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Station in life

July 7, 2011

Ron Steinke and his sons are part of a family business that has operated in Botkins for 106 years.

BOTKINS — A Botkins man has finally decided to step down from a local business that he had been running since 1978.
Sixty nine-year-old Ron Steinke recently decided to retire from the family business with his last day coming last week. However, Steinke’s Marathon Service station will remain under the Steinke banner, as his sons, Steve, 38, and Andy, 40, will continue to run the business that has been in the family for more than 100 years.
The station originally opened as a blacksmith shop by Bernard A. Steinke, Ron’s great-grandfather. In the 1920s, Clem, Carl and Felix Steinke, Ron’s great-uncles, took over the business and added car repairs. Soon after, they dropped the blacksmith part of the business.
“They ran the business under the motto, ‘If our work pleases you, tell others. If not, tell us,’ ” Steinke said. “It was there way of saying we want to know if you are not happy. We have tried to keep that motto yet today.
Steinke said the business is Botkins’ second oldest family business, by one year, in the town. He said he first started working full-time in June 1959 immediately after graduation. However, his time at the shop started way before then.
“We would haul coal in for the furnace before school in the morning,” Steinke said. “After school, we would help sweep up the garage after school.”
Steinke said he learned the business like many other people did in those days — by simply watching.
“I just simply hung around the shop and watched what was being done,” Steinke said.
He shared that his father would often give him small projects to work on to learn the business, such as lawn mower repair jobs where they would have to take the engines apart and re-assemble them to get them working.
Steinke and his brother, Dave, took over the station from their father in 1978. Steinke purchased his brother’s half in 1991 and has been running it ever since. Steinke also was a member of the Botkins Fire Department for 32 years, many of those years as the village fire chief.
Steinke said he had an overwhelming sense of pride when his two sons decided to take over the business and keep it in the family. The business, which primarily focuses on auto repair, also has gasoline pumps and sells convenience items.
“I was really happy when my sons decided to keep it going,” Steinke said. “To stay open this long with the same family, it shows people like the service. This is the only thing I have ever did.”
Steinke and his wife, Judy, also have two other children. He said the biggest changes he has seen in the business since he officially purchased it from his father is technology.
“I can remember when they were switching from generators for automobiles to alternators,” Steinke said. “Back then, we had to make parts that fit the occasion. You didn’t have an assembly line of parts. You couldn’t buy it off of a shelf. You made the part to fit what you needed.”
Steinke said he used to leave a lot of the work on newer vehicles to his sons.
“I try to stay away from a lot of that,” Steinke said. “I leave the high-tech stuff to those guys, but that has been the biggest change. Just today we had the building wired so we could get Internet service. You just about have to have that any more to stay in business.”
He noted the business has stayed profitable throughout the years.
“It had a few ups and downs,” Steinke said. “There were times when you worried a little bit about money coming in, but for the most part, everything went well.”

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