DES MOINES, Iowa – A car shop with roots across the country found a home in Des Moines.
For nine decades, Merrill Axle and Wheel Service has been a downtown staple. For the past five, it’s been a family business.
Marcellus Merrill opened the Des Moines location in 1932 and Richard Hays ran it. Eventually the Sereg family took it over, kept it going, and made sure it remained a part of history.
“This is my dad, his name is John,” Ruth Sereg said while pointing at a picture, “and he started here in 1954.”
John Sereg ended up purchasing the auto shop in 1970.
“I remember coming up on Saturday and helping dad,” Charlie Sereg, vice president of Merrill Axle and Wheel Service, said, “and I handed tools to him.”
The business was eventually handed off to the kids.
“We grew up doing it and it’s been a way of life and it’s what we’ve always done,” Dave Sereg, president of Merrill Axle and Wheel, said.
Dave, Charlie, and Ruth are siblings who didn’t think they would ever work together.
“I went to school as a licensed cosmetologist. I couldn’t find a job and mom’s like, ‘Well I need help down here.’ And I thought well I really don’t wanna work with my brothers, but I’ve been here ever since.”
Now, the third generation of Seregs is fixing cars.
“You gotta be doing something right to be around for 90 years,” Steven Sereg, a technician at Merrill Axle and Wheel, said. “We’d like to see it go 100.”
Steven is Dave’s son and Marcus is Charlie’s. They’ve found working with family isn’t always easy.
“Sometimes it’s kinda difficult,” Marcus Sereg, a technician at Merrill Axle and Wheel, said. “I mean obviously with every family it’s got its ups and downs but for the most part it is fun.”
Working on the cars and getting the right parts has proved to be the real challenge over the years.
“Oh it’s getting extremely harder to fix them,” Steven Sereg said. “It’s not as easy as it used to be. Lots of mechanical, all the computers and stuff really complicates things.”
Through a pandemic and constant changes, the Seregs have learned to adapt.
“Seems like you got to keep up with the changes or else you get swept under the rug,” Dave Sereg said.
“We did what we had to do to keep the doors open and just got to do what you have to do,” Charlie Sereg added.
And they’ve been successful and stayed busy. Now as they look ahead, they’re eager to keep this business in the family.
“I hope to see my grandsons and nephews and possibly a niece work here,” Charlie Sereg said. “We have plenty of work and there’s always room for more.”
“As my dad said, he would come down when he was a kid. Well, I came down when I was a kid, kinda swept and did stuff like that,” Marcus Sereg said. “Kinda cool to see it’s still here and hopefully carry on the legacy for another 90 years.”
Merrill Axle and Wheel will have its 90-year celebration on Friday, June 17.