By Marni Daugaard
“I was kind of shocked at the number of people that walked in here — that lived especially on the Young America side —that didn’t even know we existed,” said Pete Buckentine, referring to the location where his Car Quest Auto Parts store originally stood.
Buckentine, along with his wife, Diane, owns the Car Quest store in Norwood Young America. They are celebrating their 35 years in business in a new building and seeing new faces every day.
Buckentine’s father, Pete Buckentine Sr., opened the original store in 1978 in the building which used to house Wilson Electric (formerly the old Molitar Theater) on Main Street, Norwood. It had the distinction of being the first franchised Car Quest store in the state of Minnesota. Buckentine started in the business with his dad in 1983, managed the store for fourteen years and finally bought him out in 1997.
This past August, Buckentine bought the old Snyder Drug building and began renovations. Situated closer to the highway, the store is more visible and has experienced enough growth that he has been able to hire two additional employees.
Buckentine enjoys being around his employees and is proud of their loyalty.
One such employee is Linda Clemens, who has worked for him for 22 years doing bookkeeping, front counter and inventory. In fact, Buckentine likes to kid her that she is inventory.
“My dad had another store in Arlington that we closed down … and she actually worked over there for a while and I bought his inventory … I tell her she’s inventory because she came along.”
Over the years Buckentine has also come to greatly appreciate his customer base.
“One of the things I’ll say about this community is … [it is] fiercely loyal,” he said. In fact, Car Quest is starting to see second and third generation customers, many who no doubt are drawn in by the friendly, personal treatment and easy conversation that are regular aspects of the store.
In addition to the social atmosphere, the store offers items normally not found at other Car Quests, such as live bait, fishing gear, hunting apparel, shotgun shells and deer hunting supplies. They have also found their niche in selling hydraulic hoses for farm equipment and road machinery, drawing in business from all around the area.
“I just really want to thank the people of Norwood Young America … and surrounding areas because they’re the ones that supported us for 35 years. We never would have been able to move into a bigger building if it hadn’t been for the tremendous support they’ve given,” Buckentine said. “That’s why I think it’s a pretty neat place to own a business because I don’t know that you’d find this loyalty in too many towns.”
After Oak Grove Dairy closed, the town lost a lot of businesses. Main Street, once vibrant, began to deteriorate as businesses that were left began to move closer to the highway. But in spite of the change and evolution of the town, Buckentine remains positive.
“My outlook is very optimistic. I think the next 15 or 20 years that I intend to be here … I see some good things coming.”
Store hours are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to p.m., 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.