November 23, 2022

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Macoupin classic-car couple ends 30-year ‘hobby’

STAUNTON — What started as a interest for Russ Noel turned into a desire occur genuine when he opened Place Common Automobiles.

Now he’s cruising down the street into retirement.

“I’ve always been a mechanic and I employed to function for Volkswagen several years ago,” Noel explained. “When I was 24 many years outdated, I went into enterprise for myself. So I’d been carrying out it for 54 a long time. It is type of a alter not doing the job, but we’re acquiring used to it.”

Russ and his spouse, Anita, opened Country Basic Autos in Staunton in 1999 just after launching the company on the spouse and children farm in rural Edwardsville. The humble beginnings of the business enterprise can be traced again to the mid-1990s, when Russ acquired his to start with typical vehicle.

“We have a small position at Gillespie Lake and my wife and I were being up there with our daughters, and we decided to just take the ladies to city for breakfast and to check out some garden product sales,” mentioned Russ Noel, now 78. “We were driving to a yard sale, and we noticed an outdated motor vehicle, so I advised my spouse I would like to test it out.

“I went to the property and knocked on the door and I questioned the proprietor if it was for sale and he stated it genuinely was not, but he claimed he may possibly go forward and offer it due to the fact he hadn’t operate it in a number of a long time,” Russ Noel stated. “I looked at it and it didn’t have a again seat. The proprietor claimed he purchased it from an old guy who acquired it new and which is the way it was.”

He paid $350 for the 1957 Chevrolet coupe — reduced than the original asking price of $500. He brought it dwelling and bought it working. But by then it was time to get the crops in. So Noel parked the car or truck in the barn.

He at some point located out the car was a rarity acknowledged as a “salesman’s special” and built with a platform wherever the back again seat would commonly be. He marketed the auto and bought it for a gain.

That transaction set the Noels on their way to a occupation in typical vehicle income.

“Pretty quickly we experienced half a dozen cars and trucks below at the farm and we ended up up to 40-some autos by 1998,” he stated. “We ended up promoting 280 autos off the farm on a useless-close highway.

“We operated here for a several decades, and we received a dealer’s license immediately after we experienced about 10 cars and trucks,” Anita Noel additional. “At that level, we had been beginning to believe that this was a little much more than a pastime.”

Soon after he discovered himself on the road acquiring cars when he essential to be on the farm, Russ Noel knew it was time to get out of farming and transform Country Common Cars into a total-time business enterprise. He termed a local farmer who, to this working day, even now rents farmland on a shares basis alternatively of funds lease from the Noels.

In May possibly 1999, on Russ Noel’s birthday, Country Common Cars and trucks opened at the Staunton spot.

“It was a cornfield and we set up a constructing with an business, which is nonetheless there,” Russ mentioned. “We could put a number of cars inside. I advised my spouse I’d like to have 80 or 90 autos, and she instructed me I was nuts.”

It wasn’t lengthy right before the business enterprise simply surpassed his first intention. When the COVID-19 pandemic strike in April 2020, State Common Vehicles experienced 675 automobiles in inventory.

“By that level I was thinking about reducing back again, so that turned to be a blessing in disguise,” reported Russ Noel, noting Nation Common Automobiles bought 650 cars final 12 months.

They outlined the small business for sale in the spring of 2021. On Aug. 2, the couple sold it to Josh  and Candi Laurent.

As section of the sale, all eight of the Noels’ employees will be working for the new entrepreneurs.

“We had 4 whole-time salesmen, a depth dude, a mechanic and two secretaries, furthermore me and my wife,” mentioned Russ Noel, “Our staff members never depart simply because we take care of them proper and they handle us suitable.”

He reported he favored traveling all over the country to motor vehicle product sales, comparing it to loved ones reunions.

“I would go about 800 miles, north, south, east and west,” he reported. “I have a hauler named Kelly who life in Texas, and I’ve been doing work with her for more than 20 yrs. It is awesome when you can depend on someone like that.

“I would go as considerably north as Minnesota and as considerably south as Florida and I would go out to Oklahoma,” he explained. “You hardly ever know when you go how several cars you’re heading to get. It’s been a wonderful pastime that turned into a wonderful small business.”

It truly is also brought issues.

A significant hearth in a single of Region Vintage Cars’ storage structures in August 2017 destroyed dozens of autos. Then 18 months later a tornado harmed buildings and cars and trucks. The fire claimed 143 vintage cars the tornado took more than 130.

“Luckily we experienced very good insurance policies and we have been worried that the insurance policies enterprise was going to terminate soon after two major claims, but they didn’t,” explained Russ Noel.

“Our personnel arrived in and assisted us immediately after the fire with cleanup,” he said. “We experienced the hearth on a Tuesday and by Wednesday prior to noon the cellphone firm had our telephones up and running in one more setting up. We sold three autos the working day soon after the fire.”

Working with the catastrophic functions may perhaps have hastened the Noels’ choice to retire.

“Both of individuals factors ended up genuinely mountainous, and they took a toll on us,” Anita Noel stated. “We were optimistic, and every day we put one foot in front of the other and did what we had to do.

“It gave you a weird perception of ready for the other shoe to drop,” she explained. “I do not assume it hit Russ as lousy since he’s more resilient. But it was tricky. We’re obtaining older and if just one of us dies, the other could not regulate by yourself to operate the business enterprise.”

Anita Noel is from Bethalto and graduated from Civic Memorial Large School. Russ Noel was born and lifted in Bunker Hill. The couple have been married 46 decades they have a few daughters, a single son and 11 grandchildren.

Now that they have the time, the Noels hope to do far more traveling — the variety that does not involve purchasing vintage cars and trucks.

“My wife has a few buddies from significant university and one particular of them lives in Chicago and has a area on Lake Michigan, so we go up there when a 12 months,” Russ Noel claimed. “We have a Chevy Cruze that receives excellent mileage, and we want to drive all around the region and go to some pals.”