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The Buzz: Schmalz Auto's fate

Menasha used car business ends 44-year run

Jan. 17, 2013
 
Just three vehicles are left for sale in Schmalz Auto's large lot on U.S. 10/State 114 in Menasha.
Just three vehicles are left for sale in Schmalz Auto's large lot on U.S. 10/State 114 in Menasha. / Maureen Wallenfang/The Post-Crescent
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Those whizzing past Schmalz Auto over the past month have likely noticed a startling decrease in its inventory. The used car lot, always brimming with autos, now has just three left for sale. The repair and body shop are silent. The wreckers that would tow you out of a ditch are gone.

If those driving past had stopped to read a note taped to the window of the 44-year-old business, they’d see the words “going out of business.”

Schmalz Auto is at W7150 U.S.10/State 114, not far from the Cimarron bar and the intersection where Oneida Street ends at Lake Winnebago.

Ted Schmalz and his wife Lisa appear a bit shell shocked as they oversee the ending of the business Ted’s dad Wally started back in 1969.

“We’re winding down and cleaning up,” said Ted Schmalz. “It’s just not making any money. The last four years have been pretty tough.”

He bought the business when his father retired 13 years ago, and said while the service side of the business was pretty good to the end, “the sales were the main part. We couldn’t keep it going with the cost of vehicles and all the competition in this area.”

He said the economy didn’t help matters, but there were also issues with availability of good used cars and the price he could get for them. Cars retain their value longer these days, squeezing out what little profit could be made on their resale.

And don’t forget Cash for Clunkers, added his wife Lisa.

That was the federal 2009 Car Allowance Rebate System program that pulled about 690,000 old cars out of American garages by offering their owners big rebates if they bought new fuel efficient cars.

“Cash for Clunkers really hurt business,” she said. “A lot of those were good cars. They destroyed them all.”

The Schmalzes aren’t sure what they’ll do going forward, but it’s likely the lot will have a for sale or lease sign posted in the future.

— Maureen Wallenfang: 920-993-1000, ext. 287, or mwallenfang@postcrescent.com; on Twitter @wallenfang

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