Fritz Kreutzinger can still recall when the population of Fishers sat at a modest 1,600.
It was the early 1980s, and Kreutzinger was in the beginning stages of opening his used car dealership to the public on 116th Street at the time. He saw potential in the area despite its small number of residents and businesses and had a feeling he could flourish with a family-friendly, customer-oriented approach to business.
After officially opening Fritz in Fishers as a used car dealer in 1983, Kreutzinger has stuck by that approach and hasn’t looked back for almost four decades.
“A lot of people have come in and told us we’re the last standing pillar of the old downtown Fishers,” he says. “The old barber shop’s gone, the Nickel Plate is gone, and all the surrounding properties are gone but we don’t plan on going anywhere. They say Fishers is an entrepreneurial city, and a lot of people say I was the first business entrepreneur in downtown.”
Upon graduating from Purdue in 1975 with a degree in economics, Kreutzinger, an Indy native, decided to draw on his background with cars and his entrepreneurial spirit to start his professional career.
“My dad had a gas station, and I grew up around cars,” he recalls. “When I got out of school I realized I’d always been an independent guy and provided for myself. I knew about automobiles and wanted to be my own boss.”
Kreutzinger ran a Butler Toyota dealership at 96th Street and Keystone Avenue as a sales manager from 1979 to 1982, during which he became familiar with Fishers through a friend who ran a two-car repair garage in the area. In 1983, with one additional employee who handled auto detailing and clean-up work, Kreutzinger struck out on his own and opened Fritz in Fishers to the public.
“With our mechanical and cosmetic departments we now have 20-plus employees including my son Kyle now, and we’ve tried to stay as family-friendly as possible,” he explains. “We have some old gas pumps and some memorabilia and stuff in the building, and people will tell us the vibe here puts them at ease. That’s what we try to do.”
Fritz in Fishers was formerly located across the street from where it now sits on East 116th Street until 1992, and the city’s government offices sat opposite the dealership. At that time, Kreutzinger exchanged property with the city, whose leaders decided they needed bigger facilities as Fishers’ commercial and residential development continued apace. Consequently, he moved his office into the former Fishers administrative offices and purchased the adjacent acreage to use as his car lot, and as Fritz in Fishers grew over the years, Kreutzinger observed the explosive growth of the area around him firsthand.
As his dealership began to grow back in the 80s, Kreutzinger wanted to help Indiana’s used car industry on a bigger scale and helped to establish the Indiana Independent Auto Dealers Association, on which he still serves as board chairman. The organization represents used car dealers throughout the state and maintains a presence with the state legislature.
“The association has helped raise the quality of the industry, which has been a personal goal of mine,” says Kreutzinger, who for the past five years has also served as the used car representative on the governor-appointed Indiana Motor Vehicle Advisory Board, which consults with Secretary of State Connie Lawson regarding rules and regulations for the auto industry. “I’m also the only used car dealer ever associated with the New Car Dealers Association, as an associate member.”
Kreutzinger and his staff keep 120 to 150 used cars in stock at any given time — a far cry from when he was just starting out and that number was between 10 and 12. Nevertheless, he says his approach to customer service remains the same as it ever was.
“We’ve always tried to treat people like we’d want to be treated, and that works out 99.5% of the time,” Kreutzinger says. “Our repeat business has been great. We’ve had families where we’ve sold them 10 or 15 cars. Kids come back telling us they bought their first car from us, and now they’re buying a car for their family. I think that says a good deal about us.”
Fritz in Fishers in located at 8599 East 116th Street. Call 317-842-2228 or visit fritzinfishers.com for more info.