A Great Fifty Years

Johannes Auto Sales Celebrates A Milestone



Jim Johannes stands in his facility’s yard, in Jackson, Mo., flanked by his wife Erma and daughter Donna Schuette.

PAT PATTERSON PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Jim Johannes has never been one to settle for the ordinary. As a college student in the early 1960s, he couldn’t find a job that offered a “bright future.” The only solution, he decided, was to start his own company. He’d done bodywork and rebuilding since high school, so the automotive industry seemed like a perfect fit. On the day he graduated with a business degree, he asked his father to co-sign a loan, and he purchased an old chicken farm in Jackson, Mo. Johannes Auto Sales was born.

“I look back and say I was a darn fool,” Johannes laughed. “How I made it, I don’t know.”

But he did make it. The 22-acre yard, which Johannes now co-owns with his wife, Erma, and daughter, Donna Schuette, will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary this May. 

Johannes said his success comes from old-fashioned hard work. In the early days, he had just one employee and worked seven days a week. He would often work until midnight or 1 a.m., sleep for about three hours and then go right back to work. 

“I wore myself out, but that’s what I had to do to make it,” he said. “It wasn’t luck; it was extremely hard work.”

He eventually purchased a second yard 50 miles away, which he sold in 1978. That same year, he added an office building and a warehouse to the original Johannes Auto Sales. In 1981, Johannes reached one of his big goals: He received a first-place award from the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) for salvage yard beautification.

“We’re a stickler here for organization and cleanliness,” Johannes explained. “I have too much pride to have a mess.” 

In fact, one of the yard’s most noticeable features is a symbol of Johannes’ commitment to excellence. In 1970, he painted the burned-out hull of a 1967 Rolls-Royce and raised it up on tall poles just outside the yard. The Rolls has been there ever since, serving as a well-known landmark to the people of Jackson. “

We dub our yard, ‘ The Rolls-Royce of Salvage Yards,’” Johannes added. “We put our best foot forward.”

Until the early ‘80s, Johannes Auto Sales focused on both salvage and rebuilding. Today, the company focuses on salvage only, and is “very heavy” on engines and transmissions, Johannes explained. Thee business processes approximately 400 to 500 vehicles annually, and it has 50,000-square-feet of warehouse space.

“We have space on our shelves for 1,700 engines and 2,000 transmissions,” Johannes said, “and we keep them full.” 

Johannes is now semi-retired and works part-time. His daughter, Donna, who grew up in the business, “keeps a handle on things,” and he expects that she will take over for him. 

“She was writing my paychecks when she was 12 years old,” he laughed. “She has a degree in interior design. When she went to college, I told her to get a job in her line and then in five years tell me if she wanted this place. Three years later she said she wanted it. She’s stuck with it now.”

Manager Scott Friedrich, who has been with the company since 1995, said he enjoys the warm atmosphere that the owners have created.

“It’s not a big, large organization,” he said. “It feels like a family-like situation. It doesn’t feel like going to work every day.” 

In fact, he said Johannes is like a father figure to many of the employees.

“Jim doesn’t tell you to do something; he asks you to do something,” Friedrich explains. “Everything he asks you to do, he’s done himself. If you don’t know how, he’ll show you. He knows what he’s doing, and he has helped me on lots of things.”

When the company’s fiftieth anniversary arrives in May, Johannes said simply, “We’ll have a little celebration. Maybe we’ll have some cake and invite customers in.” 

After the cake, there’s no doubt Johannes and his crew will get right back to work, ready to begin another year of success at Johannes Auto Sales.

“We’re moving forward,” said Friedrich, “and I see a good future for the company.”

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