Houston Ford in Pine River begins shift to new owner
In April, Houston Ford of Pine River began a process that will result in new ownership for the company possibly within the next five years. The process started when Dick Houston of Houston Ford approached Kade Vershey, general manager at that tim...
In April, Houston Ford of Pine River began a process that will result in new ownership for the company possibly within the next five years.
The process started when Dick Houston of Houston Ford approached Kade Vershey, general manager at that time for Dave Syverson's Auto Center in Albert Lea, and discussed an eventual buy-out of Houston's company. Vershey agreed and purchased partial shares of the company, becoming president and partner of the company for the time being.
"Dick and I started this process a little over a year and a half ago," Vershey said. "It just took a little while to get it put together. I started here April 1, and at some point - that day is not today - but at some point I will have 100 percent of the company. Hopefully I'll be here for the next 50 years, too."
Vershey came to the auto dealership business by accident after graduating from Bemidji State University with a biology degree. He began as a salesman to pay the bills.
"Nobody in my family is a part of the car business," Vershey said. "I like business in general."
He has since gotten a reputation for his time at Owatonna Ford/Chrysler and Dave Syverson's Auto Center. He said he gained experience in every aspect of the auto industry during that time, and learned to fix dealerships that needed help, though he doesn't consider Houston Ford to be in that category.
"I would like to think at the end of the day that I did enough good work that they found me," Vershey said. "That's kind of what happened. I was approached. The rest is history."
Vershey does plan some changes for the dealership, including a new paint scheme for the building's interior and new landscaping outside. More immediately, though, he has already changed the way the company sells cars by removing the bargaining aspect that some people love and some hate.
"I believe everyone - no matter who you are, where you come from, what you do - deserves my best deal up front," Vershey said. "I don't like negotiating. I like volume and turning and burning units. So, I think when we came up we put our hang tags with our best prices out there, and we initiated our road ready guarantee and I think that will get people talking enough to know there was change."
Vershey said he does not plan to use any carnival type attractions or special events to announce his partnership. He hopes to do so through his presence at the business. In the meantime, the company plans to reserve the celebrating for next year when the business will celebrate its 75th year in business.
Vershey has been staying with family during the transition, but later this spring he will move his family to the Pine River area completely, where he believes he will be for the rest of his career.
"You realize the rest of your days are going to be spent here," Vershey said. "We've been in awe of how beautiful the area is and how wonderful the people we have met so far have been.We're excited for that. All we want to do is continue to provide to all the people who loved Houston Ford. We want to continue to be a great service. To all the people that maybe didn't, we just want to change their mind."
Though he may not be part of the Houston family, he does not intend to change the name even after the company is completely his.
"Houston Ford has been in their family here for 74 years and that's awesome branding," Vershey said. "I'm more proud to be a part of Houston Ford than Houston Ford is to have me. I have no intentions in changing the name."