Not your average salesman
The 50-year history of V&H: Part I
By Kris Leonhardt
“Noel C. Thorpe was the principal,” recalled Floyd Hamus. “He was a rough and tough guy to keep the kids in line in those days. My dad and Noel Thorpe were very, very close friends. When I was a senior and was going to graduate, he called all of the seniors down to the office and had a discussion with each one of them about their future and life.
“He said, ‘You know, Floyd, you are a C+ person.’ That was my average score in school, C+. I was about 16th in my class of about 32. ‘When you get out,’ he said, ‘if you get a chance to get a job, if I were you, I would stick with it for the rest of my life.’ I always remembered that.”
Hamus was destined for sales that spring day he walked away a graduate of Auburndale High School as he held in his hand a certificate of achievement that read “In recognition of outstanding selling ability, and achievement in practical sales work.”
Hamus took a job working a Pepsi-Cola route after high school, but misfortune would lead him on a path that would provide the security his former principal had asked him to find.
“I owned the Pepsi-Cola route, the entire Pepsi-Cola distributorship of the area, … which was me. I was a one-man show,” explained Hamus.
“There was a failure on the truck, and it hit the ditch and tipped over. Then it threw me out of the cab. In those days they didn’t have seatbelts. I fell onto the blacktop in a sitting position, and I crushed three vertebrae in my lower back. I had a full-body cast put on for six months,” Hamus said.
Unable to manage the route in his cast, Hamus found employment with Hub City Motors as a salesman.
Hamus later stayed on with the business after it was purchased by the L.L. Felker Company.
“There I moved from a salesman to the sales manager, to general manager, to part owner,” said Hamus. “When I became sales manager, I hired Warner (Von Holzen). He was from Neillsville at the time. His family was in the cheese-making business, and Warner owned a small hotel in Neillsville, and then he owned a hotel in Marshfield.
“I was looking for a heavy truck salesman, and he came and asked if he could become a truck salesman, so I hired him as a salesman at that time.”
After Hamus became the general manager, he was approached by the Felkers with an offer to sell.
“They offered the business to me,” recalled Hamus, “if I wanted to buy out Felker Motors.”
Floyd had just gotten married to his wife Patricia and built a new home. Money was short for the new family.
“But the Felkers really wanted to get out — or have a part owner in it,” added Hamus. “So they gave me some options. After a couple of years, they wanted to get out of it completely, so Warner and I both went together and bought it.”
At that time the pair did not buy the property, only the business. Several years later, Hamus and Von Holzen would purchase the land as well and take over the business in its entirety.
In August 1966 the automotive company came under the sole ownership of Floyd Hamus and Warner Von Holzen. As the pair deliberated over a new moniker, they came up with a plan that would be fair and equal to both parties.
Next week: The 50-year history of V & H: See how it grows