By BRIAN BOHNERT
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
Bill Reineke Sr. knew he was taking a risk when he purchased Fostoria’s only Ford dealership in September of 1967.
Negotiations between the United Auto Workers and the Ford Motor Company had just come to a screeching halt, leading to what would become the longest national strike against Ford at that time.
“It wasn’t fun, but we put up with it until they settled that October,” Reineke Sr. told the Review Times this week. “I just had to struggle until we got things going.”
After 68 days and roughly 500,000 cars lost, the UAW and Ford came to a historic agreement on Oct. 22, 1967. Reineke’s dealership survived the strike and, in the 50 years since, his partnership with one of America’s largest auto manufacturers has proven to be arguably one of the smartest business decisions he’s ever made.
“I’ve been very successful as a Ford dealer, I will say that,” said Reineke Sr.
Reineke Family Dealerships will commemorate its golden anniversary with Ford this weekend by hosting an open house at the place where it all started.
A customer open house will run from 2-6 p.m. Friday at Reineke Ford, 1303 Perrysburg Road, and continue from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Cake and cookies will be served at the party, and there will be giveaways and chances for those in attendance to win a slew of other prizes.
While at the store, community members will also have the opportunity to win Reineke’s 50th Anniversary Prize Package by guessing the number of balloons stuffed in a vehicle on the showroom floor.
Seven years before being welcomed into the Ford family, Reineke moved his young family from Toledo to Fostoria in 1960 so he could fulfill his dream of owning a car dealership — a Buick-Oldsmobile franchise located at 130 E. Tiffin St.
In 1967, he acquired the Ford franchise from Willis B. Hakes, who was an original dealer approved by Henry Ford back in 1913, and opened the current dealership on Perrysburg Road five years later on Jan. 15, 1972.
Today, Reineke Family Dealerships operates in Fostoria, Tiffin, Lima, Upper Sandusky, Findlay and North Baltimore. The family owned organization sells Ford, Lincoln, Nissan, Honda, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and RAM vehicles.
“My kids are all running the stores now and they’re doing a really good job,” Reineke Sr. said. “I never thought I’d be this far, but it turns out I am. I’m very thankful for that. I think they’re doing a great job.”
One of his sons, Tom Reineke, worked his way up the ranks throughout the past 40 years from the wash rack to service and parts, on to sales and now as company president.
While many of his family members — such as his son Tom — have taken over the management duties of his dealerships, the eldest Reineke isn’t going to let himself be bothered by retirement.
“I still go in every day. I go in at 11 a.m. and go home at about 2:30 p.m.,” said Reineke Sr. “I don’t do much but open mail and sign checks, but I enjoy it very much.”
“I still sell a few cars. Not a lot, but a few,” he added.
Employing approximately 450 full- and part-time employees, Reineke Family Dealerships estimates it will sell approximately 7,500 cars this year.