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Tom Peitz
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After 75 years, small-town service remains unchanged

— Trisha Benton Cedar County News COLERIDGE — Hefner Oil & Feed Co. was built on service that has stood the test of time.

“I wouldn’t want to give that up,” said owner Kerry Hefner. “We’re not always the best price. … If we can sell our service with what we do, that helps tremendously.”

The Coleridge business was o$cially incorporated by Elroy and Gerhardt “Short” Hefner — Kerry’s uncles — in December 1947. Kerry’s father, George, bought into the business a few years later. Gerhardt left the business some time later.

"They were very diversified. They did service work, tires, tank wagon and the feed business. They had a lot of dierent avenues to generate income," he said. “I think that was an excellent vision.”

Kerry has been working alongside his father at the business since he was 8 years old.

"Dad showed me how to fix a tire when I was 10. I was always under his feet,” he said. “He did make me work another job for one summer just so I had to work for someone else.”

But he never imagined doing anything else but being a part of the family business, and bought into it in the early 1990s. “I have no regrets for doing this basically my entire life,” Kerry said.

He said the business has undergone many changes in the last 75 years.

The front-end of the business was remodeled, turning the "grease room" into a large o$ce in 1963. Three years ago, another renovation updated flooring and paint, turning the interior from retro to modern, Kerry said.

Perhaps the largest change came about 20 years ago when Hefner Oil dropped its feed arm of the business.

“When I started managing, my focus was the fuel delivery and farm tire repair. We expanded that and let the feed go by the wayside,” he said.

Throughout 75 years in business, some things have definitely stayed the same. The cash register and the front display case counter are perhaps the only really remaining original items.

“They bought it (cash register) used when they started the business and we still use it every day,” Kerry said.

The location and structure of the business in downtown Coleridge has remained the same. Fuel pumps in the front drive have been upgraded over the years but remain in the same location.

The full-service fuel pumps is a rarity by today’s standards and can take people by surprise, Kerry said.

“We have pumped gas for 75 years. If you pull in for gas, we will pump your gas and wash your windshield and if your tire light is on, we’ll check your tire,” he said.

Many people may also be unaware of other services the business oers such as windshield chip repair and small engine repair.

And then there’s the unwavering service which started in 1947 and continues today with the new generation of Hefner Oil employees.

In the early days, Elroy and George Hefner employed many high-schoolers over summer break.

“They took a lot of pride in that,” Kerry said and he continues that tradition today, estimating 20-30 high school kids working for the business over the years.

He said it’s very rewarding to see a young worker go from being timid to flourishing with customers. Kerry said he’s “truly blessed” to employ hard workers who have been leading the way in customer service for decades including Terry Burbach with 41 years; Jeremy Bruning with 28 years; and Nick Frerichs with 18 years. Kerry’s wife, Janice, has been involved in the oce work for the last six years. In appreciation for the community’s support for 75 years, Hefner invited the public to celebrate with lunch at the Coleridge Community Building Saturday. "Seventy-five years is a good

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3 69 run,” Kerry said.