Wiebe's Garage has two generations; half-century 'under the hood' in Ottertail
When Delmer Wiebe first started working with his father in the family auto repair shop, he was just 10 years old.
Back in the 40's, Wiebe recalls that the shop and the work he helped his father with were quite different from today.
"The times have changed," he says. "It used to be tractors and vehicles--now I mostly do vehicle repair."
He started out learning the trade working on bicycles and outboard motors that people would bring into the shop. Then, when he was 19 years old, Wiebe left for the service for four years.
It was during this time that Wiebe got his chance to tour the world. "I was on a flight crew when I was overseas," tells Wiebe. While with the flight crew Wiebe worked on aircraft with 18 and 28 cylinder engines. His time in the military ended up taking him to five different states and six foreign countries, including time spent literally on the opposite side of the world in Asia.
However, after he was done in the military, it was the small town of Ottertail that Wiebe decided to call home. He went back to his hometown and once again began working in the shop his dad started in 1927.
Wiebe has now lived in Ottertail for 51 years, and has been in business at Wiebe's Garage that entire time. This legacy makes the local garage the oldest family business in town.
"Time goes by pretty fast," says Wiebe, who has purchased computerized equipment throughout the years to keep up with all the changes in automotive service and repair.
Although his brick storefront shop on Main Street looks almost exactly the same as it has for decades, Wiebe says that he remembers a time where his view down Ottertail's main corridor was very different. "There used to be a restaurant and grocery store across the street," he recalls, adding how the city's historic brick creamery building has been one of a few staple sights.
Despite his advancing years, Wiebe keeps hard at work in the shop. Even while being interviewed, he was interrupted several times by the incessant ringing of the shop's phone. It was a snowy day and townsfolk were calling in their locations to have Wiebe come with his rig and pull them out of whatever ditch they were in. He can even list off a handful of area lakes he's pulled vehicles out of.
The Ottertail shop itself looks much the same as it has for years, with a half-century worth of various automotive gadgetry hanging throughout the long, narrow building. One side of the building houses the front desk and storage area, with the other side open for an indoor spot to work on cars.
Wiebe says his dad used to work on a lot of tractors in the shop area, but then the tractors got bigger and they couldn't fit them into the shop anymore. However, it's plenty large for modern vehicles, and Wiebe always has more than enough projects on his hands on any given day. He says he likes doing tune-ups the best.
Although most of his work days involve automobiles, Wiebe says he still gets a few unique jobs here and there. There's the occasional lawn mower... and even a bicycle every once in awhile.
As for the question of how long he'll keep the landmark Ottertail shop open?
"As long as I can," he quickly responds. "The doctor says to just keep doing what I'm doing."