ORFORDVILLE, Wis. – Kevin Wellnitz keeps a laser focus on every customer who walks through his shop door. He says he considers this to be the backbone of his business.
“I strive to have the best customer service and making it as convenient as possible to come in the door, to let me help my customers and get them along their way,” the owner of Sather’s Service said. “I can get any tire, anything anybody needs.”
Sather’s Service is an old-fashioned tire shop and full-service gas station that has been in business since 1926. Wellnitz bought it from owners Bill and Barb Sather in 2013. He continues to find ways to grow the business, including putting his mechanical expertise to work with vehicle repairs.
“Don’t let the small service station scare you away because you’re thinking big price,” Wellnitz said. “I can keep up with just about any ‘big-box’ store as far as tire prices go on just about any tire out there. My prices are very, very competitive, even with online companies.”
Jill Uhe, a Sather’s Service customer from rural Footville, Wisconsin, said she appreciates the convenience of Sather’s and likes to work with local businesses. Wellnitz’s customer service is excellent, she said.
“Kevin always works with you and is honest,” she said.
Wellnitz grew up on a dairy farm just outside Orfordville and attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville to obtain a degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in business administration. He then spent 12 years in the U.S. Army Reserves. Part of his military service included two tours in Iraq, experiences he now uses to his advantage when helping his customers.
“I’m not saying that war is a good thing, but when you go somewhere where there’s a war going on, you look at things a little differently when you come back regardless of what kind of experience you have,” he said. “When you’re not dealing with a war, you tend to take everything else with a grain of salt.”
Wellnitz uses his childhood experiences on the farm as a basis for his business. At a young age he learned the importance of doing a job correctly the first time. He’s carried that lesson through to his business practices, which he said is what attracts customers, both new and old, through his doors.
“Customer service is the reason Kevin Wellnitz does so well with his business,” said John Quinn of rural Orfordville. “He is willing to help you with any need you may have. But the best part is just the straight talk you will get from Kevin and the mutual respect.”
While Wellnitz handles general business-ownership duties like accounting, bookkeeping, marketing and customer service, Noah Hanson helps. Also of Orfordville, Hanson handles Sather’s Service jobs that are easier to do on-site instead of asking farmers to bring their equipment into Sather’s shop. Hanson and Wellnitz purchased a service truck together early in 2018; Hanson runs his mobile tire and repair business from the new truck. The service truck is equipped with hand tools, an air compressor, welder, generator and a 6,000-pound capacity lift crane. Those tools come in handy when mounting and dismounting tires on tractors and heavy equipment.
“Beyond tires I can also diagnose and repair gasoline and diesel engines, and I have a good understanding of the mechanics of repairing farm implements,” Hanson said.
He started his own tire and repair business to offer honest and affordable prices to farmers and anybody else who can benefit from his services, he said. He’s learning about business ownership from Wellnitz.
“I really enjoy being able to work with Kevin,” Hanson said. “He’s a very driven, hard-working guy who puts 100 percent into anything he is going to do.”
Author: Mary Hookham is a freelance agricultural journalist and photographer from Janesville, Wisconsin. She grew up near Footville on a 140-acre beef and chicken farm and went to high school in Orfordville. She graduated from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a bachelor of arts degree in print journalism and a minor in English for writers.