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Shimkat leadership transitions

Nephews’ duties increase with Bruce Shimkat’s retirement

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Ed Shimkat Jr., left, Ed Shimkat, Bruce Shimkat, Bill Shimkat and TJ Pingel, pose in the showroom at Shimkat Motor Co. Ed Shimkat and Bruce Shimkat have retired, but still serve as consultants for the company. Ed Shimkat Jr. and Bill Shimkat, co-owners, have assumed more responsibilities. Pingel serves as the dealership’s general manager.

Although Bruce and Ed Shimkat have retired as owners of Shimkat Motor Co. — the longtime Fort Dodge car dealership — they are still very much a part of how the business operates, according to current owners Ed Shimkat Jr. and Bill Shimkat.

Bruce Shimkat and Ed Shimkat serve as consultants for the company. Bruce Shimkat retired in June, while Ed Shimkat retired about 10 years ago.

“It’s nice to have them to bounce ideas off of,” Ed Shimkat Jr. said.

TJ Pingel is the general manager. And he accepted that role around the same time as Bruce Shimkat’s retirement. Pingel has been with Shimkat for six years.

Ed Shimkat Jr. and Bill Shimkat, nephews of Bruce Shimkat, said some of their duties have shifted with their uncle’s retirement.

“Ed and I spend time in parts and service,” Bill Shimkat said. “With our father and uncle retired, our jobs have transitioned into doing a lot of accounting.”

Ed Shimkat Jr. said the changes have little impact on customers.

“The only real change is Bill and I have more duties than we used to,” Ed Shimkat Jr. said.

Those duties include bookkeeping and managing inventory.

For the Shimkat family, each of them have grown up around the car business.

“We all grew up sweeping floors and washing cars,” Ed Shimkat, who joined the company in 1966, said.

“We were all here (at a dealership) as little kids,” added Bruce Shimkat, who joined in 1974.

Both Bruce Shimkat and Ed Shimkat worked in the body shop and parts department at one time.

“We have done about everything there is to do in the auto business,” Ed Shimkat Jr., said of the family.

And for Ed Shimkat Jr. that includes accidentally damaging a brand new car.

“I was 16 years old,” Ed Shimkat Jr. recalled. “Backing a brand new car up. The door swung open and caught my grandpa’s Chrysler demo. I had to walk up there to my father’s office and he had to tell grandpa. That was my worst day in the business and I had just got my driver’s license.”

Brighter days would be ahead as now Ed Shimkat Jr. said every day at the dealership is fun.

In 2004, Shimkat was moved from 1225 Second Ave. S. to 3126 Fifth Ave. S, the city’s Corridor of Commerce.

“This is our third location,” Ed Shimkat Jr. said. “It was either move out here or wind up dying, so we moved out here.”

The current facility is three times the size of the old one, he said.

Doing business in Fort Dodge has been a pleasure for the family.

“Fort Dodge is great,” Ed Shimkat, Jr. said. “We have grown up here. It’s a bigger town, but has a small town feel.”

Ed Shimkat, Jr. said he recently reconnected with a customer at a local grocery store.

“I can remember the first car she bought from us in 1997,” he said.

Bill Shimkat added, “We get customers who are third and fourth generation customers.”

Ed Shimkat Jr. attributed much of the company’s success to its employees.

“We have great employees and without their help, we wouldn’t be here,” Ed Shimkat Jr. said.

Brian Dencklau, the service manager at Shimkat, has been with the company for 30 years.

Shimkat employs 30 full-time workers and another five who work part-time.

Pingel, although not a Shimkat family member, said he’s felt like one since he was hired.

He moved to Fort Dodge about 10 years ago and was the advertising director at The Messenger before accepting a position with Shimkat.

“They treat all their employees like family,” Pingel said. “I can’t think of anywhere else I would want to be.”

Shimkat has between 150 and 200 new and used cars at the dealership.

Pingel said the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 are Shimkat’s top selling vehicles.

In 2017, Shimkat started selling and servicing commercial trucks.

Four months ago Shimkat became a certified agriculture dealer.

“We have specialists that understand the farming community and can help get them the right vehicles they need,” Pingel said.

Helping someone find a vehicle that they need or that suits them is a highlight, Pingel said.

“We had this lady who had been trying to get a car for months and we were able to help her get a loan and get a new car,” Pingel said. “She started to cry just because she was so happy that she would have a car to get her kids to school.”

Pingel added, “Transportation is so important. To help people like that is why we are here.”

Bill Shimkat said Shimkat’s business philosophies have been handed down from his Grandpa Edward Shimkat and Great-uncle George Shimkat.

“Some of my best memories are of my grandpa and Great-uncle George,” Bill Shimkat said. “Most of my memories of my grandfather center around the business.”

Ed Shimkat Jr. added, “Our grandfather set the culture in this business because of the work ethic that he had and instilled in dad and Bruce.”

Bill Shimkat said George Shimkat used to say, “The difficult things we will do today, the impossible we will do tomorrow.”

About Shimkat Motor Co.

Brothers Edward and George Shimkat opened a DeSoto and Plymouth dealership on June 1, 1947. They operated out of a temporary headquarters while a new building was being readied at 1225 Second Ave. S. That address was the home of Shimkat Motor Co. for more than five decades. In 2004, the company moved to 3126 Fifth Ave. S.

Three generations of Shimkats have built the enterprise that bears the family name into a dramatic success story. Today the company is owned by Bruce Shimkat and nephews Ed Shimkat Jr. and Bill Shimkat. All three are descendants of co-founder Edward Shimkat.

Shimkat Motor Co. sells a mix of new and used vehicles. Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram are brands featured for customers seeking a brand new car or truck.

The automotive world is greatly changed from the marketplace the company’s original owners navigated so skillfully seven decades ago. The auto brands they sold — Plymouth and DeSoto — are now just memories. While Chrysler Corp. cars and trucks are still featured, today’s computerized vehicles make the automobiles of the 1940s and 1950s seem quite primitive in comparison.

Two things, however, remain at the heart of the Shimkat Motor Co. story. First, and most importantly, the Shimkat family retains a hands-on involvement in the operation of the company. Secondly, there is an aggressive commitment to keeping the business in sync with the latest trends in a rapidly evolving automotive sales and service world.

Ed Shimkat Jr. said the family’s immersion in the day-to-day management of the business has been a key to the company’s success and helps make it an appealing place for customers to buy a vehicle or get service.

That tradition of friendly, personalized attention may be one of the reasons Shimkat Motor Co. is highly regarded by Chrysler Corp. officials. This year Chrysler started selecting dealerships for special recognition through it Customer First Award of Excellence. Only four Iowa dealerships were selected to receive this honor in its inaugural year. Shimkat Motor Co. was one of them.