Remembering Lou RyanPublished 6:50am Sunday, August 5, 2012
I got a call from an acquaintance that had attended the funeral service of Lou Ryan that my name and business name were mentioned within one of the testimonials given at Lou’s funeral service. Not long ago, I had a lengthy business meeting with our new, delightful, Shakopee Chamber of Commerce president and in talking about business in general and ethics, my memory of Lou Ryan and our business interactions flashed across my mind and I felt it worthy to write this in his memory.
It is true that I offered to pay Lou more money than he asked for, for some work he was doing for me. His refusal to take the money illuminates the grit character upon which Lou was built, and exactly what it meant to give your word or a handshake deal.
The situation was this: I had $1,500 as an estimate to have Lou change engines for a old friend of mine, and Lou’s price to me was something like $1,175. As this was quite a few years ago, Lou had put in the first engine and it turned out to be bad. It was one of those 8-6-4 Cadillac engines that were known to have a soft crankshaft, for you motorheads.
Lou called and said they would put a different engine in, and, well, that one was bad, too. Now, this is a major loss already for Lou. He called me and gave me the good news, bad news. Good news was Lou said we’ll fix this thing one way or another and would call me in a couple of days. Well, he did call me in a couple of days and said the car was ready to go. I asked him what he did to remedy the situation, and he said he bought a brand-new crankshaft kit from the GM dealer and installed it. Now, we talking a colossal loss for Albert Lea Salvage. I insisted that Lou take the entire $1,500 and I’d forfeit my margin, as I felt terrible, and I did absolutely love Lou Ryan and the type of man he was, and what he stood for. Lou just said, my bid was $1,175, and that’s what your bill is.
He just was a man of his word, and I wonder in today’s society just how many people really know the significance of this promise and the character it takes to give it.
I bought my first repairable total loss car from Lou Ryan over the telephone. Now, it would be fair to say that this type of transaction would be successful about one time out of a 100, but if you dealt with Lou Ryan, there was no doubt that you got the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I was a lot younger and poorer back then, and I had to drive the thing home to Burnsville from Albert Lea and this thing didn’t miss a beat, and got quite a few startling stares going down the highway, but Lou was exactly right when he said I could drive it home. I’d trust him with my life.
One more. I suppose I’m a big guy now, at 68 years old, but I was a little guy for quite a few years as I started with nothing but good work ethic, thanks to my parents. Without much money or credit, I needed to purchase a front end for an Olds Toronado repairable I was fixing for resale. I found the front end at another yard in Iowa called Piper Auto Salvage. They wouldn’t send the front to me as they didn’t trust that I could complete the payment transaction so I asked if they wanted a reference, and you know who I called, of course? Lou Ryan. Lou’s statement to them was this: Send the man his front clip and if he doesn’t pay you, I will, period. Another reflection of Lou’s character and class, and I don’t want anyone to forget this very valuable man. Lou Ryan still stands tall.
Pearson Auto Body