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Longtime Fordyce family business is sold

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FORDYCE – Doug Stevens is ready to drive into retirement.

The 66-year-old recently retired and sold his Fordyce business – Stevens Auto Repair – to Farmers Union Cooperative Gas & Oil of Hartington, which also owns the adjacent Wiebelhaus Service station.

Stevens said selling his auto repair shop was a good opportunity, saying the co-op knows how to operate a business.

“That was really important to me,” Stevens said, noting he wanted whoever bought his shop to run it like a business.

“This small town needs all the businesses it can have, just like all small towns,” he said. “That was really important.”

His business shared a common wall with the co-op’s Wiebelhaus Service – a bar and gas station that has the nickname of “The Mall” – which used to be owned by Dick and Barb Wiebelhaus, Stevens’ uncle and aunt.

“We get along just fine,” Stevens said, laughing. “It’s been a pretty good relationship.”

Doris Feilmeier, the co-op’s manager, noted Farmers Union shared the common wall with Stevens’ business for about 12 years and was one of the main reasons for the co-op buying the auto repair shop.

When the co-op first took over Wiebelhaus Service, the common wall could have been a problem, but it never was.

“We got along perfectly with Doug,” Feilmeier said.

Stevens noted he never advertised that the auto repair shop was for sale before the co-op bought it.

“They showed interested in buying it,” Stevens said. “As time went along, it was pretty easy. We just talked amongst (ourselves).

“We threw some numbers back and forth,” he said. “Eventually, we arrived at some things that we all mutually agreed upon.”

The co-op officially took over Stevens’ business at the start of January and renamed it as Fordyce Auto Repair.

Kerry Steffen, who grew up and lives in rural Fordyce, is a mechanic who has been put in charge of running the business.

Feilmeier noted Steffen was looking to do more in-depth automotive repair work.

“We had this opportunity to move him over there since Doug was retiring,” Feilmeier said. “We could pick up another place and yet not lose our employee and then be able to service a bigger area.”

Stevens explained he has been at the auto repair shop nearly every day since the co-op started operating the business to assist Steffen as the shop has changed hands.

“Part of the agreement was that I help him in the transition – talking to people and doing different things,” Stevens said.

“People have to be a little patient,” he said. “He walked in there and didn’t know where tools were, didn’t know what was what.”

Stevens noted Steffen’s rural Fordyce background helps because he is a familiar face to the area.

“He knows people,” Stevens said. “He’s from around here, so he knows the people and that makes a difference. And he’s willing to work – that’s huge.”

Stevens expected Steffen to do just fine developing working relationships with longtime customers of the business as well as new ones.

“He had a full load of work when he got here,” Stevens said. “When he got here, he had work to do – and that’s good.

“It always will be that way,” he said. “I’ve always been busy. The area treats me really well.”

Before selling it to the co-op, Stevens’ business had been in his family since 1959, when his father, Jerry, started it.

The younger Stevens – at the age of 24 – bought the auto repair shop from his father in 1980.

“I basically grew up here,” Stevens said. “I can give you about four or five names where I work for their kids now, and I’ve worked for their dads, and when I was first getting started, I worked for their grandpas.”

Stevens’ roots in Fordyce run deeper than just the auto repair shop he recently sold. He grew up and lives in the Cedar County community.

In addition to him, various family members of his have owned a number of businesses in the town at one time or another.

Stevens’ grandfather, Bill Wiebelhaus, bought the community’s only gas station in the late 1930s.

The auto repair shop was moved from its original location a short distance away and the gas station was added on to it in 1961.

About two years later, Stevens’ father and uncle Gene Wiebelhaus started S&W Trucking, located near the shop.

Stevens’ father later sold his part of the trucking business to Stevens’ uncle Dick Wiebelhaus, who also owned the gas station at the time.

Stevens enjoyed owning and operating a business in Fordyce, a community of about 130 people.

“It’s all about the people,” Stevens said. “The farmers around here and the people in town – sure, you’ve got to do your job, you’ve got to work – but they treat you so well.

“You’re talking about a town of under 200 people – and I’ve made a great living here,” he said. “The people around here – they’re the reason why it’s been here so long.” Stevens reiterated he is pleased Farmers Union took over the auto repair shop and is willing to keep running it as a business.

“I could’ve closed it and made a hobby shop out of it,” Stevens said. “I didn’t want that. I wanted it to be a business. That was really important.”

Feilmeier expressed the co-op’s gratitude to Stevens and his wife, Joni, for the chance to take over his business.

“We thank Doug and Joni Stevens for giving us the opportunity to purchase the place so we can continue on his fine service to Fordyce and the surrounding areas,” Feilmeier said.

Stevens will fully retire at the end of the 2022-23 academic year after more than three decades as a school bus driver – mainly for West Catholic Elementary in Fordyce and later East & West Catholic Elementary in Bow Valley.

He noted he does not really have any set plans for his retirement, but he intends to spend more time with his wife, who retired this past May from her role as business manager for All Saints Parish in Fordyce.

Stevens and his wife’s two children – Kyle Stevens and Kelsey Johnson – both live in the Wausa area and each of them has three children with their respective spouses.

“I want to be able to do some traveling,” the older Stevens said. “We want to do some things that we haven’t been able to do for a long time.

“We’re going to follow our grandkids a bunch,” he said. “We like to fish, like to play golf. We’re going to entertain ourselves and see how it goes.”

Fordyce Auto Repair is located at 55806 888th Road on the northwest edge of the community and may be reached by phone at 402-3573766.