Brown family business continues with next generation

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From left, Dave Brown and Forest Brown are ready to take this brand new Mustang convertible for a spin. Forest and his brother, David, are now owners of the Brown's Family of Dealerships. (Press photo by Caroline Rosacker)

By Caroline Rosacker

"Your hometown dealer no matter where your hometown may be." That's the motto of Brown's Family of Dealerships.  

The car dealership has locations in Guttenberg, Elkader, Dyersville and West Branch. Business partners and brothers, Forest and David Brown, have recently bought out their father's portion of the dealership in Guttenberg and are now partners of all four dealerships. 

Dave Brown has been the  owner of the Guttenberg dealership for the past 55 years. When he started in 1964 he was the youngest dealer in the country. At the young age of 79, he has decided to step away from the business and embrace retirement.  

"My father is an amazing man; his dedication to the business throughout the years has been an inspiration to my own work ethic," commented Forest. 

He went on to say, "He will continue to be a presence in the business, stopping by on a regular basis, but the tough decisions are now up to myself and my brother David." 

Growing up in the business, Forest remembers working in the car wash bay when he was 4-years-old. "I am sure I was getting babysat more than I was assisting with washing cars, but it was fun to be around the shop. I began working at the dealership as a paid employee when I turned 14." 

After graduating from high school, Forest furthered his education at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, graduating with a major in business. 

Brown told the Press, "At the time of my graduation I was interested in getting into some kind of corporate business. I decided to work in the family business for a few years and then head out for the corporate world."  

As the saying goes "The rest is history." Forest started working in Elkader after college and has since settled down with his wife, Tina, and their three children, Elliot, Reagan and Delaney.

"It's exciting to work in the automobile business; it's always changing and evolving. Originally, when my father started the dealership he sold only new Ford and usedvehicles. The current business has expanded to include Ford, Chevy and Buick along with our large selection of new and used RV's. We realize we may not have every vehicle and RV in stock, but we have the capabilities to get you anything you need. We are not limited to just those particular brands. If you would like to purchase a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, we can help you out with that too," Brown said with a smile. 

The four dealerships employ over 150 people. The Guttenberg dealership employs about 50 people with its additional RV department and body shop. 

Brown told The Press, "Our business is built with a strong focus on customer service. We also believe in giving back to the community that has been so supportive of the business."

The Browns' dealership has created a charitable non-profit foundation. Part of their outreach includes: Reading For a Reason and Key to Mathematics. The Foundation pays for the books, incentives and the administrative details of the program. The programs began in the Dyersville and West Branch schools. Because of its success they are now available to students in the Clayton Ridge and Elkader school systems. Forest and Tina have children in the Clayton Ridge school system and can see firsthand the success of the programs. 

Forest shared the inspiration for one of the Foundation's programs. "When I was a youth football coach, I asked my players how well they did on their first quarter report cards. Most of the players commented that they did pretty well, but many of them said they were struggling with their math skills. That was the catapult for the Key to Mathematics Program. The foundation recognizes the importance of reading as an overall benefit to education. I personally see firsthand the results from the Reading For a Reason program. My little daughter is very proud to share her reading sheet with us each night." 

Additional contributions to the Clayton Ridge Schools system are "Drive 4 UR school" which is a charitable contribution from the Ford Motor Company. Each year Guttenberg's local dealership holds an annual chili cook-off with monies raised going towards  the school music department. Brown's Family of Dealerships continues to support the Clayton County Fair, the Volga City Truck Cruise and numerous other local and national charities. 

The Browns' dealerships are dedicated to customer satisfaction.  

Brown said, "We appreciate the dedication of our prior and current customers. Without them we realize we would not survive. We encourage anyone that hasn't done business with us before to consider doing business with us in the future. We strive to help our customers out with all their automobile and RV needs. Our goal is to make them our customers for life!"

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