Fred Allen Auto Center Celebrates Three Decades of Service
Photographer / Jubilee Edgell
Fred Allen was 29 when he purchased a bankrupt Chevrolet-Buick dealership in Winamac in 1990. Looking back, he’s the first to admit that it was an aggressive move.
However, for the Air Force veteran, long-time Chevy dealership employee, and General Motors Dealer Academy grad, it was simply the next step toward achieving his goals.
“I just felt like owning one was something I really desired to have,” Allen says. “I felt like I was in position when the franchise General Motors became available in Winamac. It was something that I wanted to do for myself and my family, and it was a chance to move back to my hometown.”
For the next ten years, Allen sold quality General Motors vehicles to the community. These same vehicles and more were then maintained in this facility, keeping them in good condition. Even more serious issues like auto transmission repair where performed here thanks to the experienced, qualified, and properly equipped personnel.
“One of the things we’ve always tried to do is take care of our customers,” Allen says.
The business also gave Allen the opportunity to train his sons in business management. His son Brad, who now serves as general manager of Allen’s business, jokes that he’s been working at the dealership since he was 12.
In 2000, a surprising opportunity presented itself.
“The Braun Corporation in town needed the franchise for vans, and they wanted to own it,” Allen says. “So I sold them the business.”
The building, however, is another story. It was only leased to the Braun Corporation, and was maintained by Allen.
In 2005, Allen and Brad wanted to get back into the auto business. Without the franchise, they faced some interesting challenges.
“For ten years, I had Chevrolet and General Motors that were repairing the vehicles under warranty,” says Allen.
Without a manufacturer warranty, Allen needed a different kind of guarantee.
Instead of buying a different franchise label, the Allens opened under their own name, and Fred Allen Auto Center was born.
“It allowed me to get all different types of brands,” Allen says. “Instead of being limited to Chevrolet-Buick, I was able to get different types of vehicles for my customers.”
Allen also expanded the business to include advanced services like detailing, car window tinting, dent removal and financing, in addition to routine car maintenance.
After reopening, the business became known for late-model cars and trucks.
“Even though we only stock 25 or 30 [vehicles], we have a very large turnover of our inventory, which is unusual,” Allen says. “Most dealerships have 90 days. We could buy five cars in one week, and usually three or four of them are already sold.”
Allen and his staff set high standards for the vehicles on their lot.
“Our customers determine what we stock,” Allen says. “If a certain SUV and a certain model is the best value for the dollar, then that’s the vehicle we concentrate on.”
Allen’s customers appreciate his willingness to stick by his products, and provide quality services along with his low-mile, dependable inventory.
“A lot of dealers will spend thousands of dollars to get people in, but once they leave with their car, that’s the last you hear from them,” Allen says. “I would rather spend the [advertising] money after you purchase with repairs. Most of my advertising is in repeat business or word of mouth. That’s what I really think has helped us the best – we always stand behind our product.”
After thirty years of selling and servicing cars, Allen has turned his attention to enjoying semi-retirement, leaving the lion’s share of business management to the next generation.
“We talk daily and [Brad] runs stuff by me, and I’m still able to input a lot of my information over the years and he respects that,” Allen says. “I’m very fortunate to have him. There’s nothing better than having your family take over the business. It’s a nice reward to be able to step back and watch it continue to grow, and continue to be successful.”
Fred Allen Auto Center is located at 820 South Monticello Street in Winamac. Inventory details and a full list of services are available online at FredAllenAuto.com. You can also reach out to the staff with questions or to schedule an appointment by calling 574-946-7145.