Photographer / Eli Beaverson
For Peter Kahlo, the key to success – whether, in his case, running a successful Northside Indy car dealership for more than three decades, or writing a book about his incredible life – is simple. It’s all about hard work.
Kahlo grew up in East Germany during Adolf Hitler’s rule, prior to and during World War II. He says coming to America at age 26 was an opportunity he cherishes to this day.
“With what was going on at that time in Germany, coming to America was like heaven,” Kahlo recalls. “Everybody talked about how beautiful and great America was, and it is.”
Kahlo met his future wife Donna, an Indiana native, on an ocean liner while working as a steward, and says the two shared an instant chemistry.
“I came over here because I met her and we decided to get married,” Kahlo says.
The couple was married for 63 years, and Donna, who served as an office manager and co-owner of the car dealership Kahlo eventually opened in Noblesville, passed away in 2017.
After arriving in America, Kahlo wasted no time starting his professional life and worked diligently to open an auto service station called Pete’s Service Center at the intersection of East 49th Street and North Pennsylvania Street in Indy.
“At that time, I really didn’t know what to do with my life, and I had no experience except in agriculture in Germany and in the hotel business,” Kahlo says. “I worked very hard and ran a service station for 32 years. It became very, very popular and also very profitable.”
Toward the end of his tenure at Pete’s Service Center, Kahlo tried his hand at selling cars at the business, but soon city officials caught wind of his efforts and gave him notice that the property wasn’t properly zoned for such an endeavor.
“When I found out I wasn’t zoned for it, I said to myself that one day I would find a piece of property and sell cars, and then they can’t chase me anymore,” Kahlo says with a laugh.
A man of his word, Kahlo officially opened Kahlo Jeep Eagle in Noblesville in 1989, near Riverview Hospital. Kahlo moved the business in 2005 to its current location on Pleasant Street. Kahlo Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram currently employs more than 90 individuals and offers new and used vehicles as well as an auto service center.
Kahlo says he’s thoroughly enjoyed working in the automobile business and feels fortunate to have stayed successful for so long.
“I opened the dealership to get ahead after having the service station for many years and do better for myself and make a better family life,” he says.
Kahlo recently put his life story to paper. “My American Dream: A Boy’s Journey From East Germany to America” details his life in East Germany and eventual success in America. Kahlo decided to write the book, which was published in December of 2019 and is available on Amazon.com, so that others could be inspired by his journey and his relatives still living in Germany can get familiar with his life story.
“My family here said that I should write a book, and after some time I thought it might be a good thing to do just for the family,” Kahlo says. “I didn’t do it for profit or anything like that.”
Kahlo says customers at the dealership throughout the years would often sit and listen to Kahlo talk about portions of his life, sometimes staying much longer than they planned at the facility, so he figured offering a book detailing the full story of his life made sense.
“The people in Noblesville are wonderful – we have great people and great leadership here,” Kahlo says, adding that during his downtime through the years, he’s enjoyed occasional golfing and fishing locally. “I cannot complain about anything after living here for so long.”
Kahlo feels that there’s no secret to achieving success in business, and in life generally – for him, it’s all about working hard, and working both intelligently and efficiently while you’re at it.
“Success comes when you work hard,” Kahlo says. “I’m a hard worker and have been that way since I was probably eight years old. I always worked hard before I came to America and continued to work just as hard when I was here. I thought that if anybody can do it, I can.”
Kahlo adds that having a genuine passion for one’s professional career is also vital.
“Find something you enjoy and something that fits your own personality – if you find it and like it, then go ahead and work at it as hard and as long as you can,” he says. “You need to have something you enjoy because if you don’t like it, it’s not going to be successful.”