Redwood Falls Gazette
  • Visiting Baker Brothers Motors

  • While the Civil War was raging in the south, Redwood Falls was founded in 1864 on the banks of the Minnesota River – just 12 years after the Studebakers started making wagons in South Bend, Ind....
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  • While the Civil War was raging in the south, Redwood Falls was founded in 1864 on the banks of the Minnesota River – just 12 years after the Studebakers started making wagons in South Bend, Ind. Soon after the town started to grow its roots, Redwood Falls became the home of Richard W. Sears, who was the town’s first railroad depot agent. He moved to the Twin Cities to join watch repairman and fellow jeweler, Alvah C. Roebuck, to start the Sears and Roebuck mail-order catalogue business in 1887. When the first automobiles came along one could even buy a new one from its catalogue. In 1914 Redwood Falls celebrated its 50th Anniversary. There were many festivities, including a parade of decorated cars of the day. A 1914 Studebaker presented by the William Rosendahl Studebaker Dealership took first place. This dealership was not in business very long. For you see, in 1917 Rosen-dahl was convicted of murdering a Redwood Falls businessman and sentenced to a long jail term. After World War II, in 1946, two brothers from Hager City, Wis. decided it would be a good time to start a Studebaker dealership in Redwood Falls. It was the only franchise available at that time. They bought an existing auto business building on Main Street – the Motor Inn Garage. It was small, but this didn’t matter. Cars sold very quickly in the “seller’s market.” The brothers soon decided Cecil would be in charge of sales, and brother, David, would manage the service department. This new business became Baker Brothers Motors. It didn’t take long for the brothers to become involved in their community, and with that, people began to buy their Studebakers. Over the years this fact was exemplified in many ways. Soon after opening their doors, there was a Studebaker taxi plying the streets of Redwood Falls for fares. In 1950 the brothers provided a Studebaker pickup for the mission festival celebration at a local church. The pickup was not used as a temporary pulpit during a church renovation as was previously reported with the now famous “Sunday Service” poster. Also in 1950 the Baker Brothers provided a Champion convertible to the local high school to transport royalty in the homecoming parade. The early 1950s was a very exciting time in small town America. The new car showings brought out many people to view the latest offerings by manufacturers. The wives of the employees at Baker Brothers Motors came to the dealership to assist by serving donuts and their special egg coffee and by passing out giveaways like pens, ice scrapers and toys for the kids, all of which had the Studebaker logo. (This writer has fond memories from his youth, making the rounds to the many dealers in his hometown to “test drive” sit in the latest offerings.) In 1961, with high school children of their own, it was not uncommon for the brothers to see their children’s classmates gather at the dealership. In that year the brothers made a donation, as is often done by local businesses, to the high school yearbook, “The Cardinal.” What Cecil and David are most remembered for is their dedication to truck sales in the early 1950s. During this period they sold more Studebaker trucks and pickups in their trade area than Ford, GM and Dodge combined. Cecil is quoted as saying, “They came from 50 miles out. Service was the backbone of our business.” The brothers used a very successful ploy to sell their trucks. With every truck sold, the dealership would take a photo of the new owner next to their truck with the owner’s name or owner’s business name painted on the truck doors. Of course, all of this was offered free of charge. The photos were displayed in the dealership to entice new customers. Like Studebaker, Omaha Standard, which manufactured the wooden boxes for many of the trucks sold at Baker Brothers, has a long and rich history. Those wooden boxes were often used to haul grain and livestock to market. Omaha Standard was started in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1924 by Miles Standish who named the business after the city across the Missouri River. That way the business would have national recognition. Standish’s failing business in airplane manufacturing turned into a truck body business when a man ap-proached him on the street and asked Standish to build a truck body for him. In the early 1960s the Baker Brother’s business began to change. After picking up the GMC truck line, they moved to a new larger building located on the other side of town. Over the years the business continued to grow, and they needed more room. The former Massey Harris Implement and Skelly Gas Station provided the additional space for them to sell and service their two product lines. They continued selling Studebakers and GMC trucks until 1966 when Studebaker ceased production.
    Page 2 of 2 - The brothers stayed in business until 1974, selling Chryslers, Plymouths and GMC trucks, and, of course, servicing Studebakers. The end had come; Cecil retired and the business was sold. It reopened under new ownership as Riverside Motors. Baker Brothers Motors is gone but lives on in the photo collection so thoughtfully taken by Cecil Baker and through the cars the brothers sold at the dealership. Duane Miller of Eldridge, Iowa, owns a ’53 Commander that was sold by the Baker brothers. This writer encourages everyone to join the citizens of Redwood Falls in their celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the town’s founding. – Daniel Kuhl of Hastings has been a member of the Studebaker Drivers Club for 30 years. He owns a ’59 Studebaker truck and a ’63 Avanti. His truck sold new at Howard Motor Company in Hastings. Kuhl gained access to the Baker brothers photo collection through his brother-in-law, Frank Frost, who knew the Baker brothers before they passed. He personally has been in contact with the brother’s daughters, Anne and Barb. They have provided immense help in preparing this article and identifying the photo contents. Those contributing to Kuhl’s story in some way include: Annette Barnes, daughter of Cecil Baker, Barbara L. Brock, stepdaughter of David Baker, the City of Redwood Falls Web site, Duane Miller, owner of a Baker Brothers Studebaker, Frank Frost, caretaker of the Baker Brothers photo collection and the Redwood County Historical Society.
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