Zumbrota Ford to celebrate grand re-opening
By Marilyn Anderson
ZUMBROTA – Following a year-long renovation project that extended from one end of Zumbrota Ford to the other, owner Steve Johnson is looking forward to celebrating. Arrangements are being completed for a three-day grand re-opening celebration Thursday through Saturday, July 31-August 2. Zumbrota Ford is located at the intersection of Highways 52 and 58 at 1600 Main Street in Zumbrota.
Johnson said,“Come see what we have done and celebrate with us.” Hot dogs, pop and ice cream will be available throughout the event with additional catered food available 4-7 p.m. on July 31. Guests will receive gifts, with special gifts for customers purchasing vehicles. Several door prizes will be awarded including a golfing vacation package to the Brainerd lakes area, a grill, and tickets to Vikings and Gopher football games.
“Really a new building”
Johnson said with only two of the original four walls of the building remaining and the roof replaced, the end result is “really a new building” in what has been the biggest project of his business career.
Johnson said the lengthy project was “kind of like a marathon.” He praised everyone involved in the project – both the workers doing the construction and the Zumbrota Ford employees. The business remained open and served customers throughout the process, with the exception of one day when the service department was shut down. Johnson compared the effort as being similar to “overhauling a car engine, but while you are going down the road.” He added that while there was inconvenience, the end result was worth it. “It was time to either build for the future or fall behind,” he said. People have thanked Johnson for investing in the community. “There will be a Ford dealership in town for years to come,” Johnson said.
The project progressed from west to east with the service department and the new Quick Lane Tire & Auto Services completed over the winter. Johnson said customers, especially commuters, appreciate the extended hours offered (7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. on Saturday).
While the parts area had little change in square footage, it gained nearly 50 percent more available space as it is now better organized. File cabinets and other items that had been in the area are now in appropriate areas.
The lounge and welcome/reception areas have been completely renovated. The lounge offers a comfortable area for customers to wait while work is being done on their vehicles with coffee, bottled water, popcorn and free Wi-Fi available. The light maple color of the cupboards and tables match the chairs and desks in the welcome and reception area. Johnson pointed out that the previous drop ceiling in the reception area had been raised. That change, along with the soft gray polished ceramic floor tile add to a brighter area than it was. The space was also enlarged making for “no more musical desks.” The addition of a u-shape reception desk will be completed after the grand re-opening.
The number of employees has increased over the past year. Zumbrota Ford now has thirty-six full-time and eight part-time employees. Long-time employee, Jerry Hinrichs, began work at Bob Seely Ford in October, 1961 and currently works part-time at Zumbrota Ford. See separate story about Hinrichs and some of the other changes that have occurred over the years.
Fifteen years of Zumbrota Ford
Robert Seely purchased Zumbrota Motors, located at 448 Main Street, on October 1, 1954. The business moved to its current location at 1660 Main Street in 1967. Perry Weeks, a longtime employee at Bob Seely Ford, purchased the business on May 1, 1980, and retained the business name during his 19 years of ownership. Steve Johnson bought Bob Seely Ford in April 1999, and it became Zumbrota Ford.
Johnson started his business career at the age of 18 as a salesman at the Ford dealership in St. Charles following high school graduation. The owner of the business was a friend of Bob Seely. After seven years, Johnson moved to Winona to begin work at the Ford dealership there. During his 11 years in Winona, Johnson married, started raising his family, and worked his way up to general manager. From Winona, the Johnsons moved to Farmington, where Steve was co-owner of the Ford dealership, a business that they later moved to Lakeville.
But Johnson decided to come to Zumbrota. He said, “I knew it could be exactly like St. Charles. I was convinced I could duplicate the same thing here.” He has met some of the children and grandchildren of some customers he had when he started out in St. Charles.
Johnson’s daughter, Kristin Johnson, joined Zumbrota Ford almost four years ago and is the sales manager. She worked with the Walser organization (auto-motive dealerships) in the Twin Cities for nine years. Future plans are for Kristin to some day take over the business.
Zumbrota Ford maintains an inventory of approximately 300 new and used vehicles on its 3-1/2 acre site. For additional information, including sales and service hours see http://www.zum brotaford.com/