Days Gone By: From Ramer to Roen, Ford dealers were hereEditor’s Note: History buff Dan Geister provided the following photos and information about Ford car dealers in River Falls.
Editor’s Note: History buff Dan Geister provided the following photos and information about Ford car dealers in River Falls.
The first automobile owned in this city was in 1903 — an Oldsmobile jointly owned by Emil Carisch and Rosh Freeman.
The first car dealers in River Falls were Emil Carisch and Andrew Lund, both first advertised in the March 31, 1910 River Falls Journal.
Lund offered Studebakers and E-M-F autos while Carisch offered Buick, Overland and Ford.
Carisch ran a livery renting the cars for $3 for the first hour: “cheaper than horses!”
Carisch turned the Ford agency over to Phil Ramer in early 1911. Ramer built a garage at 113 E. Elm St. and expanded it in 1913, adding a story and extending the building west to abut the Tremont building.
The first floor was office and showroom space and the second floor was used for a repair garage (a ramp was in place in the rear of the building for the cars to get to the second floor).
Ramer also added the Krit and Chalmers agencies and became Normal School regent in 1913. Ramer Field was named after him in 1920.
The Journal would report spring sales every year. For example, in 1922 Ramer sold four-door sedans to Stella Deneen and Mary Gartland; a two-door sedan to A.N. Johnson; coupes to William Rice and Adolph Anderson; touring cars to Erick Bjerstedt, R.A. Karges, E.J. Prucha, Wilbert Griffey, H.R. Taylor and Peter Anderly; roadsters to Steve Huppert, Etman Meier and Harvey Stark; trucks to Frank Baker and Ole Johnson; and a Ford chassis to the fire department for a hose cart.
Ramer continued to have a Ford agency until Oct. 17, 1923, when a fire of unknown origin gutted the building. The entire woodwork, Mr. Ramer’s King “8” touring car, two Fords and a Gray demo car were destroyed while two Fords were saved.
In March 1923, a new Ford agency was established at 226 N. Main St. (the Carisch Garage) with Phil Gutzler and J.F. McDonnell from St. Paul as agents.
This newly established RF Motor Company had a 42 by 66-foot repair shop, 66 sq. ft. store room, along with office and show space totaling 7,992 sq. feet.
This arrangement continued until 1950, when Larry Peterson and Herman Kuss purchased McDonnell’s interest.
Kuss started in 1919 with Ramer. Larry Peterson started in 1935 and was still working there in 2002 at age 96.
The Ford dealership continued on until arguably the largest fire in River Falls modern history started shortly after midnight July 29, 1961.
This destroyed four River Falls businesses: Marvin Hauth’s repair shop, Tom Chapman’s blacksmith shop, Koller Pontiac and the Ford dealership. Twelve new and 20 used Ford cars were destroyed. The total amount of damage from the fire was approximately $300,000.
The River Falls Motor Company was soon back in business across the street. The new building was at 660 N. Main Street.
The 50 by 100-foot steel building was a $30,000 investment. Paul Cudd was the contractor.
In August 1965 Tom Giere from Hopkins, Minn., purchased the Ford garage. That arrangement lasted until February 1967, when Harley Roen purchased the agency.
On June 16-17, 1967, the garage had an open house. At that time the shop crew was Glenn Spear, Terry Roen, Heinz Odontha, Dale Plumley and Sheldon Hilden.
A 2700 sq. ft. body shop was added to the building in 1982.
The Roen family continued to run the dealership until Sept. 1, 2009, as reported in the River Falls Journal.