April 3, 2023 – Cedarburg, WI – Rare is it that someone wraps up a 40-year+ career at the same business where they started working when they were in high school. Randy Kison did just that and retired Friday, March 31, 2023, as the service manager at 5 Corners Dodge Ram Jeep in Cedarburg.
“I like what I do,” said Kison. “But it was time.”
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Kison will be 65 on April 28, 2023. He was in high school in Cedarburg in 1975 when he started working at Cassel Dodge.
“It was an apprenticeship,” said Kison. “I was taking auto mechanics as a class; my teacher’s name was Fred, and he would allow you to leave for your job. If you had enough credits, you were able to do that in the afternoons. So, I would leave class around 1 p.m. and then work at Cassel Dodge until closing. I did that five days a week.
“That was 1975 and I graduated in 1976 and then I started full time in 1981. The guy in charge of the dealership at the time was Ken Serr.”
Kison worked as a technician from 1981 to 1983 and in 1986, after a shift in ownership he was appointed service manager at 5 Corners Dodge.
Paul Demler purchased the Dodge franchise, and 5 Corners GMC purchased the building where it stands today.
That intersection back in the 1980s looked a lot different than it does today. “No, Wayne’s Drive in wasn’t there, neither was Cedar Creek Motorsports,” said Kison. “There really wasn’t anything but a tavern (Hartwig Tavern & Dance Hall) on one corner and 5 Corners Mini Mart which had a gas station. It really did seem like we were out of town at that time. Baehmann’s Golf Course was to the south … but that’s all houses now.”
An ad from 1987 features a much younger tech. “The Kison Kid; I had to make my own ads,” laughed Kison. “We were developing quick oil changes and then express lanes came out, probably in the mid-1990s.”
In the beginning, even though he was promoted to service manager, Kison said he still helped the techs. “They called it a working manager,” he said.
Some of the parts that have changed over the years, according to Kison, include things like water pumps and alternators.
“Now your alternators and everything are all going to electronic versions of the hybrid versions; it’s a combination,” he said. “We don’t call them alternators anymore. They’re more like E torque motors.”
Other upgrades over the last 40 years have been engine displacements with better fuel mileage and getting 20 miles to the gallon on the highway.
Kison’s first car was a 1970 Plymouth that had about 60,000 miles. “I got it from my brother, and I did all the work on it; I actually rebuilt the engine in 1976.”
Along with the cars changing, the shop has too. “When I started turning wrenches, there were three hoists and four techs,” he said. “Now we have lube tech teams, and we have 17 hoists in a shop at this time.”
Kison said he definitely enjoyed his time at 5 Corners.
“Even when the economy was up and down, we survived; we made it,” he said. “The people that were there, the employees, we really never got rid of any; we made jobs for them and actually kept progressing.
“We have a good team and our salesmen… a lot of them have been there 25 years. Unfortunately, I’m the last one that’s been there 40 years but it’s a really good team. We’re family.”