New Pine River DMV owners expanding weekday hours
Linns become the newest owners of a 66 year Pine River staple.
PINE RIVER — The Pine River DMV quietly changed owners months ago but they say customers have already celebrated their expanded hours during the week.
Marion and Christina Linn, also Cass County's 2018 Farm Family of the Year, from east of Backus became official owners of the 66-year-old business on Dec. 27 of 2022. One of the first things they did was expand the weekday hours to something closer to that of second owners Mike and Carol Griep, who sold it to Mary Didier in 2014.
Grieps had hours from 9-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Under Didier, the DMV closed earlier in the afternoon. The Linns are now open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Unlike the Grieps, the Linns are not opening up shop for a half day on Saturday.
"I still have a client one weekend a month," Christina said. "And we still have the farm, so I don't want to do it six days. We had talked about closing early one day and staying open through one evening, but I don't know about that either. We'll figure this out for now."
At this time the new owners are not offering drivers license renewals. This could eventually change, however, as soon as the Linns have settled in and gotten even more familiar with their current processes and workflows.
"We do want to add drivers license renewals," Christina said. "That was kind of the plan, but then we realized how much there is to learn, so at this point we're going to get comfortable and confident in what we're doing right now."
Reintroduction of drivers license renewals may also come with new employees.
"It'll probably be a year," Christina said. "Once we do that, I don't know if it will be another one or two employees, but we'll definitely need more staff if we're going to do license renewals."
There's a lot going on in Pine River. There's kind of a cool change going on right now. We've got new businesses coming in. We've got younger owners with businesses on main street. We've got the dam, a new restaurant. It's kind of exciting to have a storefront on Barclay Avenue in Pine River.
Once again, the couple are focusing on learning their new trade before they make any decisions, but Christina said if they hire additional employees, they may revisit the possibility of staying open on Saturdays.
As it is, there is a lot to learn, and a lot of hoops to jump through to gain access to government databases after they signed a purchase agreement but before the closing.
"We met people from the state who came to look things over before the transition," Christina said. "We had background checks, then we had to meet with the deputy registrar. There was a lot of paperwork before we finally got cleared to get into this system to be able to use it."
Christina had prior office experience with filing, taking records, payroll and other tasks, but this is new work for Marion who has barely worked with computers in the past. Didier has stuck around to help the couple adjust through June. As a result, Christina said they are feeling fairly confident with the new systems now months after the purchase went through.
The couple had begun their search for a business venture in 2022.
Owning a DMV wasn't their first consideration. Then again, they weren't entirely sure what kind of business would be a good fit while they were looking for vacant buildings in Pine River and vacation havens elsewhere.
"We put an offer in on a resort," Christina said. "They ended up selling it to the family next door, so they didn't accept our offer. Then we put an offer on a bed and breakfast and that fell through."
They even looked into an empty retail space on Barclay Avenue with rentable apartment space above, but it was purchased before they had a chance. When their realtor convinced them to give the DMV a try, everything moved very fast.
"Marion said, 'Maybe we should take a look,'" Christina said. "That was on a Monday. I emailed him on Tuesday and said we wanted to take a look. We signed a purchase agreement on Friday."
The Linns now join a major Pine River tradition as the fourth owners of the local DMV operators. The business began in 1957 with Erwin Griep, who eventually sold it to his son Mike Griep in 1980. In 2014, Didier became the new owners and they sold it to the Linns at the end of 2022.
While the Linns were not sure about owning the DMV, there is a certain amount of comfort in knowing they don't need to start from scratch building a customer base for a product or service that is widely available elsewhere.
"It's a service people need," Christina said.
The couple is excited to be a part of the Pine River business community now, when the entire community is experiencing changes and growth.
"There's a lot going on in Pine River," Christina said. "There's kind of a cool change going on right now. We've got new businesses coming in. We've got younger owners with businesses on main street. We've got the dam, a new restaurant. It's kind of exciting to have a storefront on Barclay Avenue in Pine River."
Marion said, 'Maybe we should take a look,' That was on a Monday. I emailed him on Tuesday and said we wanted to take a look. We signed a purchase agreement on Friday.
In recent years the city has gained a new state of the art clinic, an enormous dam reconstruction, a new chamber director and several new business owners and businesses. The Linns may be part of the new generation of business owners along with the Krecklaus, Hedbergs and Waltons who have all recently thrown their hat in the ring as new Pine River business owners.
Edit: There was a misunderstanding that the prior owners had done drivers license renewals. This was not the case. The error has been removed.
Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or email@example.com.