In the few short weeks following the passing of beloved Forest City auto mechanic Mark Kaiser, customers have increasingly been calling his wife and longtime business partner, Marilyn Kaiser, asking "are you still open?"
The answer is yes.
Kaiser Auto Repair remains open with Mark having trained Jim Schaumberg, the part-time mechanic who has worked there for several years under Mark’s supervision.
Both Marilyn and daughter Melissa Nelson said the family is pleased that Schaumberg is staying on and helping to keep the business going.
“Dad was battling some health issues the last few years, but would supervise and talk him through things,” Melissa said.
“This shop was his life,” Marilyn said. “I want to keep it going because it was our legacy. Mark was at the shop until the end, but had to have another person working there.”
Marilyn carries on as the face of the business, answering the telephone, scheduling appointments, ordering and getting parts, paying the bills, and balancing the financial books, in addition to being business owner.
Kaiser Auto Repair provides a full-range of vehicle maintenance and repair services. Current business hours are 1-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Marilyn said it was an easy decision to continue the business. She said it is what Mark would want and she enjoys the work of running the business.
“We’ll keep this going as long as possible,” she said. “The people that knew Mark know me too. Mark was a very honest person who loved all of his customers, and I do too. They are the best. We treat them as family.”
Mark and Marilyn were married for 43 years after a three-year courtship. He worked as an auto mechanic for as long as they were married. He moved from Allison to Forest City, where he met Marilyn, who is a Lake Mills native and Lake Mills High School graduate.
Mark graduated from Forest City High School and worked for Farmer’s Cooperative in Forest City prior to working for a Chevrolet dealership in Buffalo Center and another Chevy dealer in Forest City for 25 years.
Mark and Marilyn started Kaiser Auto Repair in 2006 after buying the property and putting up the metal repair shop building at 1135 Highway 69 on the south end of town.
Mark died of blood clots on March 6. Afterward, Marilyn, with Schaumberg's help, quietly continued the business.
“He loved getting to know and work with his customers,” said Melissa of her father. “The business really grew quickly because so many of his loyal customers followed him there because they wanted him to continue to work on their cars. It was always his dream to open his own shop. So, we definitely want to see it keep going as long as it can.”
Marilyn’s and Mark’s other children are Tina Badker of Clear Lake, Shelly Skjeie of Forest City, Mike Kaiser of Forest City, and Amanda Cohrs of Spring Valley, Illinois. Melissa lives in Thornton.
Marilyn said she has fond memories of Mark and Mike working on cars. She said that when Mike was young, he raced RC cars with Mark fixing them up and making them race-ready.
More recently, Mark enjoyed working on Mike’s 1972 Chevelle, including dropping a bigger engine in it and then an even larger engine because Mike wanted more horsepower.
“Mark finally heard that engine run the day before he died,” Marilyn said. “He loved the work.”
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at email@example.com.