See how it grows
The 50-year history of V&H: Part II
By Kris Leonhardt
After Floyd Hamus and Warner Von Holzen had full ownership in the car dealership that once was Felker Motors, the pair had a huge decision to make: what they would name their new venture.
“When we bought it, we had to make a decision. Someone had to be the president, and the other would have the naming (rights),” said Hamus. “So we went out to have lunch, and we said, ‘Why don’t we flip a coin three times, and the guy that gets it two times out of the three times picks?’”
At the end of the coin flip, Hamus was the president of the company, and Von Holzen was granted the right to have his initial first in line, and the business became known as V&H.
Hamus and Von Holzen almost immediately switched the focus of the dealership from car and truck to heavy truck, finding a niche in specially equipped heavy trucks.
“We specialized in certain things, and the biggest thing was the drywall industry,” explained Hamus. “In those days, people were putting drywall in by hand. They had to carry the boards in.
“We had a big company in Chicago, which was the biggest drywall company in the United States. They came to us through a friend of mine in Chicago. He was in the drywall business with trucks. In those days they had to take the drywall off the platform on the truck bed. Then they had to carry it into the facilities. It was a lot of work.
“Prentice Hydraulics had loaders that they designed for the logging industry. They had what you would call a claw that would grab the logs and put them on the truck in piles. I took him over there to show him the equipment that they had. Then we sat down together.”
The group’s design pioneered the use of the hydraulic crane in the drywall industry and grew into a multimillion sales venture in heavy trucks specially equipped for the drywall, dairy, logging, and construction markets.
Back when Hamus and Von Holzen purchased the dealership, the business came with fuel pumps in front of the showroom on what was known as “Five Corners.”
“We didn’t want to be in the gasoline business. We wanted to be in the heavy truck and auto business,” said Hamus, so the gas pumps were removed.
In the mid-1970s, a showroom was added on, making the building large enough to hold 50 cars.
“That was the largest showroom in the state of Wisconsin when we built it,” recalled Hamus.
The pair then built a body shop, which they later added on to, and also added a service and parts center.
As the business expanded, Von Holzen neared retirement age, and Hamus began purchasing stock back to buy Von Holzen out of the business. By 1987 Von Holzen was fully retired from the dealership.
The business continued to grow, adding a training center and later an assembly plant.
As the company expanded, the V&H complex grew from 2 to 11 acres through purchasing over 27 homes and businesses.
“We made a deal to buy everyone’s homes at 25 percent over the appraised value without even looking at it,” added Hamus.
The business that began with 32 employees grew to 100 staff members and later topped 300.
In addition to the heavy truck stock, V&H now offered Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Plymouth vehicles.
With the turn of the century drawing near, V&H’s sales were skyrocketing. However, after a half-century in the business, Hamus was looking for a little rest. As he began to step out of the business, two staff members stepped forward to make what once was one into two.
Next week: The 50-year history of V&H: One becomes two