GENOA – Mike Cretsinger harkens his sales spirit back to his childhood days of playing with Tonka Trucks, Matchbox cars, and Hot Wheels and “selling” them with Monopoly money.
"At the end of the [play day], we always got all the cars and all the money," Cretsinger said. "I'm a salesman, I like to hear the word ‘yes.’ ”
Cretsinger, 50, is the owner of Genoa Motors Auto Sales, 231 Sycamore Road in downtown Genoa, which now includes Genoa Auto Repair at 540 West Main St., just blocks from the car dealership. There also is an auto detailing and auto accessories branch of Cretsinger's automotive business, which sits right next door to the sales lot.
The auto sales branch, which sells used cars, of Cretsinger's local automotive empire, opened in 2006, and the repair shop back in January. Daily Chronicle readers voted Cretsinger's business as "one of the best" in the 2018 Reader's Choice Awards in August, auto repair, oil changes and car washes.
"The new expansion is going fantastic," Cretsinger said, expressing his pride at winning a top spot for best auto repair after Genoa Auto Repair had been open for just eight months.
"It was an honor, and we're up against the likes of other places who've been in business for 20 years," he said.
Cretsinger credits his "1,2,3" service model for the success of his business.
"Fix it right the first time, customers are always right, no matter what, and our customer service has got to be the most important thing," he said.
Cretsinger began his career in automotive sales back in 1987. Originally from Iowa, his path to sales started somewhat nontraditionally.
"Back in ’87, I was driving my car and my car threw a rod – the engine went out," Cretsinger said. "The next day, I saw an ad in the newspaper for coming out and selling cars."
Cretsinger did what any desperate 19-year-old without a car would: he applied for the job and worked in exchange for a car repair.
Cretsinger now lives in Genoa with his wife, Suzy, 41, who cuts hair at Hair Cuttery at 927 South Annie Glidden Road in DeKalb; and his kids, Savannah, 17; Louie, 15; Sammy, 10; and Vinny, 8.
"The best part of the business is doing something for somebody that they weren't expecting, whether it's a first-time buyer smile, there's nothing like it," Cretsinger said.
He also credits his success to the late Joe Misurelli Sr., longtime Genoa city administrator who passed away in December 2017.
"[Misurelli] was just an amazing man who went out of his way to help me grow," Cretsinger said.
When Cretsinger first was purchasing the West Main Street location for the repair shop in late-2017, Misurelli came to him two days before his death to help get the space rezoned, licking envelopes to send to the city to assist in the process. When Misurelli died, Cretsinger wanted to do something to honor his legacy.
"I thought ‘this man did everything for this town, he went out of his way,' " Cretsinger said, who reached out to Michigan-based Eagle Scouts and commissioned them to build a bench. The Boy Scouts created the bench out of 571 recycled milk jugs, and it now sits in honor of Misurelli just outside the new repair shop.
Cretsinger says small-town life is perfect for the car sales business.
"In this area, it's nice because [people] are coming here for a different type of experience, not looking for a high-pressure situation, they're looking to keep their money in the county, which means a lot, they're trusting local businesses here," Cretsinger said.