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Lynn Helmuth took his passion for parts and repair and turned it into a business that will soon mark its 30th anniversary.
Helmuth, along with his sons, owns Kalona Auto Service and Parts. Their business celebrates its 30th anniversary on May 1.
Life could have easily taken another turn for Helmuth, however.
“I grew up on a farm, but I didn’t like farming,” he said. “When I was 21, I started working in a garage, Gingerich Implement. I worked there for a year.”
In January 1965, Helmuth and his new bride, Ethel, moved to northwestern Ontario to work in a mission.
What was supposed to be a two-year stint turned into 14 years in the remote Canadian wilderness.
“I worked at a seaplane base right in Red Lake,” Helmuth said. “I worked on airplanes for four years, then the owner wanted me to take over the small engines department. I enjoyed that.”
In 1978, the lure of home called the Helmuth family back to Kalona.
“We had five children by then, and they all have dual citizenship,” Helmuth said.
He went to work for his brother, John, who owned Kalona Auto Service.
“I still had a passion for mechanics, so I went to work for my brother,” Helmuth said. “I worked for him for 10 years.”
In 1988, Helmuth purchased the business from his brother.
“I ended up buying the business,” he said. “My wife and I started the business together in 1988, and she was the bookkeeper. We started with about $60,000 in parts; now, we have over $1 million.”
The couple’s three sons – Loren, Eldon and Ellis – worked part-time for the family business while they were in school. Now they, along with brother-in-law Alvin Kramer, all own equal shared of the business.
Working with family has been a blessing to Helmuth.
“It means everything to me to have this continue as a family operation,” Helmuth said. “It’s a legacy to pass on. It is something special to be able to work with my family day-in and day-out.”
Ethel died in 2011.
“That was rough,” Helmuth said, but he is still going strong in the business.
“I’m 75, and I just do what the boys tell me now,” he said. “I’m OK with that because they’re in the managing position now. I still work because I still enjoy working. I enjoy working with parts and people.”
Kalona Auto Parts and Service will hold an open house celebrating 30 years in business on May 1.