It was with a heavy heart that the Krejci family, owners of Krejci Ford in Blooming Prairie, announced over the weekend that the business is officially parting ways with the Ford Motor Co., ending the franchise’s 100-year presence in the community.
“I feel like we’re letting down our customers and our community,” Cheri Krejci said about the decision Monday. “We are, however, going to continue on with our great service technicians that we have and continue to service and repair all makes and models of vehicles.”
The transition from an auto dealership to a solely automotive repair business was not an easy decision for the family, Krejci said, but added that it was a decision they made on their own after attempts to sell the franchised dealership were unsuccessful.
“We are just at a point in our lives where it’s harder and harder to be a Ford dealer with the various expenses that come with it,” Krejci said, noting that having to pay monthly interest on every vehicle in the lot was just one — albeit large — part of their financial commitment to operating a Ford dealership. “Once the resignation is finalized, there won’t be another Ford dealer here in Blooming Prairie. We tried to avoid that, but with the requirements for a new dealer to come into any point and certain guidelines they had to meet, we just were not able to find the right people for that.”
The Krejci family has owned the local Ford dealership in Blooming Prairie for the last 47 years, with Krejci’s husband, Rick, and his two brothers taking over the dealership from their father in 1990. Since then, the dealership has received 15 President’s awards, which are given to dealers who provide the highest level of customer service, customer satisfaction and overall customer experience. Cheri Krejci said that she feels they have served both Blooming Prairie and the franchise well over the years, but with retirement nearing and new car sales on the decline, ending the partnership with the franchise was a necessary step to take.
“COVID-19 did have an impact, but even prior to that we could see a decline in new car sales,” Krejci said, adding that the family had been in serious talks prior to the pandemic about resigning. “The decline of the farm economy was also a factor – we used to have farmers who traded trucks every few years, but that has not happened now for several.”
Krejci said that the internet has also brought hardships to the business, noting that fewer people come to the lot in person to browse vehicles and instead look online to see if the dealership has what they’re looking for. If they don’t, Krejci said those potential customers don’t even bother stopping in.
“It wasn’t without trying,” Krejci said, reiterating that the family wanted to keep Ford in Blooming Prairie if at all possible. “It’s been weighing on us for a while, but it is a business decision that needed to happen.”
Moving forward, Krejci said they will determine the new business name as they move toward a garage and mechanic business model. While they are having to let go of their one salesperson, who was kept approsed about the decision throughout the whole process, the service techs all plan to stay on staff.
“Our guys have been here a long time and they all have their own following,” Krejci said, noting that one service tech has been employed at the business for 28 years and the other two have been around for more than 15. “They all said right away that they want to stay, which felt good.”
According to Krejci, it will take anywhere from one to two months for the resignation process to be complete. In the meantime, it will be “business as usual” for warrant, recall and repair service. Once the resignation is complete, Krejci said it will no longer be able to provide warranty and recall services, but will move forward with its new business plan as an automotive repair shop for vehicles of all makes and models.
Krejci said that they also plan to remain connected and involved in the variety of nonprofits and fundraisers throughout the Blooming Prairie area, stating that want to continue to pay it forward for how good the local communities has been to the business over the years.
“Thank you to all our wonderful customers and all those who have supported us for the last 30 years,” Krejci said. “We appreciate everything you’ve done with us and for us, and we hope to be able to help you in the future with all your service needs.”
Walking into Owatonna High School just over a decade ago, paramedic Ken Ringhofer thought he was responding to a young child experiencing a seizure. When he found Jackson Bellomy in the wrestling room seconds later, he soon realized that it was a much more serious condition — the 8-year-old was in cardiac arrest.
After performing CPR at the scene, Ringhofer said Jackson was transferred to Owatonna Hospital and then onto the Mayo Clinic St. Mary’s campus in Rochester. For another month, patient privacy laws kept first responders from learning what had become of their young patient Then, Ringhofer said, he ran into Jackson and his mother Jaime at a restaurant in town. He also ended up attending a fundraiser for the family at the Eagles Club, which Jackson remembers as his first time meeting the medics who helped save his life.
In the intervening years, the group kept in touch whenever they saw each other in the community. This spring, when it came time for Jackson’s graduation from Owatonna High School, it was only natural that they would get together again to commemorate the occasion — one decade on from their initial meeting in the fall of 2009.
After going into cardiac arrest at wrestling practice, Jaime said the family ultimately learned that Jackson had a previously undetected, genetic heart condition. The illness causes an irregular heart rhythm that can potentially be life-threatening.
“We all have fight or flight. When we get really excited, we can keep going or we can calm ourselves down — Jackson’s heart could not calm itself down, and it sent him into cardiac arrest,” explained Jaime. “His heart didn’t know what to do after it was beating so fast.”
In what she calls a modern-day miracle, Jackson recovered with the help of a defibrillator, medication and continued monitoring. He even was able to go on and play baseball and pool, in addition to participating in 4-H and other low-contact activities. Since that day however, he’s been unable to return to wrestling or more physical sports like football.
“As an 8-year-old boy, he had to figure out if he wanted to stay stuck — not being able to do the sports that he wanted to do. Instead, he found out that there were other things in life that he could do,” added Jaime. “I’m just a very proud mom.”
Memories from that night
In addition to the doctors who ultimately treated Jackson in Rochester, Jaime credits the paramedics’ response time with helping her son get the care he needed during that first episode.
“Even the ambulance crew, they were there within minutes. As a mom, as soon as they showed up, I just leaned back away from my son and let them do their job,” she recalled. Jaime had been present during Jackson’s practice, and can remember her other son coming out of the room just a few minutes into the activity to let her know Jackson was hurt.
“I just assumed he had fallen, but it was more serious than that. When I went into the room, he was just laying there — I had parents asking me if he was diabetic, if he had any health issues,” she recalled. “I knew it was serious, and I said someone needed to call 911.”
Jaime clearly recalls meeting Ken that night during the chaos. She remembers him asking for Jackson’s mother and then realizing that they were kneeling right next to each other on the floor.
“He couldn’t believe that he had been sitting right next to me,” she added. “It was so crazy that evening, I think about it quite a bit. It was a miracle that everything happened just the way it was supposed to happen for Jackson’s life.”
Continuing the relationship
It was at the Eagles Club benefit that Jackson remembers first meeting the first responders. When he went into cardiac arrest, he said he blacked out — after starting in on a game at his first practice of the year, the next thing he remembers is waking up at the hospital.
“They saved my life,” he added. “It was hard to believe that I was meeting them and that they showed up and still cared.”
After attending the fundraiser, Ringhofer said he has continued to run into Jaime often over the past decade — always checking in on the health of his former patient.
“Every time I see somebody that was in that room, I just want to hug them and thank them for being in there with me. A lot of times I do — I give Ken and [Elizabeth Okerberg] a hug every time I see them,” added Jaime.
After learning that Jackson was graduating this spring, Ringhofer got the team of original medics together to attend part of the ceremony and visit with the family. In the morning, Ringhofer — along with fellow responders Darren Atkinson and Elizabeth Okerberg — were able to stop by the fairgrounds for the school district’s photo-taking event. Graduates and their loved ones drove through the Foundation building and were able to hop out and get a professional picture taken ahead of the afternoon drive-in ceremony.
After getting a photo with Jackson in the morning, the three met up with the family outside Owatonna High School — getting another photo near the site of the initial emergency, and catching up on Jackson’s plans for next year.
In 30 years as a paramedic, Ringhofer said he can count on one hand the number of people he’s helped save from cardiac arrest. The fact that Jackson was so young when it happened makes his case even more rare — and ultimately, as Jaime said, miraculous.
Getting to keep up with the family over the years has been another benefit to Ringhofer’s work in Owatonna. “It reminds me of why I’m doing this job — to help serve the community,” he said.
If voting in the semifinal round of the statewide Nickname Challenge continues as it has been, the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms look set to take on the Moorhead Spuds for the title in the competition’s final showdown.
Organized by the Minnesota State High School League as a way for communities to stay involved in athletics during the pandemic, the initial 64-school bracket has been whittled down to four remaining competitors. In these final stages, voting windows have also been extended from 24 to 48 hours, meaning fans have until Wednesday morning to support the Blossoms in their current match-up against the Thief River Falls Prowlers.
Later this week, the Spuds will take on the Two Harbors Agates — an unseeded entry that upset their entire division, beating out the No. 1 seed Wabasso Rabbits. Most recently, they edged out the Hawley Nuggets for the semifinal spot.
John Millea — the league’s media specialist, who has been organizing the competition on his Twitter page — said from the start he wouldn’t be surprised by a Blossoms vs. Spuds finale. Another perennial competitor, the Winona Winhawks, were in the Spuds’ division and were knocked out earlier by the Fergus Falls Otters.
In 2013, the Winhawks narrowly beat the Blossoms as the state’s top vote-getter in the USA Today “most unusual mascot competition.” While this current showdown is only statewide in scope, it has been garnering a lot of attention since launching in the middle of last month. Prior to the Final Four round, Millea counted 77,681 votes total cast in the competition thus far.
Despite being an early favorite, and the top-ranked mascot in their division — one of four evenly distributed groupings in the bracket competition — Blooming Prairie was close to losing it all last week. To advance as the sole representative of their region, the Blossoms just barely edged out the East Grand Forks Green Wave. After over 3,000 people participated, they were able to walk away with 51% of the vote compared to 49% for the unseeded Green Wave.
As of Monday afternoon, Blooming Prairie was leading with 58% of the vote in this week’s semifinal match-up against the Prowlers.
To vote in this week’s semifinal, fans need to create a Twitter account if they don’t already have one. Then, they can visit Millea’s Twitter page at www.twitter.com/MSHSLjohn and respond to the poll at the top of the page.
The Blossoms’ matchup against the Thief River Falls Prowlers runs until Wednesday morning.