After 45 years of service, Ervin Bates decided it was time to do something else.
“Chances are, if you ever had your vehicle broke down or in a wreck, Bates had a part in getting you back on the road,” said Greg Bruner, President of the Bruner Auto Group.
The longtime employee of Bruner Auto Group decided, along with his wife of 20 years, Von, that Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, would be his final day as the go-to parts guy.
“He has spent a lot of hours dealing with a lot of adversity — customers, sales, service,” said Brian Lee, sales manager for Bruner Auto Group. “It is a tough job. It is rough on the body. He is on his feet all day. He works like he is a 20-year old still.”
Bates said goodbye because of three things — age, industry changes he sees coming down the road just some things within the industry that he just doesn’t particularly like.
“I have had some great customers, and then I have had some customers,” Bates said. “But, you have to have them to be in business, great or bad. … I have had some really good customers, and I have appreciated having them. I have appreciated being able to help them. Not all the time was I able to, but the majority of time I could. And that, gives me a feeling of accomplishment.”
But the Bruner Auto Group wasn’t going to let him walk away without some recognition.
No, there was a party, with food and drinks and familiar customers all gathered around as Bruner presented Bates with a plaque recognizing him for serving the automotive customers of Brown County since 1969.
“To do the work, you have to have customers,” Bates said after receiving his plaque. “Without customers it don’t work. You have to have them and they have to keep coming back and coming back and coming back. That is what makes it worthwhile.”
It was plenty worthwhile for Bates, who has been with the Bruner Auto Group since 2007.
The former Marine started his parts career fresh out of the military in 1969, and was still serving some of those same customers up until Friday.
“He has done a very good job for us,” Lee said. “He has a vast amount of knowledge. … He can find parts on 50s, 60s, 70s vehicles that just aren’t out there anymore. He is up-to-date on the new stuff as well. He is a super guy that will do anything you need. He has been real good for us. He will be an asset we miss for sure.”
As for what he is going to do now, Bates wasn’t really sure what his next adventure will be.
“This is going to be a process of checks and balances,” Bates said. “It is going to be a process of working through some things. And then, if God has a special plan, then I want to follow that plan. Which, right at the moment, I am selfish and I don’t see it.”