SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — In 1922, two Sioux City businessmen started a car dealership. That dealership is now known as Knoepfler Chevrolet. In 2022, not much has changed and it’s a pair of brothers behind the wheel. We take a ride back in time for this week’s edition of Siouxland Stories.

“It’s such an American, iconic piece of metal. If you think about it, they were talking about the scare of ride-shares, and how it’s going to cut down on personal vehicles. And what we continue to learn as a culture is that’s just not who we are. We love having our own personal transportation just as much as we love having our own personal home,” said Joe Knoepfler.

Joe is talking about the car, or truck, or electric vehicle. Really, any personal vehicle. He and his brother Ben have made cars their business but this business began 100 years ago, just a few blocks from where it stands today.

“We’ve employed relatively around 100 people for 00 years,” said Ben. “So that’s a lot of people who’ve been through these doors.”

Ben and Joe Knoepfler took the reigns from another set of Knoepfler brothers, their father Charlie and their uncle Bill. Before them, their grandfather James, who was the nephew of Duane Kidder.

Kidder and a man named Ryal Miller founded what’s now become Sioux City’s oldest family-owned dealership. These men were also young entrepreneurs with a serious love for cars.

So, we took a walk back in time, to understand how this business survived a century through multiple wars and massive industrial and technological change.

“1922 Chevy, this car represents the model we went into business with,” said Ben. “This is a Model 490 Touring Car. So this is intended for passengers. Model 490’s price was incidentally $5 less than the Model-T Ford. So we’ve been going back and forth on price for 100 years. It was a big deal to have a car and be able to throw people in it. People would stop and watch it go by and 100 years later, that still happens. It has the cool ‘ah-oo-ga’ horn.”

A fun detail Ben added is that its wheels are made out of the same stuff as the Louisville Slugger.

“It is so basic and so rudimentary,” Ben said. “The wheels are hickory, the same stuff they made Louisville Sluggers out of.”

The importance of the personal vehicle is just as meaningful today.

“I love the excitement,” said Joe. “It’s such a big entity in a person’s life. You buy a home, you buy a car, those are usually the two biggest purchases a person makes. So, it’s important. There’s a lot of liability. There’s a lot of emotion that goes into it and I find that interesting.”

It’s the people par that make the brothers stay.

“My joy comes out of running the business portion more than the cars itself. The people that we work with, constantly having to solve problems, come up with solutions, that’s where I get my enjoyment from,” said Joe. “Our father always gave great advice and said make sure you always hire people that are smarter than you. It was his humbling way of saying, you’re doing a great job but you need a team around you too and he wasn’t wrong.”

An opportunity that might not have existed without their grandfather James, surviving his deployment to the Pacific Theatre on a Navy destroyer in World War II.

“Unfortunately had to bear witness to all the tragedy that comes along with that three-letter word, but he came back and started a family and we wouldn’t be here without him. My uncle is here, this is Bill, and my dad. The third generation, they were partners,” Ben said. “It was really enjoyable for my brother and I to witness two brothers successfully endure this business. Sometimes with challenges and two different opinions, the challenges are multiplied and they were able to do it in a way that two heads are better than one and the challenges are overcome.”

“We wouldn’t be here without the community. So it’s been 100 years of business, which Sioux City has offered us to be in this town, to do business here. So, without the people of Siouxland, without the commerce, without everyone involved, we never would have made it this far,” said Joe. “We both grew up here, we chose to raise families here. That’s the number one ticket item, a big thank you to the Siouxland community.”

“Every year the community decides whether or not they’re going to keep us in business. Sioux City and the surrounding area have the ability to put us out of business any time they want to, but we’re glad they don’t,” Ben said.

“The brothers urge the people of Siouxland to visit the Sioux City Public Museum, even if they have no interest in cars.

“Sioux City has a lot of fantastic things, certainly the museum being one of them,” Ben said. “But if they have any sort of connection to us, this is an opportunity to see if you can see somebody on the wall. If you think cars are neat, there are a lot of cool pieces of car memorabilia or if you’re just a Sioux City fan.”

“We learned a lot about ourselves,” Joe said. “They did a great job of telling a story as well. You walk through the lineage. You see from the early 20s, you see the original staff, you see the meetings that were held and it moves its way all the way through. You see 10 years of business transactions.”

If you’re interested in visiting the museum, this exhibit runs until August 21. After that, the 1922 Chevy and many of the artifacts will be back on display at the dealership in downtown Sioux City.