Berthod Motors celebrates 60 years
Berthod Motors is a piece of Glenwood’s history, and the pieces of Berthod’s history are popping up in the strangest places.A few years ago Don Gerbaz, general manager and part-owner of Berthod Motors, got a call from a Glenwood resident who found a printing plate embedded with a 1950s Berthod Motors advertisement under the tin roof of an old building.Other customers – some have been buying from Berthod since the 1950s – have found advertisements, pens and buttons that are decades old.Berthod Motors, a car dealership on South Grand Avenue that sells GMC, Jeep, Buick and John Deere, is celebrating its 60th anniversary.Berthod Motors was started by Louie Berthod in 1944 as a Chevron station in downtown Glenwood. “When I first worked there I hardly knew where the battery was,” said Fred Gerbaz, 75, of Glenwood.Fred started working for Louie in 1947 when he was 18. Louie was a master mechanic and taught Fred the ins and outs of car maintenance and repair.
In 1949, Louie moved his business to the Tamarack Mall on Grand Avenue and started selling cars.The first car Berthod Motors sold was the Tucker. The Tucker was made in the early 1950s and had one headlight in the front of the car that moved with the steering wheel.The idea behind the Tucker was unique but not profitable, Fred said. After experimenting with other brands, Berthod Motors took on Jeep in 1953, and in 2004, demand for the Jeep brand continues to rise, Fred said.While Louie was building brand loyalty in the early ’50s, Fred joined the Army and worked with Army engineers on plans and army vehicles.When Fred returned in 1954, Louie wanted him to sell cars. Half-heartedly, Fred did what Louie asked but in 1959, Fred decided he wanted to get out of the car business to be a farmer.”When I told Louie that, he told me he’d sell me one third of the business,” Fred said. “I was finally worth a damn, and he knew it. Since then I’ve never thought about doing anything else.”In 1971, the Berthods retired and Fred and his wife, Edna, bought the business.”I’ve worked here since … forever,” said Don Gerbaz, Fred’s 34-year-old son.
Before he was old enough to drive, Don was sitting on a phone book and driving backhoes on company grounds. After graduating from Colorado State University, Don joined his mother and father as the third share holder in Berthod Motors.”Don’s a chip off the old block,” said Steve Damm, sales manager at Berthod Motors. “He comes in at 6 a.m. and leaves at 7 p.m. just like his dad.”Damm, who’s been in the car business for 30 years, has worked for the Gerbazes for 18 years. Damm’s stayed with Berthod Motors because Berthod creates a warm, inviting family atmosphere.Loyal families who are repeat customers have kept Berthod Motors alive, said Don and Fred.”We earned their business the hardest and most lasting way,” Don said. “That’s probably what protected us from downturns.”Sixty to 70 percent of Berthod’s business is from customer referral, which is extremely high for the car business, Don said.Fred and Don are great personalities – they both are enthusiastic about life and people – so it’s easy to see why customers repeatedly visit their showroom.”When am I going to retire?” Fred asks. “Well I don’t golf, I don’t hunt like I used to and I couldn’t take loafing all day. I need something to occupy myself.”
He smiles, places his hands over his stomach and leaves it at that.Contact Ivy Vogel: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.orgBerthod Motors will have an anniversary sale and promotion through the first week of October. Berthod Motors is located at 2914 S. Grand Ave.
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