The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 4, Page 7.


Fred Wittenberg & Son Has One of the Most Complete Farm Implement Stores In the State

One of the leading farming implement dealers of Porter county is Fred Wittenberg & Son, located at 156 Indiana avenue, Valparaiso.

This firm has been engaged in business since 1919, when Fred Wittenberg, Sr., who had been a salesman for the International Harvester Company for several years, started up on his own account.

Mr. Wittenberg was born at Hobart on April 12, 1882, and come to Valparaiso on June 15, 1898, taking employment with the Barry & Griswold blacksmith shop, which was then located in the building now occupied by the VIDETTE-MESSENGER office. Here for fourteen years he shoed horses.

Then resigning his position he took employment with the International Harvester Company selling farm machinery. For seven years he proved a banner salesman, and then in 1919, embarked in the implement business in a small store in the rear of his present establishment.

Starting without cash, Mr. Wittenberg was able to command credit and soon built up the business. In 1924, he took his son, Fred Wittenberg, Jr., in as a partner. Three years later a fine new building was erected on the lot where their residence once stood, and the home removed to an adjoining lot and remodeled.

One of the factors in the success of Fred Wittenberg & Son has been the servicing of power farm equipment. Theirs was not merely a service station, but one where tractors and other farming machinery are efficiently repaired and completely rebuilt.

Another factor that has brought many customer to the firm has been the fact that customers are also able to get repair parts at any time from the machines which have been purchased of them.

Prior to embarking into the service business, Fred Wittenberg, Sr., was a service man and a traveler. He serviced and sold implements and had a good working knowledge of the business when he decided to become a retailer on his own hook. He had a lot of ideas that he knew would produce and keep business, and he wanted to a place and an opportunity to put them into practice.

Fred, Jr., who has practically grown up in the business, is largely for the service station. He does a great deal of the actual repair work and supervises all of it. Father and son confer on all subjects pertaining to the business, particularly where expenditures are concerned.

"A day's delay can lose a customer and immediate service can frequently make one," Fred, Sr., said. "Experience has proved that good service is generally appreciated and the appreciation is shown in continued patronage. We have had customers tell us that they would rather pay a few dollars more for a machine just for the assurance that service is always available. A breakdown at harvest time has occasioned losses totaling more than the price of the the machine, when parts and service were not obtainable for so short a time as two days.

"General overhauling is always done in the shop. We can bring the tractor in and deliver it by truck and still save money for the owner. We make a charge for transporting the tractor which approximates two dollars an hour for the man and the truck. This charge does not cover our cost, of course, so we debit the difference to advertising.

"There are some jobs we prefer to send out and this practice applies to magnetos. Simple adjustments and some minor repairs or replacements can be handled in the shop or even in the field. An operation requiring precise adjustments to complete the repairs are sent to the nearest magneto service station where electrical experts look after the job. We keep two spare magnetos on hand all the time. Whenever we have magneto trouble we substitute one of them to keep the engine running till the old one has been repaired and returned. This method has worked out very well so far.

"We run our service department for profit. We get a fair price for our work and we get list prices for all the repair parts we supply. We keep a stock of repairs on hand from which we could rebuild every machine we sell and do it any day of the year.

"It is a sad day in this establishment when one of our repair bins is empty and a customer calls for the part which that bin should hold. It has happened, of course, but if it does, someone gets into a fast automobile and gets that part if it can be procured in a day's run."

Fred Wittenberg and Son have increased the size of their establishment three times since they started business. The space now occupied by the service department and blacksmith shop originally took care of the entire business. The display room and store proper cover a space 36 by 70 feet, with a cement basement beneath in which more than four carloads of machinery can be stored at one time. The establishment is 36 feet wide and 132 feet from the front door to the rear.

An elevator in the building makes a convenient loading platform and machinery is wheeled onto it in the basement, lifted to the first floor and wheeled onto the delivery truck. Goods are brought in and loaded onto the elevator which taken them to the basement storage room. At the side and to the rear of the main building is a storage shed where they keep their used machinery. The shed has floor space of more than 2,200 square feet.

The Wittenbergs, father and son, will tell you that the service station which they conduct has always made money for them but what is more important, it has made customers for them. Their shop is equipped with all latest tools and machinery permits them to handle nearly every job that comes to them without going outside their shop. They keep three men busy most of the year and two men all the year.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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