Wilhelm Automotive – a business older than the state
Wilhelm Automotive in the early years.
This is the story of Wilhelm Automotive as told by its present owners.
Wilhelm Automotive is a story of four families who have kept a thriving business at the same location since 1889. It all began as the original settlers came from Peoria, Ill. to settle in the Northwest Valley and establish Peoria, Ariz.
A pioneer named Milt “Tuck” Blackwell began the original business as a blacksmith operation to serve the pioneer farmers. Milt sold his business to the Jennings Brothers, who changed the name and focus from blacksmith shop to include mechanical repair and thus named their establishment, Jennings Garage. After many years of community service, the Jennings Brothers eventually sold the business to Joe Wilhelm in 1928.
Joe renamed the business to Wilhelm Garage and continued the tradition of providing the farmers of Peoria repair needs on their farm equipment over the next 50 years. Shortly after purchase, the business all burned to the ground. Joe rebuilt, just in time to weather the Great Depression.
To support the war effort during 1942-45, Wilhelm Garage built cotton wagons. The welding shop was in full production by 1945, and produced hundreds of wagons for hauling cotton.
After WWII, the facility expanded by adding more repair space to serve the growing farming community. In the 1960s, Sun City, a Del Webb master-planned community, sprouted a few miles west and retirees began to frequent Joe’s shop. Joe Wilhelm sold his business to the Gyder family in 1979.
During their first summer of ownership in 1979, the Gyder Family worked to clean up the repair shop, removing 75 tons of garbage, recycling 60 tons of scrap steel, and removing 65 abandoned vehicles. The shop quickly went from five repair bays to 10.
Joe worked with the Gyder family, Charley, Mary Jane and their five sons, the first few years in the transition. With 10 repair bays and 10 employees, half of which were family, the shop began a transition from a farming support business to serving Sun City and the growing population of Peoria. The oldest son, an ASE Certified Technician, managed the shop and grew its reputation as a premier repair facility over the next nine years, doubling the business. In 1987, Thom Gyder joined his brother in the family business as his parents sought to retire. The brothers all worked the business, with a seasonal helping hand from their mom, Mary Jane.
It wasn’t long before the brothers began to expand the Wilhelm name beyond Peoria. They opened a second facility in Litchfield Park in 1988, taking over an old Goodyear Tire Store. By 1991, the family acquired some land, built and moved into an eight-bay repair facility in Litchfield Park. Meanwhile, the Peoria shop experienced rapid growth as it tripled in volume and increased the number of repair bays to 38. In 1997, Doug Gyder, the youngest brother, rejoined the family business, and two years later, a third location was opened in Tatum Ranch.
By 1997, Charley and Mary Jane retired and their boys worked the family business. By 2009, the family business had blossomed from one location, 10 bays and 10 workers to five locations, 66 bays and 45 team members.
Even with growth, the focus continues to be on people – those that work for us, live in the communities surrounding us, and the customers who support us. Customer service vans run full and the shops are equipped with some of the latest high tech equipment available. Constant training in their field is mandatory for all personnel, from the technicians to the service personnel. However, no family business would be complete without being in touch with the needs of the community. All the family and our company team members have been active over the years in local service clubs, chambers, community events and service to youth organizations. It has been a long-standing tradition of the Wilhelm Automotive Family Team to give back to the community that has given our business the opportunity to grow and prosper in this great place, the Valley of the Sun.