From the outside, Mertz Ford in Millstadt looks like a fairly normal building. But what the passerby or customer may not realize is that the building has a history and was restored from an old factory instead of being built like other Ford locations.
Mertz Ford has operated a few different locations in Millstadt, all along the main stretch of Route 158 that runs through town.
Owner Don Mertz tells stories of his grandfather starting in the early 1920s in a former blacksmith shop.
“The first Model Ts were shipped to Millstadt in 1921,” Mertz said. “My grandpa started in 1919 and got his Ford franchise in 1921. From there, he built the other facility where the service department was in 1925.”
They were in their old location all those years leading up to two years ago, when they moved to 100 East Washington Street.
The building started out as Millstadt Milling Co. and was also home to Golden Dipt products. Kerry Industries bought it in 1994, and the Mertz family bought it afterwards. Mertz was outgrowing its old location, and it was time to start anew.
“When we were looking at building a new facility, Ford wanted Mertz to move to the interstate out by Cahokia,” he said. “I really wanted to stay in my own community more than anything. We’ve been here forever.”
He worked with Ford to try to find a property that was not only in Millstadt, but fit the requirements and needs of a Ford dealership.
“At the time, we couldn’t figure out where to go. We were going to build where we were and had plans to expand,” he said. “At the last minute, (the current building) became available.” Mertz called Ford and told them about the building, and everyone decided it was the best direction to go.
“Ford was very supportive from the very beginning,” he said. “They had to work with us pretty closely.”
He said the seller wanted to sell the property as just the property without the buildings, but when demolition time came, there was one building that was still in good shape.
“It was built in 1991, and that’s the building we’re in today,” he said. “It wasn’t exactly ready to be a car dealership, so we removed 50 feet of the building in the front and added on to the back part.”
The dealership is massive, and houses a 16-bay service department, expansive showroom and sizable office space.
“A lot of people don’t realize the size of it until they step inside,” Mertz said. “We took an old building and made it into a state-of-the-art car dealership.
It’s really amazing, and I’m pretty proud of what we’re doing here.”
His favorite part of this whole process is having a very well made and energy efficient building.
“We were so fortunate to have a contractor, GRS Construction, who worked with us from the beginning to the end,” he said. “We can’t say enough positive things about them.”
Since the building was built to be used for the food industry, Mertz said it’s very well insulated.
They even make use of used oil from when customers get their oil changed to power an oil-burning furnace, which heats the entire building.
“It’s like we have a brand new facility at a fraction of what it would have cost to build from the ground up,” he said.
“That saves overhead, which keeps us competitive.”
He said their customer service ratings are very high, and they aim to keep it that way.
“That’s our goal: to have the highest customer satisfaction in the area,” he said. “Everything else will follow, but first, you have to take care of your customers.” Mertz Ford is still growing, and luckily, they have plenty of space to do so.
For more information on Mertz Ford, visit www.mertzford.com or call 618-476-3051