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Working together
Ashley and Jeremiah Kleiber have been successful business owners for 15 years in Lafayette County. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
DARLINGTON - Once young competitors who met at the Lafayette County Fair, the relationship between Jeremiah and Ashley Kleiber quickly blossomed into a romance and has grown into a sweet story of small town roots, entrepreneurial spirit and do-it-yourself success.

Ashley, 33, graduated from Black Hawk High School in 2002 and laughs when she talks about the unusual development and speed of their relationship.

"She tells it better than me," said Jeremiah, 38, a 1998 Darlington graduate.

"We showed against each other in the fair," Ashley said. "We didn't actually speak, but I did talk to his dad. Seven years later I ran into him at a bar in Shullsburg and I recognized him. I didn't know his name, but asked him if he showed. That was on a Friday. We went on a first date a week later, got engaged four days after that and married within a year."

Twelve years later, the pair now owns four business ventures and are keeping their eyes out for more.

"He thinks work is fun," Ashley teased her husband. "I tell him all the time he's half-retired because he's working for himself."

Jeremiah and his father spent time woodworking as a hobby years ago before taking on paid jobs. He also invested in rental properties. When he met Ashley, their ventures continued down the same path with the opening of Ashley's business Renui Salon and Spa in 2007.

"His business was established, so he was able to take three months off of work," Ashley said. "We bought my building, gutted it and re-worked it and then continued on from there. If he wasn't self-employed, that would have been very difficult."

Over 100 years old, 401 Main Street in Darlington is on the list of National Register of Historic Places. In 1917, a fire nearly destroyed the entire building.

"A year ago this month we finished a remodel of on the salon's basement," Ashley said. "The wood pillars were still charred from the fire."

As a surprise gift, Jeremiah hunted down a pair of photos from that fateful day in 1917 which depict the fire department shooting water into the second floor to put out the blaze. It now hangs inside Ashley's building. Jeremiah also made a glass window in the entrance of the salon using electrical tape and sand blasting.

In 2008, Jeremiah took a position with the Brodhead location of agriculture machinery dealer Kuhn North America Inc. In January 2016, he decided to go back to being his own boss and delved in to yet another business venture. It was then that Pec Time Tubing in Argyle, a seasonal, recreational river tubing business, was born.

"I could bear the load of the finances; my salon was established," Ashley said. "This way we could jump in and he could start a new business."

The couple has dealt with all of the red tape that goes with business ownership including rules, regulations and insurance. Jeremiah said once they added buses to Pec Time Tubing, it brought in a whole new world of learning. Landing permits caused a bit of a wait, and the two had some uncertainty about how they would be received in a community neither are from.

Despite some obstacles, the two have received a warm welcome.

"Our experience has been great," Ashley said. "Argyle as a whole has been fantastic."

The couple owns more rental properties now as well as their own hobby farm, Arbor Crest Acres in Darlington. They said they were interested in growing their own food, thereby knowing where it came from. They started with chickens and things increased from there.

"If we wanted to raise one chick, why not raise 100?" Jeremiah joked.

Together, the couple finds almost nothing seems impossible.

"I cannot deny that his skillset is vast and it is very good," Ashley said. "The woodworking, general construction, all of that has played a part of why it works for us. I was born and raised on a farm so I had to work, too. He works right alongside me and what I don't know he teaches me. That's how it works."

Along with running several businesses, the couple has also found time in past years to foster children. Ashley said she isn't one to sit around or become bored. She loves to keep busy. She even became an EMT in Darlington, creating friendships along the way.

Ashley said the couple has always kept farming in mind, which is likely their final goal.

"Both of our parents still farm," she said. "Keeping our eye out for farmland is something we are always actively doing. In the end, that would be our retirement."

For now, the ideas for life's next big adventure are seemingly never-ending.

Ashley has tossed around the idea of a tiny house village; Jeremiah has thought about Airbnb options.

Their parents, though supportive, have hinted to the couple they might want to slow down in their endeavors, but for now, the couple is happy where they're at - enjoying what 12 years of hard work has brought to the table.

"I always wanted to own my own (salon), but to be honest, in my younger years I figured it wouldn't happen until I was 35," Ashley said. "So, to be 22 was really far earlier than I anticipated."

Ashley said it was likely because of encouragement from Jeremiah, and noted she's content to keep their lives the same for a while. But Jeremiah wasn't convinced.

"Give her time," he said. "She'll see something."