In the Spotlight

News & Features
Your Voice
DocumentJoin the conversation with other MPR listeners in the News Forum.

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
100 years in the business
Larger view
Stephen Tenvoorde started selling Ford cars in St. Cloud in 1903, just as Henry Ford started his business. The Tenvoorde family still runs a dealership today, making it the oldest Ford dealership in the world. (Photo courtesy Tenvoorde family)
As Ford Motor Company marks its 100th anniversary, a Ford dealership in St. Cloud is joining the celebration. The Tenvoorde family started selling Fords a century ago, just as Henry Ford started his business. It's now considered the oldest Ford dealership in the world.

Larger view
Image Stephen Tenvoorde in the 1890's

St. Cloud, Minn. — A Tenvordee Ford salesman is showing off the latest model of Ford pick-up truck to an interested customer here at the dealership's lot in St. Cloud. The $34,000 dollar truck is a far cry from how the dealership got it's start 100 years ago.

On the Tenvoorde showroom floor, an early Model T sits next Ford's brand new SUVs. Tenvoorde Ford's 63-year-old President Jack Tenvoorde sees a lot of history in this old car, his family's history.

Jack's grandfather Stephen was born in St. Cloud in 1865. Stephen Tenvoorde was an industrious young man. He started his own blacksmith shop in his twenties. Then he started selling bicycles, he repaired them too. He loved to tinker.

"Evidently when the first automobile came out it caught his interest," Jack Tenvoorde says. "So he brought the first automobile to St. Cloud, a Milwaukee Steamer, up the Oxen trail from Minneapolis. That was in 1899, the first time people had seen a horseless carriage,"

It wasn't long before Stephen Tenvoorde started selling cars to local residents. In 1903 Stephen Tenvoorde headed east to check in with another start up, Henry Ford.

Larger view
Image Jack Tenvoorde

"He went to Detroit with a friend of his and signed the franchise," Tenvoorde says. "At that time he was the second person to sign the Ford franchise. The initial signer one month earlier sold out and no longer was in the business."

Tenvoorde Ford has been in business ever since, making it the oldest Ford dealership in the world.

Jack Tenvoorde says over the years, the business has seen it's share of challenges. The toughest times came during wars and the Depression when people weren't buying cars.

"People didn't have any money. It was mostly repair work which was also the case during World War II, just to keep employees to keep the business. Hopefully they could pay for them," Tenvoorde says.

Keeping the business together as it's handed from one generation to another hasn't been easy either. In the late 1960's Jack's father Cy Tenvoorde kept his brothers and sisters from selling the business. He bought their share of the company. Jack Tenvoorde doesn't forsee any problems as he hands the business on to the fourth generation. Four of his children are now a part of the business.

Larger view
Image Eric Tenvoorde

Jack's son Mike Tenvoorde is the dealership's general manager. Mike says things are going smoothly with his generation, even with so many family members involved in the business

"Certain people in the family have to be the boss. You have to take that aside and come to work to work and forget about titles and do your job, we've been able to do that," Tenvoorde says.

The fifth generation of the Tenvoorde family will start work at the dealership this summer. 18-year old Eric will work in the dealership's service center checking in new cars and parking them on the lot. Eric Tenvoorde says he'd love to take over the family business some day. But it's to early to say for sure. He's got one more year of high school and plenty of hockey to play.

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects