Monday marked the end of an era as Russ Mikels turned over the ownership of Mikels, Inc. to Brent Thompson.
The business is being renamed 2T Motors — signifying that two Thompsons, Brent and son Clayton — will be operating the used vehicle sales and service business.
Thompson said the original idea for the transfer of ownership was raised by his and Mikels’ wives some time ago. Former elementary teacher Aleta Mikels and co-worker Annette Thompson mentioned the possibility when the Thompsons’ son Clayton was just starting the auto tech program at IHCC.
“He liked the program and liked working on vehicles,” Thompson said, “and I did that in my spare time between farming and working at Cargill.
“Once Clayton got halfway through college and started getting job offers, I decided to look at the broad scope of everything. I was at the point where I could retire from Cargill and I was looking for a change.”
Thompson decided to approach Mikels in October of 2020 and ask if he was interested in selling the business or having Clayton work for him.
“The discussions went well rather quickly,” Thompson said.
Mikels said he was getting to the point where he was thinking about retiring. “I didn’t know if I would just sell the building and the land and liquidate, or sell the business,” he said.
Though Mikels might have continued in the business for a couple more years, when the opportunity arose, he felt it was the right time to sell the “whole thing.”
“The pieces fell into place on both sides,” Thompson added.
Thompson was quick to say, “We’re not casting Russ to the side. He is being very gracious and will stay on a few weeks until we get settled.
“It’s nice to know he’s just a phone call away,” Thompson continued.
Mikels had concerns about his present employees when talks with Thompson began, but Thompson assured him he wanted to keep those employees.
“What’s there has been successful and it’s tried and true,” he said.
The one change the Thompsons have made to the business is new shop equipment. They have added a tire machine and a new alignment rack from Hunter Engineering, a common automotive supply company.
With the new equipment, one more person can be added to the shop. Clayton will be that person and his responsibilities will be alignment and tires. Bruce Long will continue to do oil changes and service work. Ricky Miller will still serve as shop mechanic.
Thompson is also adding Jaxson Sharp to the workforce. Sharp recently graduated from Indian Hills in the Arts and Sciences. He will be a full-time employee dividing his time between vehicle sales and sales manager.
“By adding new equipment, we should be able to increase shop activity,” Thompson said.
Looking at the changes being made in the shop, Mikels said, “I believe these are good changes. They will add to the business and make it better in the future.”
Mikels said he personally didn’t want to invest in the equipment for the short time he planned to remain in business. “This (the new equipment) will be an enhancement and will allow the business to move forward for many years into the future,” he commented.
Thompson said he has also purchased the latest computer diagnostic equipment for vehicles. “All that equipment was a huge step,” he said. “The easy thing would have been to purchase the business and continue as it had been because this is a huge cost, but obviously cars are getting more complex.”
Thompson is grateful for the help of Andy Summers, IHCC instructor who introduced the Thompsons to the Hunter equipment and has agreed to answer any questions they may have in the future.
With appreciation for the building and the facilities he has just purchased, Thompson said the Mikels building was state of the art at the time it was built. “It was made to hold heavy equipment. To go out and build something this large was quite something,” he said.
Thompson has been impressed with the size and loyalty of Mikels’ customer base in Davis County and beyond. “Customer service is big,” he said, indicating his desire to continue the emphasis on service.
When asked about the future of the business, Thompson said, “To sum it up, Russ’ business has been a very good resource for the community. We want to continue that resource, and my hope is the business will be there in some way, shape, or form for another 70 years. I envision this staying in our family.”
An abbreviated history of the first 70 years of the business was published in The Bloomfield Democrat in the August 12, 2020 issue of The Bloomfield Democrat. That article follows.
Mikels, Inc. – the
first 70 years
Mikels, Inc. had its start as Mikels Farm Supply when Earl Mikels purchased the Case farm machinery business from John Garrett in 1950. The business was operated out of the Chevrolet garage off the southeast corner of the Bloomfield square.
The business moved to its new showroom on the north edge of Bloomfield in 1951, and Earl began selling Studebaker automobiles. He was joined by his wife Clara, who worked as a bookkeeper for the dealership for over 50 years.
Mikels Farm Supply was awarded a franchise to sell Oldsmobile automobiles in 1954. This initiated the family’s long relationship with General Motors. For a four-year period, Mikels also owned and operated Mikels Oldsmobile in Ottumwa.
Mikels Farm Supply received the John Deere tractor franchise for Davis County when John Deere consolidated Curt Ross’ Drakesville dealership and Jim Jones’ Pulaski dealership in 1957. For three years, Mikels Farm Supply sold both John Deere and Case machinery.
In the late 1950s, Mikels Farm Supply also acquired a Rambler franchise and sold Rambler vehicles until late 1960 when the business was renamed Mikels, Inc. and ended its relationship with Rambler to focus on the General Motors Oldsmobile division. At that time Mikels, Inc. acquired Buick and Pontiac franchises from Milligan Motors on the north side of the Bloomfield Square and GMC from Harris Motor Company.
The company continued to sell John Deere farm machinery and General Motors’ GMC, Buick, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile divisions until 1978 when Mikels, Inc. sold the assets of the John Deere dealership to Elton Anderson.
In 1980, Russ Mikels, son of Earl and Clara, returned home after graduating from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration in Marketing and Finance. He began managing the daily operations of Mikels, Inc., in 1990 and became dealer principal in 1994
In 1982, Mikels, Inc. began selling Chevrolet vehicles after being awarded the franchise that was previously held by Wendell Smith. In 1986, Mikels gave up the GMC franchise to focus on the Chevrolet division, and with the exception of the Geo brand, the lineup remained the same until the Oldsmobile brand was phased out in 2001.
Mikels, Inc. became exclusively a pre-owned auto dealership after the government-financed bailout and bankruptcy reorganization of General Motors in 2008 and 2009.
The business in 2020 focused on pre-owned cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs of all makes and models with the service department as a big draw for the business.