Only 7 percent of all startup businesses (big and small) in the U. S. remain in business for 25 years or more.
AutoSource, Chilton is one of those businesses, this year marking its 25th anniversary.
“I think that is a big accomplishment,” said Kathy Schmitzer, AutoSource co-owner with her husband, Tom.
Bud Wieting and Tom started the business in 1987. Wieting knew about Tom’s past experience with auto and truck repair, and parts knowledge from when he was employed at the former Bumper to Bumper store in New Holstein, today the site of Innovative Auto Body. Tom had a degree in automotive mechanics from Fox Valley Technical College. Because he brought to the business auto technician experience, the two formed a partnership with Bud overseeing the parts department. At the onset Tom served as service writer and technician in the shop but within six months business thrived and another shop technician was added. Dick Schmitting served as the Bumper to Bumper parts department manager and Barb Wieting served as the bookkeeper. Bud ran a used car lot on what today is the Premier Financial Credit Union property on Chestnut Street. When there were dead spots in the AutoSource repair shop the open time slot was devoted to repairing those used cars. Business was also generated for the start-up business because Tom brought with him loyal customers and maintains them to this day, Kathy said.
It was in 1993 that Wieting’s interests moved in a different direction and the Schmitzers bought the business and have been the sole owners/operators since. At the start, Kathy confides that new business survival statistics were not in their favor. Kathy’s past experience was as an operations manager at a bank in Kiel, and with that had some previous financial management experience. At the time, the Schmitzers were raising three children at home but it all worked out, she said. All three of the Schmitzer children (Tom, Wendy and Jennifer) have worked at the business, either in delivery or the parts store.
Hiring qualified technicians was not always an easy thing and for years AutoSource offered scholarships to Fox Valley Technical College students in an effort to attract young people into the mechanical field. An abiding concern at the time was that gasoline engines would become short-lived. That theory exists today, but so far a more efficient means of powering a vehicle has not been found, Kathy said.
Today, including Tom, five technicians
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