For two third-generation auto dealers, opening a new auto sales business in their hometown is second nature.
First cousins Greg and Tim Schmitz have been assisting Perham residents with their vehicle needs ever since they first entered the working world. "We started washing cars for our dads in the early 70's," recalls Greg.
"My grandfather started the Ford dealership back in 1920," Greg tells of their family history. "At one time, we were the sixth oldest Ford dealership in Minnesota."
With Tim and Greg's dads eventually taking over ownership of the local Ford dealership, the two grew up immersed in the auto business. They went from washing cars, to doing oil changes, and eventually graduated to the responsibility of selling vehicles. When their dads retired 15 years ago, Tim and Greg took over ownership of the business.
In 2005, they sold the Schmitz family Ford dealership to Kevin Phelps. Phelps operated the business until late this summer, when the business closed. Throughout the Phelps ownership, both Tim and Greg stayed on staff.
Now, everything has come full circle for the pair of cousins, and once again they will be managing their own Perham auto business. Schmitz Motor Company, Inc. officially opened at the end of November.
The new and used auto dealership is located on Main Street, next to Schmitz Body, Paint, and Repair. The auto body shop is owned by Greg's brother, Tommy, who started the business in the early 1980's.
"He used to rent from us; then he bought this place when he needed more space," says Greg, explaining how his brother ended up at the Main Street location. "Now, we rent from him."
Before the building was ready for Tim and Greg to operate their auto business out of, an extensive remodel job needed to be completed. This left Tim and Greg with four months off of work, between the closing of Phelps Family Ford and the opening of Schmitz Motor Company.
After losing their jobs at Phelps, it didn't take long for Tim and Greg to realize that they wanted to start their own auto dealership and get right back into the business. According to Greg, the time away from the business just made him realize how glad he was to be back doing what he enjoys. "There's a satisfaction in matching someone with the right vehicle," Greg says of his job.
"The reason we've been around a long time is because people can trust us with the vehicles they buy," he continues. To maintain a fresh inventory, they go to auction three times a week, and sell all types of used vehicles.
"Tim does a lot of the buying," Greg explains. Most of the other responsibilities are divided between the two. Also working in the new office is sales representative/ manager Gary Kurtz.
Hours at Schmitz Motor Company are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Saturday. They are also available by appointment.
After 30 years in the auto business, cousins Tim and Greg Schmitz have once again returned to the part of the business they love. So far, Greg says he's found it a lot less stressful being an owner of a smaller business, compared to working in a larger operation.
"The selling part was always the most fun," Greg admits.