The Luther Automotive Group

Citing satisfying jobs, new retirees reminisce, appreciate stores

RL Toyota Parts Manager Tony Thompson, left, with 28-year parts veteran Joe Hallbeck, whose work can be traced to the previous GMC and motorhome franchise.

RL Toyota Parts Manager Tony Thompson, left, with 28-year parts veteran Joe Hallbeck, whose work can be traced to the previous GMC and motorhome franchise.

Each of their daily routines revolved around a large Luther dealership, and great

work environments. The first retiree closed out a nearly 30-year career in auto parts and the other finished up his second profession, working until age 81.

Parts counterman Joe Hallbeck with Rudy Luther’s Toyota came to the store in 1984, when it also had a GMC franchise and sold motor homes. The parts manager had graduated from the same high school in Princeton.

“It was a very homespun little group there (at RL Toyota),” said Hallbeck. Salespeople specialized in models like the Supra and Corolla. The top selling Camry debuted the next year.

The auto industry always had something new, said Hallbeck. Having a good knowledge base proved to be especially helpful in parts, where people call to “pick your brain and find out what you know.” Hallbeck said, “If you answer all their questions correctly, you become their parts guy.”

The parts man also enjoyed seeing celebrities come in, with former Timberwolves player Kevin Garnett and former Vikings John Randle and Randall McDaniel. Yet nearby Minneapolis didn’t detract from the family feel at the store. “It’s kind of small town at Rudy’s. It’s a big store, but close knit with the parts, service and cashiering. That was our little home town right there,” he said.

Hopkins Honda Service Director Roger Connolly, left and Assistant Service Manager Caroline Gates, right, thank shuttle driver Denny Theel for 15 years of service to the store.

Hopkins Honda Service Director Roger Connolly, left and Assistant Service Manager Caroline Gates, right, thank shuttle driver Denny Theel for 15 years of service to the store.

Another Luther longtimer found a later in life career at Hopkins Honda, where he worked until age 81. After allergies prevented him from continuing as a cobbler in orthopedics, Denny Theel took a position as a porter in service, which transitioned into making runs for dealer trades.

“Then, he tried to retire. It lasted about two weeks and (Assistant Service Manager) Caroline (Gates) called and asked him to come back to run the service shuttle,” said Customer Relations Manager Michelle Ally. That was in 2006.

Theel said he always enjoyed talking to people, the way staff members treated people and the store’s attitude toward employees. They made an impression. “It was nothing in particular but a little of everything together. Everybody there was pretty decent,” Theel said.

Earlier, Theel managed to clock 100,000 miles on the dealer trade truck, traveling through Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa and Wisconsin and putting in some long days.

Theel’s retirement plans are to winter in Texas and travel to Florida and to other southern states to meet up with old friends and relatives, some he hasn’t seen in well over 60 years. Hallbeck has an RV and is looking toward Wisconsin, with many hop-honda-denny-web2relatives there. “There are all sorts of places to travel to,” he said. “I can hang out, and spend the night all the way through.”

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