SCHERERVILLE | Retirement awaits the Leep brothers starting Saturday, and part of that next phase of life is the sale of their longtime business, Leep’s Highway Garage at 7701 U.S. 41.
In fact, when 61-year old Nick Leep locked up the doors Friday evening, it signaled the official end of the business he and his older brothers, Harry and Gerry, have owned and operated since 1978.
That year, the Leep brothers bought the Highway Garage from John and Lois Sedlacek, who ran the business selling gas and operating an adjacent junkyard for decades.
But business will continue as usual starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Nick Leep said. That’s when the Highway Garage will open under the new ownership of St. John resident Ken Drenth.
The sale of Leep’s Highway Garage, the Leep’s U-lot business and five acres of surrounding land was completed Thursday, Nick Leep said on Friday as he continued to greet customers on his last day of work.
“Ken will operate the business in a similar way to how Leep’s Highway Garage has been operated. It will be called Drenth’s Highway Garage,” he said. “All the staff is staying.”
In addition to complete auto repair and tire service, the newest Highway Garage will still offer 24-hour towing service and will remain on the Schererville Police Department roster for towing.
During the last 35 years, that towing service has added to the number of hours he’s devoted to this business, Nick Leep said.
“I’ve been the secondary tower for the last 35 years. That’s meant a lot of extra hours for me,” he said. “My brothers and I have put in at least 60 hours a week for those 35 years.”
Harry and Gerry Leep made the decision to retire and Nick said he agreed because it’s time to catch up with family and “make up for lost time on fishing trips.”
Part of that family time will take Nick and his wife, Beverli, on the road to California to visit their son and daughter-in-law, who are expecting a baby boy any day now.
“He’s waiting for us to get there,” Nick said with a chuckle about his sixth grandchild.
They also plan to visit their daughter and her family in southern Alabama and Beverli’s parents in Colorado.
“My wife has been very supportive and tremendously tolerant for the last 35 years,” he said with a smile.
In addition, Nick Leep said a mission project in nearly Hopkins Park, Ill., with Crossroads Community Church will occupy some of his retirement years as it has for the last 17 years.
“This is the poorest community in Illinois. We’re building a library there and are on the second year of that project,” he said. “Every fall we have a wood-splitting day and deliver eight semi loads full of wood to 40 families who burn wood to stay warm because of the high cost of propane.”
Throughout the Leep brothers’ 35 years in business, Nick said they have built relationships with customers who return for service. Generations of some families continue to patronize the business.
“We are very grateful for all our extremely loyal customers over the last 35 years,” he said. “We have been blessed with long-time employees, too. Our bookkeeper has been with me for 28 years. That’s a lot of paperwork.”