Business: In Graceful Exit, Schluter-Gould Family Sells Auto Business

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Business

Harriett and Jack Schluter (on left; man at right is unidentified) at the Chatham Mobil Station when it opened in 1949. COURTESY PHOTO 

After two generations and a nearly 72-year run in business, the Schluter-Gould family has sold Chatham Motor Service to a former employee, Ryan Hansen.

“The stars aligned and it was a perfect fit,” says Don Gould.

The name of Hansen’s new business is Enhanced Automotive and Fabrication, Inc.

Hansen’s first job while a senior at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School, from which he graduated in 2006, was working for the Schluter-Gould family at Chatham Mobil at the rotary on Main Street. Hansen, 33, the son of Gary and Barbara Hansen, grew up in Chatham. He returned to work at Chatham Motor Service five or six months ago when the family made a deal with him to purchase both the business and the real estate. Kaeleigh Drechsel is manager of the new business, handling scheduling and the office.

Peter Schluter, 71, his sister Sally Gould, 72, and Sally’s husband Don Gould, 67, co-owned the business at 35 Enterprise Dr. The trio had agreed that “when it was time to go we would all go together,” Don Gould said in a telephone interview last week. “It was time.”

For the past few months, while Gould and Schluter continued working as mechanics, they turned over half of the shop to Hansen, where he worked with his own customers. Sally Gould also worked at the business. While she started out in a career in physical therapy working for the VNA, she eventually came back to work for her father, who founded the business. Gould calls her “the glue” that held the business together. “She’s much like her father — a great business mind,” he says.

One of the reasons that the two brothers-in-law decided to retire now is that automotive technology “is raging ahead and we’ve always worked hard to stay up to it, but it’s so advanced now,” Gould says. They had anticipated selling the property and emptying the building, “but Ryan came along.”

“He has a tremendous young mind,” Gould adds. “So on top of computers. He really wanted to take this on. We’re excited for our customer base.”

With 43 years in the family enterprise, Gould calls himself “the newcomer.” He reminisced about the business founded by his late in-laws, Jack and Harriett Schluter.

The Schluters opened Chatham Mobil Service at 678 Main St. at the intersection of Old Harbor Road and Main Street in July 1949 (the rotary was installed at the intersection about a decade later). The station won awards for its clean bathrooms and flower gardens planted and maintained by Harriett. In more recent years, the business was owned by the second generation, the Goulds and Schluter. In about 2007 the family opted to get out of the gasoline supply business and continue repairing vehicles at another location. They built a custom, 5,000-square-foot building with four lifts at 35 Enterprise Dr. and moved Chatham Motor Service there. (The old Mobil gas station site is now a Cumberland Farms.)

The building on Enterprise Drive was “all our design,” Gould says. “We took a lot of time planning it.” The LED lighting is “the best you can get,” and the floors have radiant heat. The thermostat is set to a constant 62 degrees, and the men work in T-shirts all winter.

While Gould and Schluter said they didn’t do internal transmission and engine work, “Ryan is capable of much more,” Gould says. A new skill that Hansen brings is his ability to fabricate tools and parts. “He makes automotive parts that are one-off for steering and suspension.”

As for what Gould will do now that he has retired, he says he has a truck and a Model A Ford to work on. He also has a license to drive a tractor trailer. “I’m not crazy about going back and twisting wrenches right away,” he says. He and Sally, whose hobbies include spinning yarn, will probably both look for volunteer work. And the couple looks forward to more family time. They are the parents of one son and have a grandchild who lives in North Carolina. They will likely travel there in the “small COVID travel trailer” they bought for the purpose. Schluter, meanwhile, plans to continue working a couple of days a week in the new business.

Through the years, the Goulds and Schluter worked many 60-hour weeks. “We’ve always been very hands on,” Gould says. At one time the family also owned and ran Monomoy Fuel. They rented out lawnmowers, and bicycles. They plowed snow.

“Peter and I spent many Thanksgivings plowing people out,” Gould said. “We always tried to be very there and more hands-on than just fixing cars.”

“I think the Goulds and the Schluters have been an integral part of our community and icons in their own way,” Barbara Hansen says.

As for Hansen, he is already extremely busy, Drechsel says. Enhanced Automotive and Fabrication, Inc. services and repairs all makes and models of cars and trucks, according to its Facebook page. It has an “on-site machine and fabrication shop for custom parts and projects.”

The business even has a mixed-breed shop dog named Kaiya, a five-month-old puppy who has become a favorite with customers. For more information call 508-945-0004.