For Donald "Red" Blommer, that was the point. He was ready to be his own boss. He had worked for Jack Lutgen at Lutgen Auto Electric for 22 years. Ever since he was 19 years old. "I was just out of the service," Blommer said. "A friend of the family mentioned Jack was looking for someone. I didn't even own a car." For that matter, neither did Blommer's father.
So without any specific knowledge or training, Blommer approached Lutgen. "Ever since I was a kid I liked taking things apart," Blommer said. Apparently that was good enough for Lutgen. Lutgen had always promised to sell Blommer the business, but when the time came the sale wasn't so clear cut. "Jack had a son about to retire from the Air Force. He changed his mind about selling me the business so his son could take it over." Blommer was within a day of going off on his own to start a competing business when Lutgen changed his mind again and sold the business to Blommer. "Jack was really a good guy," Blommer said. "And it all worked out very well.
Within two years of purchasing the business, Blommer needed to expand and moved to their current location on the east side of St. Cloud. "No one can ever find us," he said of the large yellow building, with bold black lettering located on East St. Germain Street. "I always say, 'Do you know where Val's is?' And everyone does. We're across the street." "We used to fight that," Blommer's son Steve said. "But we finally gave up and just go with it." Steve is the manager of the east-side location.
In 1984 the company outgrew their building and decided to expand on the west end of town. Blommer's son, Tom, is in charge of that location. "Business is about equal at both shops," according to Tom. "We don't advertise at all," Blommer said. "All of our business is referral." Blommer credits the excellent service they offer and their fast turn-around. "We get a lot of agricultural business," he said. In fact, it's their primary source of business. "We try to give them 24 hour service because if they can't get back to work they're losing money."
Unlike most Minnesotans, Blommer and his sons look forward to very hot and very cold weather. "That's best for business," Blommer said. The slower times are Easter and when school starts. Blommer credits his employees with much of the company's success. Most of them are self-taught, some have mechanical training from a technical college. The one with the shortest tenure has been with the company for five years. "I have one employee who is 74 years old. He's been with the business since day one. There are others with 20 and 25 years here."
At 74 Blommer still comes in regularly to help with the business. "I started slowing down about five years ago," he said. And he does take three months off in the winter to go south. "I like to hunt, so I hunt right up until we leave." Owning a business has its drawbacks, Blommer said. "You live with the business 24 hours a day." On the other hand, it has its good points. "Naturally, I've enjoyed the financial reward. But the best part is being able to call the shots -being your own boss."