By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — It’s not often that you find three generations of owners working at a car dealership.
Although the three owners, past and present, of what is now known as Colfax Chevrolet are not related, they tend to think of themselves as members of a family.
The history of the Chevrolet dealership in Colfax embodied by former owners Dave Hovre and Karl Rynish “is awesome,” said Scott Psak, the new owner of the business.
[emember_protected] “You don’t really see that anywhere else. I don’t think you could go to any other dealership in Wisconsin or Minnesota or anywhere around here and have what we have here,” he said.
Hovre joked when he sold the business to Karl Rynish, he had it put in the abstract that Hovre must continue to be employed at the dealership.
“And Karl put it in the abstract when he sold it to Scott,” Hovre said with a laugh.
“I think it’s something that’s really special, when you can have what we have here,” Psak said.
Psak and his wife, Shannon, purchased the business this spring.
Hovre bought the Chevrolet dealership from his father in 1977. Rynish bought the dealership from Hovre in 2000.
Hovre has continued working at the business since Rynish purchased it, and Rynish also intends to keep working at the dealership.
“I’ve been here 62 years,” Hovre said.
“I bought half of it in the early 60s, after we (Dave and Paula) got married. Dad had two partners. First it was Hovre-Wiseman. Then Cliff Peterson was a mechanic here. Clifford sold out to me in the 60s, when he went to the bank. And I bought my dad out in 1977,” Hovre said.
The dealership started in 1923 with Dave Hovre’s uncle, Gerhardt Hammer.
Dave Hovre’s dad, Orvil, bought the dealership from Gerhardt and Earl Hammer in 1956.
“Hammer had Goodyear tires. Frigidaire appliances. Allis Chalmers tractors. And Chevrolet,” Hovre said.
Don Wiseman was Juul Noer’s brother-in-law, he noted.
“Don sold his half to Cliff Peterson. And then I bought Cliff’s half. And Dad and I were together until I bought out his half,” Hovre explained.
Here to there
The car dealership started out in the building that now houses Twice Blessed Treasures, next to Tower Park.
But before the business became Hammer Chevrolet, it was the Colfax Auto Company.
“I never drank a beer in my life at work except for one day. Wayne Fehr at the bank said, ‘Let’s go to Jake’s for lunch.’ This (the building where Colfax Chevrolet is now located) had been repossessed many times. And now the bank owned it again. We went to Jake’s and had a burger and fries and a glass of beer. Wayne says, ‘what would you give me for the Ford garage.’ This used to be Ford. I made him an offer. And he said, ‘You just bought it,’” Hovre recalled.
“It took us a year to remodel it. I had all kinds of friends to help. My dad always said, ‘When Dave bought that, he had money, friends and beer.’ We put a refrigerator in the back here. And then my dad said, ‘When he got done with it, he had no money, no friends and no beer.’ I had a lot of help. We worked on it a year to get in here. But, it made us successful,” Hovre said.
Hovre moved into the current location of Colfax Chevrolet in 1985.
The building originally was a Ford garage and had a variety of owners: Suvada and Lofthus; Lofthus; Steve Figura; Pearly Entzminger. The building, at one time or another, housed a grocery store, the post office, a sheet metal shop, and a Ford garage, Hovre said.
The year Hovre was born, his family lived out by the Knapp Settlement schoolhouse.
“When I was a year old, Dad bought a farm by Elk Mound. Then when I was 15, we moved to Colfax. I got my driver’s license here in Colfax. Graduated from high school here in Colfax,” he said.
Years ago, “we’d be open Saturday and Saturday night. (The farm families) would come to town, and the men would go to the Ford and Chevy garage, and they’d take care of their bills for the month or whatever, and the women would go to the Farmers Store and buy their groceries for the week. We did a lot of business on Saturdays,” Hovre said.
Hovre said he could not talk about Hovre Chevrolet without giving credit to his wife, Paula.
“I could not have run the business without Paula,” Hovre said.
“She was my right-hand person. She did all of the accounting for us. She even washed new cars and got them cleaned up and ready. She did just about everything. We were partners in every sense of the word,” he said.
Even today, when Hovre goes to pick up or deliver cars, he says he depends on Paula to help him with the endeavor.
Rynish said he bought the business from Hovre for the same reason Psak bought it from him.
“I’d been in a car business a long time and wanted to have my own dealership. I heard about it and approached Dave, and we put a deal together. I think anyone who is in the car business, their ultimate goal is to have their own dealership,” Rynish said.
“Paula and I sat down. We didn’t know what to do. I called a couple of dealer friends. I sat down with Karl. I said, ‘do you want to do it?’ And he said, ‘I think I do.’ I’m not very good with a computer but I typed something up and took it over to his house, and we sat down. I said, ‘do you want to take this to your lawyer.’ And he said, ‘I don’t have a lawyer.’ He said, ‘did you take it to your lawyer?’ And I said, ‘I’ve never had a lawyer.’ And he said, ‘does it say what we discussed?’ And I said, ‘yes.’ And he said, ‘here.’ And he took a pen and signed it and gave me a check. And you just don’t do those kinds of things in the world today. It was very easy,” Hovre said.
When it was pointed out the agreement must have worked well, since Rynish and Hovre still appear to be friends, Hovre said, “Well, we’ve got to put on a good show.”
All three men laughed.
“They’ve both been good to me. It’s like a family,” Hovre said.
Rynish, who is originally from New Auburn, worked in Bloomer before coming to Colfax.
“The Chevy dealership. Southworth. I started there in 1986, until I bought this,” he said.
Psak grew up on a farm near Wheeler and went to school in Boyceville.
“I’ve been in the car business for about 20 years. I started at Menomonie Chrysler. I’ve been at a Ford dealership. I’ve been at another Chevy dealership before I came here. Like Karl said, if you’re good at what you do, and you’re motivated, you want to find something you can call your own,” Psak said.
“It was just a really good fit, for both of us. We have similar thought processes. We both want to treat people a certain way. We want to run the business in the same manner. It’s not about charging really high prices and trying to gouge everyone who comes in the door. I think it’s really special when you can walk in the door and know who you are talking to,” Psak said.
“To have the ability to talk to the owner, and to talk to people who can really help you at any time, that says a lot. Giving to the community is really important to me. It gives me and my wife an opportunity to do that. It’s been a dream of mine. It’s worked well for Karl and I, and with Dave’s support. It’s not very often that you can find three different individuals from three different generations who have the same thought processes and want to treat everybody the same way,” he said.
“I can’t wait for everyone to find out who I am and what we really have to offer. And I think they’ll be surprised to know that it’s no different than what it has been for the last 60 years,” Psak said.
“That’s what I’m excited for, when people find out what we really have going on. Yes, things may look a little bit different. And things may be done in a little bit different manner. But it’s to make people’s experiences better and a little bit different atmosphere and a little bit different product, but still treating people the same way. You don’t find that. You just don’t find that. I really, truly believe that,” Psak said.
“It’s an easy transition for us. I feel, anyway,” he said.
Rynish and Hovre agreed.
“I couldn’t have made it work without their support,” Psak said.
“I know people who can’t wait to retire after 20 years or 25 years. I’ve been here for 62 years!” Hovre said.
“There are a lot of things that are really important to me personally in my core beliefs. I think they all lined up with all three of us. Without everyone’s support, it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as easy as it has been,” Psak said.
“I hope they decide to stay for a really long time, come and go as they please, and still help out. That’s what I’m looking forward to,” he said.
“We do a lot of things that I know no one else does. Going to get people’s cars. Having them drop it off (in the morning before Colfax Chevrolet opens for the day). It’s the way things should be done,” Psak said.
“I could not have done it by myself. I would not have wanted it any other way,” he said.
Prior to buying Colfax Chevrolet, Psak worked at a dealership in Eau Claire.
He said he’d had it in mind for a while that he wanted his own car dealership, and he called Karl Rynish about buying the business.
Rynish was not necessarily looking to sell the business at the time.
“For me, it was an opportunity. And for him, I think the timing was just right,” Psak said.
Psak said he wanted to make it clear the transition of ownership for Colfax Chevrolet involves only him and his wife.
“It has nothing to do with anyplace else I’ve ever worked. I have no intentions of having it be any other way,” he said.
“This is something I have worked very hard for, and I take a lot of pride in it. It means a lot to me,” Psak said.
“I grew up on a farm, and when I got done with the daily chores, I would go to the neighbor’s house and ask them if they needed help. And they’d do the same. I like to live my life that way and run this business that way. Those are the things that are really important to me,” Psak said.
“My goal, when I sold it, was to have someone who kept it in town,” Hovre said.
“These little towns are dying in a lot of ways. It’s nice for Colfax. So many little towns do not have car dealerships,” he said. [/emember_protected]