By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN With more than 35 years of experience selling NAPA auto parts in Winsted, Tom Schermann, a 1974 Holy Trinity High School graduate, is well-known to his customers, who often seek his advice on their automotive projects.
When he has time, Tom said he is usually working on an old car or a lawnmower, but he makes it clear, when offering advice, he is not a mechanic.
“But I share what I have done that works, and what to look for,” Tom said.
Tom and his wife, Connie (Paschke) Schermann own the NAPA Auto Parts store in Winsted, which recently moved to 465 6th St. N., just off McLeod County Road 1, west of town.
The Schermanns were married one month before Tom began his career with NAPA, which has also given Connie 35 years of experience with auto parts, helping out in the store when needed.
Marrying Connie the same year he began working for NAPA has been an advantage Tom appreciates, helping him keep track of time.
“I have lived in Winsted my whole life, in the same house for 35 years,” Tom said. “I don’t change. That’s how I remember it all.”
But Tom did make an exception to his rule about change when he decided about a year ago to move the NAPA store to a new location so it would have more visibility, additional space for inventory, and a parking lot with better access.
The store’s larger parking lot has allowed people with trailers and boats enough room to turn around, something that was impossible at the previous location.
The new store opened April 1. Store hours are Mondays through Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
As soon as the store has been painted gray with a blue stripe, and the “NAPA Auto Parts” sign has been installed, the Schermanns have plans for an open house, possibly by the end of May.
With 900 square feet of additional space, the store has added more tools, body hardware fasteners, and more hydraulics for farming.
It also carries marine supplies such as boat batteries, and camping supplies.
“We are also carrying larger equipment. We have welders, floor jacks, and big tool boxes,” Tom said. “And there are some air compressors that aren’t here yet.”
“If we don’t have it, most of it we can order and have it overnight. If they don’t have it in, possibly a day or two, but usually overnight,” Tom said. “If it’s really desperate, we have gone to get it the same day.”
The auto parts store is replacing what was previously a car wash. The construction took about a year. Some doors have been removed and replaced with metal walls, and the front of the building is new. Lighting, heating, plumbing, and air conditioning were included in the makeover.
This is the third time the NAPA store has moved in Winsted.
“We were originally in the building where Jimmy’s Pizza is now. About 27 years ago, there was a little fire upstairs,” Tom said. “When they put the fire out, they flooded us out downstairs.”
After the fire, NAPA was relocated across the street in the G & K building, which was next to the bank, where the drive-through currently is.
NAPA stayed in the G & K building for about a year, while the NAPA building on Second St. was built.
“We moved in there 26 years ago,” Tom said.
It was more than six years ago that Tom and Connie decided to buy the NAPA business.
Connie said she was a little nervous.
“The way the economy was, it was a little scary,” she said. “I asked him, ‘are you sure you want to do this?’”
But the couple agree it was a good move, and Tom especially likes being his own boss, although he finds he doesn’t have as much time for hobbies, now that he is a business owner.
Jesse Cardinal is a full-time employee of Tom’s, who has been working at NAPA full and part time for seven years.
Connie helps out in the store, if she is needed.
“So far, business has been good, but it’s that time of the year, when things pick up, people are out in their yard, and farmers are out. But there have been a lot of new faces,” Tom said of their new location.
The Schermanns have three daughters:
• Christine Cardinal, who is married to Jeremy Cardinal and they live in Waverly;
• Sarah Bogma, who is married to Matt and they live in Winsted; and
• Amanda Schermann, who lives in Winsted.
The couple also has four grandchildren.