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Family auto business celebrates 90 years of customer service

By Staff | Sep 24, 2013

Freezer's Auto Parts are celebrating 90 years in business this weekend with an open house. Left to right Row 1:  Patricia Wilson, Pauline Freezer Barber; Row 2:  Jeff Rishel, George W. Freezer V; Row 3:  Charlie Worthington, Russell Houseknecht, Brad Freezer; and Row 4:  Charlie Freezer, Mary Freezer Kuntz.

HUGHESVILLE – Freezer’s Auto Parts in Hughesville is well-known for their exceptional service and inventory in the auto service business. This weekend they want to let their customers know it by having an open house with lots of good deals and free prizes.

For ninety years family members have operated this business since it first opened as Freezer’s Garage in 1923. George Washington Freezer III and his brothers Dick and Harry started the business as a service garage and gas station known as Star Motors. A year later George III and his wife, Bertha became the sole proprietors.

The business first started across the street, then later moved to 141 N. Main Street where they sold popular items like filters, belts and oil. Locals would stop by and purchase parts for their vehicles. They also repaired vehicles. A copy of an old letter that appeared in the early 40’s in the Hughesville Mail Box told a story of a model T owner traveling through from Elizabethtown. He wanted to go to Watsontown when his car broke down. A brake band needed replaced, a 20 minute job. However, when he removed the nut that held the brake band, it fell into the gear box. George Freezer III told him he had to get ten strong men to turn the car upside down to retrieve the nut. So they spread newspapers on the grass and “with all hands ready, they tipped the car over and out came the nut.”

Another story was told by George W. Freezer V, current owner, on how his grandfather would take out a flat iron every night and iron out dollar bills. “I remember as a child watching him do this. He told me that whenever a customer gave him a crisp bill, he would give back a crisp dollar bill for change.” On the other hand, if a customer turned in a wrinkled bill, he would get that back instead. George V still has the flat iron and keeps it in the back office as a reminder of his grandfather’s start. “After he passed away, I got the job of moving the desk, so I saved the iron.”

Gus Houseknecht from Lairdsville, who is a retired auto mechanics teacher, currently works at Freezer’s Auto Parts, and said that his father, Russell, also worked there for 60 years for all three generations.

George W. Freezer V is demonstrating how his grandfather, George W. Freezer III, would iron out one dollar bills every night in the store, so he could give back crisp dollar bills in change to customers who would pay for merchandise with crisp flat bills. The iron remains safely stored on a shelf in their back office to remind the family how George III got his start 90 years ago.

Brother Charlie Freezer said that his grandfather was originally a farmer before he made his start in the auto business, most likely in a one-man garage. Now the family of four owns 4 buildings that are combined to house an awful lot of inventory. “We’re kind of the last of a dying breed,” said Charlie. “We ship a lot of tools, and inventory is always getting bigger,” said sister Pauline Freezer Barber who manages most of the inventory. They have everything from air fresheners, ice scrapers, and tape measures. They also carry automotive paint and welding supplies.

“We are one of the largest distributors of Milwaukee electric tools and accessories and have been selling them since 1959,” Pauline added.

In 1968 Freezer’s Garage was renamed “Freezer’s Auto Parts” and was taken over by George W. Freezer IV and his wife, Barbara. They operated the business until 1990 when their four children took ownership after their parents retired as told by Mary Ann Freezer-Kuntz, who oversees accounts receivables and is usually working in the back office. “My mother said she was the luckiest mother because she could see her kids everyday, while at work, even when they were grown,” said Pauline. Her parents are now deceased.

The four siblings have a structure that works well. George V works the counter and mixes paint; Charlie specializes in tools and oversees the day to day activities; Pauline works the counter with Gus who says, “She keeps the place running. She’s the captain.” Mary also related that her grandmother, Bertha, was a very stern woman. “She was boss when she was living.”

But everyone pitches in and works with customers, answering phones, and placing orders. All ten employees are very knowledgeable and experienced with the automotive industry. “It is a place of business, family, and friends,” said Mary. “We are very fortunate over the years to have such good help,” said Pauline. “And many are local.”

George W. Freezer III and his wife, Bertha, founders of Freezer's Garage in 1923.

So who will continue the family line? Well, Charlie’s son Bradley is 31 and he works there and possibly Ethan Kuntz, Mary’s son might be a candidate. “But he is only 13 and has lots of interests right now,” she said. “He can choose on his own. Sometimes he likes to come in and stock shelves.”

Aside from Gus and the Freezer family, other employees include Jeff Rishel, John Snyder, Charlie Worthington, and Patricia Wilson.