By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN After 35 years of selling vehicles at Holt Motors, Steve Keith is looking forward to kicking back on the beaches of Florida and exploring the next chapter in his life.
Thursday was bittersweet and a bit emotional for Keith. It was his last day “not on Earth, just at Holt Motors,” as he told one of his many customers who called to wish him well in his retirement.
Though he will miss them, along with his fellow coworkers, “It’s time for the next chapter,” Keith said.
It was in 1977 when Keith, a Marine Corps veteran having served in Vietnam, was asked by the Holt family to come work for them. He was working at 3M at the time.
Hired for sales, Keith didn’t know anything about selling cars. “But, it’s like you pinch your nose and jump off the dock into cold water,” Keith said, explaining he learned the job as he went along.
“In the long run, it all worked out,” he said, adding that he also has a passion for cars, which helped.
There were many things he liked about his work at Holt, such as the freedom the job gave him.
It was also diverse. Because the staff was small early on, Keith wasn’t just selling cars. He would also wash and clean cars, among other duties.
Keith also enjoyed seeing the different faces each day and the relationships he was able to build along the way.
There’s a trust that is developed, Keith explained. “You become their psychologist in a way.”
In fact, he said there were customers of his coming in all last week asking him, “Who are we going to talk to now?”
Steve has been the new car manager for years, while his son Marc, worked in finance. Marc will continue where Steve left off and work with his past customers.
“I will try to fill his shoes the best I can,” Marc said. Marc is also going to miss working alongside his dad, adding that it’s something one takes for granted.
On the home front, his retirement comes with perfect timing since his wife, Diane, also retired last week.
He joked that now he doesn’t have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning to the sound of her turbo hair dryer.
As a separation between the couple’s working years and retirement years, they decided to spend two months in Destin, FL, starting in February, relaxing and playing golf.
Both 63, Keith said he and Diane have been blessed to be able to retire, since the economy has made it difficult for others their age to do so.
Keith said it’s important to have a plan going into retirement. His plan, after a two-month hiatus, will be volunteering a few days a week at the VA hospital in Minneapolis.
Considering himself very blessed, Keith said, “You’ve got to give some back.”
He will work in various areas around the hospital, helping those that can’t help themselves.
“I’m looking forward to that,” he said.
This isn’t the start of Keith’s work assisting veterans.
Greg Holt commented on how dedicated his longtime employee has been over the past decade, particularly helping veterans get the care they need.
Holt also commented that Keith’s absence will already be felt the next day, since he was always the first one to open the dealership, even driving from Waconia in the snow.
“He’s a [heck] of a guy,” said Kevin Nelson, who had worked at Holt Motors back in high school, and is a current employee.
“When I came back here [three years ago], Steve was the first one to welcome me back,” Nelson commented.
Keith is also well-known around the office for drinking coffee. “[We’re] going to miss his coffee cups everywhere,” joked Abby Lindquist.