Chip Peterson is well-known around the city of Farmington for the many things he’s accomplished as a businessman, but also for the high standards by which he tries to conduct his business and life.
He grew up in Flat River (Park Hills) and then went on to Desloge High School and graduated from North County High School. Following high school, he attended the University of Colorado.
Peterson is an extremely successful entrepreneur who has, along with his business partner Joe Burgess, accomplished much to change the look of Farmington. Beyond that, Peterson, along with his wife Debbie, have taken part in a number of local charity events through the years and have shown incredible generosity of both their money and time in meeting the needs of others who could use a helping hand.
One of the couple’s best-known events is the annual Christmas dinner that feeds more than 900 people each year — for both those who might not otherwise have a meal, as well as those who want to spend the holiday with others. It’s held at CiCi’s one of the restaurants they own in town.
While Peterson is proud of all he’s accomplished in life, it might surprise many to hear what he believes is his greatest accomplishment.
“I spoke at a church one time and they said, ‘Can you speak about your greatest achievements?’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s not a problem at all. I unrolled this big piece of paper and said, ‘Hang on to your hats — my kids Katelin, Harry and Parks.’ That’s it. That’s your job. That’s what you get measured by. Anything else is just an occupation and hobbying… whatever.
“We have three great kids. Debbie is really the driving force behind that. I was awfully busy when we first moved back. I was with Pepsi, but when I left Pepsi and came back here and did this crazy development thing, we gave up golf, we gave up everything because I knew it would take a lot of time and it did.
“We got really lucky. Our three kids moved back to the area. They all went out and got their own degrees. Both boys got MBAs from Lindenwood. Katelyn got her doctorate in physical therapy from the Northeast Missouri State in Maryville. They all by their own choice decided to move back here.
Peterson said his oldest son Harry was working for American Family Insurance when he received an offer by the company to move to Louisville, Colorado, which was voted the number one town in the country to live. But then he received a call from his company two days later.
“‘So, we see you’re from Missouri, they said. We actually have an agency back there in a small community. Are you interested?’ Harry said, I maybe would have waited four or five years because my wife is from Russellville and I’m from Farmington. Where’s it at?’ They said, ‘Farmington.’
When Peterson speaks to youth groups, he always gives them one piece of advice.
“One thing I will guarantee you is you won’t end up doing what you think you are.” He said. “Every little piece of information that comes your way, take advantage of it. Try to learn something from it because you never know what you’re going to use. Every one of us can have an impact.”
Asked if he and Debbie moved back to Farmington because of their kids, Peterson said, “I was with Pepsi. I had a great career with Pepsi, but you came home one night and realized I hadn’t seen Harry awake for two weeks. Parks was not too far from being born and I told Debbie, ‘This is not really what I wanted.
“You set your goal and you work towards it. I think I was the youngest guy at Pepsi, and I was also the last one still married. It required a lot of time and a lot of entertaining. It just wasn’t real conducive in my mind to a good family life at that point. We were in our 30s and I told Debbie, ‘Now’s the time for us to try something on our own. If it doesn’t work, we can always go back to what we were doing before. We thought we’d give it a roll.”
On one of the family’s visits back to Farmington, the couple had an epiphany.
“We just happened to be back visiting both of our parents at Christmas,” he said. “We were watching the Christmas Parade downtown. It was one of those Norman Rockwell nights. The lights were on and snow was on the ground. At that time, it was a non-motorized parade and we both turned to each other and said, ‘We need to get back here and raise our kids. We didn’t know how we were going to do that.
“Over the next several months, Joe and I just kind of wandered into each other and had this wild idea. It just kinda’ went from there. Our intent was to come back here and raise our family. If we did anything right, we taught our kids the value of small communities and it takes a village to raise a good family. They all came back here and raised their families.”
Peterson said the most difficult thing about being a dad was “the fear of screwing up.”
“Especially the first time around,” he said. “You basically get it from your mentors and people that taught you. I was really fortunate. I had two grandfathers that were great, great men in their own right. One was a superintendent of schools and the other one was a self-taught businessman who really had no education. He left school in third grade but was financially the most successful of the two.
“My dad was a big mentor who always treated people right. He was a fanatic about never lying and being really positive. So, I was real fortunate. I had two mentor grandfathers and my dad who was a great mentor and a loving guy. If anything, he loved too much… loved people too much. He was funny too.
Peterson explained that passing on to his children all that he had learned from his mentors came down to one thing.
“The number one thing is your actions,” he said. “You figure that out pretty quick when you get Father’s Day cards. You never know what impact you’re having, but they always find those little minutes it seems like to communicate, ‘I learned this from you.’
“You never know what you’re teaching because it’s usually in the toughest hours when you’re not thinking about teaching when you’re teaching. That’s when they learn from you.
“How do you handle stress? How do you handle adversity? Everybody has things go wrong. It’s how you deal with it that dictates your character and that’s when your kids are really watching.”