaged entrepreneur who started and owned Rubber Tech, a tire recycling facility in Webster, has left town with his family, leaving behind a warehouse full of tires that were never recycled and a number of residents thousands of dollars poorer, according to Day County Sheriff Sy Herrick. Now Mr. Herrick said he doesn't know what is going to be done with the quartered tires ``stacked from the floor to the ceiling'' in the Webster warehouse.
He also doesn't know what is going to be done with teenager Kyle Obenauer, who started Rubber Tech in 1992, and his family, who Mr. Herrick and other sheriff departments in the state said have left failed businesses ``overnight'' in other South Dakota cities.
``I don't know where they are, and I don't care. They're not here anymore,'' Mr. Herrick said, noting he had received complaints about Rubber Tech since it opened for business.
When TIRE BUSINESS interviewed Mr. Obenauer in February 1993, he said he expected Rubber Tech to post revenues of $750,000 by the end of that year. Six months later, the family disappeared.
Mr. Obenauer didn't recycle the tires he collected and rarely made payments on his warehouse and truck leases or paid his employees, Mr. Herrick said.
When paychecks started bouncing, the Day County Sheriff's Office opened an investigation.
Although Mr. Herrick said he is aware of a man who invested $8,000 and a woman who invested $5,000 in the company, no one has pressed charges. ``People felt so...foolish that they just chalked the money up as a loss,'' he said.
Apparently others felt similarly after losing money on a cement business in Roscoe in 1979 and a closet insert and furniture factory in Vermilion in 1991, both failed business attempts by the Obenauers before they moved to Webster.
Vermilion Development Director Randy Harper said he believes Dallas Obenauer, Kyle's father, did not open the Closet Shop as a scam-rather it was a business venture gone bad.
Still, those ideas have cost landlords and investors thousands of dollars, according to a spokeswoman for the South Dakota Department of Consumer Protection, which has issued an order forbidding the family to start another business in the state and is trying to track them down to pay restitution to past employees.
A spokesman for the South Dakota Environment and Natural Resources Department said the state is leaving disposal of the tires to the landlord.