Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Goldberg Family Bonds

Goldberg may not be the most common name in Minnesota. But thanks to the signs that say "GOLDBERG BAIL BONDS" on benches and buses across the Twin Cities, Goldberg is one of the most recognizable names.

This week, Goldberg Bonding celebrated its 100th anniversary of getting people out of jail. To mark the occasion, Scott Goldberg met Patti Goldberg for the first time.

"Are we related?" I asked.

"Yes, we are," she laughed.

We're really not.

But the way Goldberg (Patti) sees it, everyone who visits her office - even if their last name isn't Goldberg - is family.

"We are families serving families for 100 years," she said. "Pretty damn good."

Patti owns the bail bonding business that's been passed through her (actual) family since 1908. Her grandfather, Morris, was a Russian immigrant in Saint Paul who helped other immigrants with legal issues.

Morris' business turned into the bonding business, which Patti's father, Bud, took over in 1957. Bud then turned over the business to Patti in 1997.

"I swore, like every girl would, that they'd never work in daddy's business," she said.


"Because when everybody says 'What does your dad do?' they say 'doctor,' (or) 'insurance,' and I'd be like, 'bail bondsman,' " she said, covering her face in mock shame.

Bail bonding has kind of a weird image, thanks very much to the popular A&E series "Dog the Bounty Hunter."

Dog, a cross between a Hell's Angel, a heavy metal groupie, and a post-apocalyptic warrior, rides around with a tattooed posse hunting down fugitives who jumped bail.

"We gotta be really careful," Dog said in a typical episode, speaking into a two-way radio while he was in hot pursuit of someone. "He's gonna be really schizo."

To be sure, Dog's last name is not Goldberg.

Patti explains her business like this: "Someone's in jail, they get a bail set, someone calls us, we post their bail, we get them out of jail."

And if someone jumps bail, Goldberg uses a private investigator to track them down. She said only about six percent of Goldberg bail jumpers are never found.

Goldberg Bonding celebrated its anniversary Wednesday night with a reception in the rotunda at Minneapolis City Hall. Patti introduced just about everyone there as a member of her family.

"This is my Saint Paul family," she said in a typical exchange.

Her business family now has six offices across the state and also works in Iowa and the Dakotas.

"I'm working with women and fathers and mothers and girlfriends who are just really upset their loved one is in jail," she said.

It's a family that spent the last century adding relatives, like this reporter, or at least making sure everyone recognized the family name.

And as I left her office, she said, "Thank you, my new relative."

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