Automobiles have always been a part of Ken Schuman's life.
Owner of Ken's Auto Repair, Schuman explained that his family owned garages and worked in the auto industry dating back to the 1920s.
"My mother would yell at me, 'Why do you want to get your hands dirty?' - and my father would just smile," he said. "It's in your blood."
Ken Schuman is owner of Ken’s Auto Repair which has been in business since 1973.
On Tuesday, his Cape Coral business celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Schuman originally opened it in 1973 as an auto electrical and marine shop with his father. A year later, his father moved on to other ventures.
"We rebuilt starters and alternators for cars, trucks, boats," he said.
The shop worked with the city and on Lee County school buses.
"Because it was a new business, there was a niche," Schuman said. "It was successful."
Estimating the Cape's population at the time at about 12,000, he said an interesting thing about opening was there were very few cars around.
"We did what we had to do to survive," Schuman said.
The shop partnered with some of the nearby boat marinas, offering boat repairs and, in some cases, even helping customers sell their vessels.
"We just had a good working relationship," he said.
The business still maintains some of its original supplies today, giving it access to marine starters and alternators, which Schuman does sell.
"We stock about 150 marine items," he said.
"We also go a good amount of auto electrical," Schuman said.
In 1980, the business expanded to a full-service auto repair shop.
"We did an addition on the building," he said.
The shop offers repairs and brake service for foreign and domestic vehicles, as well as general auto maintenance, such as oil changes and tire service.
"We have three ASC certified mechanics," Schuman said.
ASC stands for Automotive Service Excellence.
Ken's Auto Repair also does a lot of air conditioning work and has started restoring classic cars. Schuman said he started doing air conditioning during his time in the U.S. Navy, when he worked on submarines as an engineman.
"That's when I first learned it," he said. "It was always a fun thing to do."
Schuman served from 1961 to 1964.
"The training I got in the Navy helped me when I got into the business," he said.
As for classic car restorations, Schuman kind of fell into it.
"We have a number of customers who have older cars," he said.
In one case, they manufactured and installed new steel floorboards for one client's 1977 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, which took about six months.
"You couldn't find what you needed, so you had to make it," Schuman said.
They are now working on the mechanics on a 1955 Thunderbird convertible.
He explained that restorations shake up the daily routine for employees.
"We're doing more of that, and we'd like to do more," Schuman said.
Asked about how he has maintained a successful business for four decades, he pointed to people as a key component - employees and customers.
"Investing in good technicians, which is probably the most difficult part of running an auto repair company," Schuman said, adding that proper diagnosis of an issue is a must. "So the person doesn't have to bring the car back."
Ease of communication with clients also plays a role.
"We want the customers to feel comfortable if they're talking to me or one of the employees," he said. "We try to go the extra mile."
On the flip side, building personal relationships with clients is important.
"That, believe me, is the fun part of my business," Schuman said.
A father of five, he explained that he was very involved with the Cape community when his children were young. He ran the Cape Little League for three years and was part of a city where "everybody knew everybody."
"We got to know a lot of people in the community, a lot of families," Schuman said. "It was a nice, little friendly community back then."
Asked about the future of his business, he thinks that one of his children will take it over. Turning 70 this year, Schuman is not ready to quit yet though.
"I'm not looking to retire," he said. "I love what I do."
Married for nearly 48 years to his wife, Marilyn, Schuman also owns Ken Schuman Insurance. The company is run by one of his daughters.
Ken's Auto Repair is at 4533 Del Prado Blvd. S.
For more information about the business, visit the Web site at: www.kensautorepaircapecoral.com or call 542-0008 or 542-5540.