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East Side Auto gets 2013 St. Paul Park Heritage Days 'Business of the Year' honor

East Side Auto, in operation for 35 years, is the 2013 St. Paul Park Heritage Days Business of the Year. (Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner)

A longtime St. Paul Park business, East Side Auto, is being honored by the Heritage Days Committee as the 2013 Business of the Year.

In business 35 years, owner Tim Vietmeier started his operation in St. Paul, thus the name of the company, and was there for five years before moving to St. Paul Park in 1983, according to Jason Avery, general manager.

East Side’s six-acre site in St. Paul Park, east of Hidden Harbor Marina, is home to a roughly 20-employee operation that takes cars that have been declared total losses by insurance companies and repairs them for sale to the public at wholesale prices, according to Julie Vietmeier, Tim’s wife and executive administrator for the company.

In her second year on the job, Julie is still learning the ropes but has learned that it takes years of experience to be successful in the business. The industry is very competitive, she said, and many startups don’t survive because of lack of experience.

 Unlike some salvage auto repair shops, East Side does not partially re-claim vehicles, but re-builds entire cars. Many of the cars have warranties.

“We stand behind what we sell,” Julie said.

The business has changed over the years, mostly due to the Internet, but has always been dependent on weather and weather-related tragedies such as floods and hail storms that damage cars.

Without the Internet, Tim had to fly to where the disaster occurred and look over the vehicles before they were put up for auction by insurance companies.

Now, there are agents who show him cars on the Internet and suggest the best ones to bid on.

Sometimes there are unexpected things wrong with the vehicle, which affects the profit margin.

“Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose,” Avery said.

Avery said East Side is one of the largest companies of its kind. Just how large is the business? “It’s the largest one in St. Paul Park,” he quipped.

Like many sectors of the economy, the company did less business during the recession. But business is improving, Avery said, and they are hiring again.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600