Still enjoying the ride
Oconomowoc’s Lakeland car dealership marks 40th year in business   

By Josh Perttunen - Enterprise Staff

July 10, 2014

At a 40th anniversary celebration on Monday afternoon, Lakeland's co-owners Tom Manthy (far left) and Ron Reiter (far right) bookend long-time technician Dick Uttech, who has 40 years at the dealership, and office manager Betty Morgan, who has 37 years at the dealership.
Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff

TOWN OF OCONOMOWOC - The Lakeland car dealership in the Town of Oconomowoc entered its 40th year of business on July 3 - and subsequently celebrated that achievement with cake and a flood of shared memories on Monday.

What’s remarkable about the business, said co-owners Tom Manthy and Ron Reiter, who started the dealership together in 1974, is that so many people have been along for the ride; including loyal customers and several employees who have tenures of more than 20 years with Lakeland.

“With all of the electronics and fuel efficiency, it is night and day from where it was 40 years ago,” Manthy said.

As the dealership celebrated its 40-year milestone, Manthy and Reiter made a habit of asking each employee how long they’ve worked for them. One employee chimed in that he’d been with Lakeland for 23 years. And then another. Office manager Betty Morgan has 37 years and technician Dick Uttech had started at Steinman Motor Company 40 years ago, the year that Manthy and Reiter bought the dealership in downtown Oconomowoc and turned it into Lakeland.

Tom Manthy is pleased with the photo collage he received to commemorate
Lakeland's 40th year of business.

Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff

In 1982, the dealership moved to its present location at N48-W36216 Wisconsin Ave. in the Town of Oconomowoc, where it has grown to nearly five or six times the size of the original space.

With 40 years of longevity, the owners said they have met a lot of people. People who originally bought their vehicles from either of them can (and do) still ask to see them.

“A lot of our customers have become really good friends,” Manthy said. “The biggest thing is to treat people how you want to be treated. We’re one of the few car dealerships where you can walk in and talk to the owners.

“There are cases where customers have bought from (Ron or I) and they want to still deal with us,” he continued. “If they put that kind of faith and trust in us all those years ago, we’re not too important to stop taking care of them.”

The neat thing about four decades in business, said Lakeland co-owners Tom Manthy and Ron Reiter, is that so many of their employees have been along for the ride.
Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff

Both men still enjoy their roles as car salesmen and approach it the same way as they always have. 

“We’ve never been a high pressure dealership,” Reiter said. “I still sell more cars over the phone than in person. There are some customers in Milwaukee who have never been here, but I give them a price and they’re sold.”

The most notable changes in the past 40 years are the price range of vehicles (from $12,000 to $70,000), that the number of trucks sold has pulled even with cars sold and the technology available in vehicles.

“With all of the electronics and fuel efficiency, it is night and day from where it was 40 years ago,” Manthy said.

The key to Lakeland's success is for employees to treat customers how they would want to be treated, said owner Tom Manthy. 
Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff

Reiter and Manthy met while working at S and R Lincoln Mercury in Milwaukee. Manthy was the used car manager and Reiter was the lease guy. They attribute their solid partnership to being of different generations. 

“His circle of friends is different than my circle of friends,” said Reiter.

Reiter is 81 years old, with no plans of slowing down.

“I’m not only selling to some of my customers’ kids, but to their grandkids as well,” he said.

“I’ve never had a day where I didn’t want to go to work,” he added. “I feel pretty blessed.”

In addition to the location in Oconomowoc, which features a service center, there is a Lakeland dealership in Lake Mills, at 321 E. Tyranea Park Boulevard, which opened in 1988.

Email: Jperttunen@conleynet.com