Effingham Daily News
During the depths of the Great Depression, two enterprising brothers began fixing cars and motorcycles in a shop on East Jefferson Avenue in Effingham.
Albert and Frank Goeckner didn't sell cars when they opened their repair shop in 1932, but the brothers got into the sales business five years later when they built Goeckner Bros. Sales & Service in 1937.
Seventy-five years later, the business still thrives under the leadership of a second and third generation of Goeckners.
Albert and Frank started out selling Plymouths and DeSotos from their original location at 403 E. Fayette, a building that now houses the John Boos & Co. showroom. They sold their first new vehicle to Bob Esker Sr. of Teutopolis in the fall of 1937.
The brothers continued to sell Plymouths and DeSotos through the 40s and 50s. Meanwhile, Jack Graham was selling Chryslers and Plymouths and Berg-Siefken was selling Dodge cars and trucks.
But Chrysler Corp. discontinued the DeSoto line in 1960. That same year, Chrysler asked the Goeckners if they would take over the Dodge line, leaving the Plymouths to Graham. With numerous ties to the local farming community, Albert & Frank jumped at the chance to sell Dodge trucks.
The brothers continued to sell Dodge cars and trucks through the 1976 model year. By that time, Albert's sons Paul and Mark were already well-acquainted with the business.
By 1976, Paul had worked in the service department for four years, while Mark had graduated from SIU-Carbondale and was working at Effingham Truck Sales as office manager and warranty administrator.
"I had worked there (at Goeckner Bros.) in high school and college," Mark said. "Dad had already pretty much retired by then."
So, the second generation of Goeckners bought out the first generation in 1976. At the same time, Paul and Mark moved into the old Shouse Motors building at 600 E. Fayette.
The brothers were selling Chryslers again, since Jack Graham had gone out of business. The Goeckners added Plymouths in 1981 and Jeep-Eagle in 1992.
The Goeckners have expanded a number of times at their new location to provide more space to show a growing inventory of new and used cars. Most notably, the brothers built in 1992 a new showroom and service center at 604 E. Fayette on what had been the right rear corner of their previous lot.
Mark said there's no secret to the company's longevity.
"We've always tried to be fair and honest with people," he said. "And, we've hired lots of good employees over the years.
"We have families who started with Dad and Frank whose kids and grand kids still buy from us. Our repeat business is very high."
Mark said the past 35 years have brought tremendous changes in how cars are sold or serviced.
"In 1976, there was hardly any computerization either in the dealership or the cars," he said. "Everything was done by hand.
"Now, we're in our third or fourth generation of computers."
Mark said his service personnel all spend two to three weeks each year in a continuing education program to keep up with the latest automotive technology.
"There's no taking a pair of pliers and a screwdriver and thinking you're going to fix something," he said. "Some of the newer vehicles have as many as seven computers."
But Mark said the computer technology has spawned increased quality.
"There's a night and day difference from 1976," he said. "The cars have gotten so much better that when people get a new car, you won't see them again for several years."
There's a third generation of Goeckners that already has assumed management positions at the dealership. Mark's sons Thorin and Travis are sales and commercial sales managers, respectively. Their sister, Neeley, handles marketing initiatives for the dealership.
Neeley said she and her brothers hope to make the dealership their life's work, much as their grandfather and father did. But to do that, she said, they have adjusted to 21st century shopping patterns.
"Almost anybody looks online before they walk onto a car lot," she said. "All of our inventory is online because people like to have a lot of information at their fingertips."
Neeley said the family is also starting to have service specials online, as well.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.