Long Motor Sales celebrate 50th anniversary
Long Motor Sales passes a milestone late this month as it celebrates its 50th anniversary in business on the corner of North Evans Street and West Logan Street. John Long, Jr. started the business in 1963 after working as a salesman for other car dealers, including Harvey Wilson Plymouth in Tecumseh. and owning his own shops elsewhere. His son, Eric Long, now owns and operates the business, which has always included family involvement.
Eric doesn’t really remember a time that he didn’t want to repair cars. In fact, when he was very young, he recalls how his dad purchased a special piece of equipment just for him when he owned an auto repair garage in Adrian on US 223.
“I actually had my own creeper,” Eric recalled. “I wasn’t in school yet and I remember how I used to take naps on that creeper underneath the car with my dad.” He was 11 when John started the used car dealership in 1963, within walking distance from the family’s home on Van Buren Street. There were seven children, whom Eric said all worked at the shop at one time or another, but he and his brother, Gregg, put in a lot of time there.
“I tell people that I didn’t just grow up on this corner — I grew old on this corner,” Eric joked.
He said his dad didn’t have an office at first, but used space for a time in the gas station on the corner that was owned by Bob Cowan from Britton.
“Then I remember one weekend our dad took us to Sand Creek, where there was a 12 by 12 storage building at a gas station that was being closed up,” Eric said. “We loaded that building onto a low-boy, brought it to Tecumseh, and my dad used that for an office for several years.”
In the early 70s, his dad also bought the Gulf gas station. Eric and Gregg (who now owns Long’s Small Engine Service in Tecumseh with his son) both worked there as well. Eric was still in high school, and then his brother went to the service, so he helped keep things going at the station.
Later Eric operated his own repair shop, Eric’s Auto Service, in the late 70s to early 80s, but returned to Long Motor Sales in 1987.
“Either my brother or I have been here continuously, and our sisters have done the books at various times,” he said. “All of us kids cleaned and washed cars at one time or another.” When his dad passed away in 1995, Eric became the owner of the business.
He admits there have been challenges, especially through some rough economic times, but he truly enjoys the people he’s encountered over the years.
“The customers are still wonderful,” he said. “One woman who bought a car from us five years before stopped in one day just to tell me how much she enjoyed her car and how happy she was with it. Those are the rewards.”
Long Motor Sales has managed to keep going, even amidst competition from larger dealerships. He typically keeps an inventory of 20-25 cars in the lot at one time, and the business is about 75 percent sales and 25 percent repairs — which has lessened as he’s aged, he said.
“To compete as a smaller dealership, you have to figure out what you can and cannot do relative to your competition,” said Eric. “There are things big dealers can offer that we can’t and there are things I can offer that big dealers can’t. I can be a lot more personal.”
He said one of the things he’s taken pride in is knowing that at any given time, there are several cars in the Tecumseh High School parking lot with Long Motor Sales stickers on them, as the business has been a source for many first vehicles for area teenagers.
“It’s just really important to be supportive with the kids, and you do it because it’s the right thing to do. We help with the education process, too, because the kids can come in here and be a part of the process when they buy their first car and they learn from the experience,” he said. Eric is also actively involved with kids through such activities as helping to form the Tecumseh Youth Football program, coaching middle school basketball, and serving for many years as announcer at school football and basketball games for both girls and boys. He no longer announces because he has to be more available to attend his grandchildren’s sporting events, he said.
Eric and his wife, Patty, who also helps with the books, have a blended family of seven children, and he said several of the kids have worked there and there are often younger kids on the premises now that the couple has 21 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, continuing to keep “family” involved in the family-owned business.
“My granddaughter Ericka, who’s 10, says she’s going to work here someday,” he said. Customers may recognize her voice on the company answering machine that informs callers her grandpa “will probably” call back if they leave a number, recorded when she was five.
Eric especially has enjoyed being a part of Tecumseh’s business community and talks about business owners who contribute far more to the community than others know because, like him, they are invested in their town.
“It’s wonderful having been here for 50 years surrounded by so many good people. I remember when the Meadow Ridge Dairy was over there when we opened, and Whelan’s was nearby and Martin’s has always been right over there,” he said.
“There’s not a business person in this town that I wouldn’t recommend to anybody coming into town and I don’t think you can say that about a lot of towns.”
To help commemorate the company’s 50 years in business, Eric’s family helped spruce up the facility recently, continuing with a family involvement theme.
“My mother [Janice] bought new garage doors for the building; my sisters painted the inside,” he said. “My son Nathan and brother-in-law Dan Hall re-sided the outside. Our family all pitched in.
Even after 50 years of business, Eric has no plans to stop working anytime soon.
“I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t work. I’ve been putting in 60-65 hour work weeks my entire life. It’s what I’ve always done,” he said. “I suppose I could learn not to work — but I would mostly miss talking to the people everyday. That’s the best part.”