Longstanding Albert Lea business changes owners

Published 6:33 pm Tuesday, December 19, 2023

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By Ayanna Eckblad

A business that has served the Albert Lea community for decades officially changed ownership Tuesday. Charles “Chuck” Karl, owner of Karl’s Carquest, sold the company to fellow Albert Lea business, Auto Value.

Karl plans to retire from the automotive industry after 39 years in the business.

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The store itself has been in the community for 87 years under various names and owners. Karl’s parents, Raymond and Bonnie Karl, and brother, Jim Karl, began the auto parts operation in 1973 with the original store in Worthington. Chuck joined the business the following year. The family eventually opened stores in Austin, Lake Mills and Jackson. The family bought the Albert Lea location in 1985.

The store began as a service that mixed paint and made hydraulic hoses for farmers and industries. It eventually grew to include turning brake drums and rotors and maintaining flywheels. At all of their locations, the Karls set themselves apart from other auto parts stores through their philosophy, “Service is our specialty.”

“I did outside sales so I was in the customers’ faces all the time,’’ Chuck Karl joked. “That’s the part that I liked the most, being out there and talking to the customers and seeing, day to day, what’s going on in their businesses and trying to help them with what I could do to make their business better by buying from us and offering them our services.”

He thinks very highly of the employees at Carquest that work both directly and indirectly with customers.

“I feel that I’ve had some of the best counter people that are in this town,” he said. “They made us who we are today.”

Carquest now specializes in selling to farmers and wholesale trade as well as keeping a variety of specialty parts that are not available at other auto parts stores. Because several of the employees have worked at Carquest for years, they are able to find parts that customers had trouble finding by themselves or at other stores.

After his parents and brother passed away, Chuck Karl co-owned the Carquest with his sister-in-law, Pat Karl, until September 2018.

Karl became serious about selling the store about three months ago when two of his employees, one of which has been at Carquest for 44 years, decided to retire.

“I said, ‘I’m 70, I should be retiring,” Karl said. He began looking for buyers and sold the business to Auto Value. Although the store is changing ownership,

Karl will always remember the time he was able to serve the area through his Carquest store.

“Carquest has been phenomenal,” he said. “They’re the ones that got us this store many many years ago.”

Karl is an active member of the Albert Lea community. He at one point served as the chief of the Albert Lea Township Fire Department and is currently the treasurer of the Albert Lea Daybreakers Kiwanis Club. During retirement, he and his wife, Jan, plan to do a bit of traveling and then continue to live and be a part of the Albert Lea community.