As U-Haul celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2015, we’re taking a look back at some of the people who helped make U-Haul what it is today. Here, we honor Dick and Butch Ostendorf, a father-son team who became U-Haul Dealers in 1952.
COVINGTON, Ky.—When Dick Ostendorf added U-Haul trailer rentals to his service station in 1952, he wasn’t sure how the partnership would work out. Ostendorf had been in the service-station business since 1931, and U-Haul was still a relatively small company that was unknown to many people across the U.S. He had no idea that he was about to enter into a partnership that would last for the next 59 years.
It almost didn’t get to that point, however. In fact, Ostendorf admitted in a 1969 interview that it took some convincing for him to become a U-Haul Dealer.
“I wasn’t too interested in renting trailers at first, but a U-Haul representative sold me on the idea, and some great dividends have come my way since that time,” he explained.
“I remember that day very vividly,” added Dick’s son, Butch Ostendorf, in a 2007 interview. “The U-Haul man pulled up and asked my dad if he wanted to be a dealer. He thought we had the ideal place because it was a good size.
“The first trailer we rented was a 6’ x 8’ open trailer,” Butch continued. “I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a neat feeling.”
From the beginning, Dick’s Standard Service and U-Haul Dealership was a family-run operation, and it remained so until Butch retired in 2011. Butch grew up around the service station, helping out where he could. He was 18 when his father joined Team U-Haul in 1952. They worked together until Dick retired in 1976, though Dick still did the bookwork for a number of years until he passed away in 1996.
Father and son always abided by the Golden Rule, which earned them a lot of repeat business over the years.
“I try to treat all my customers exactly as I would like them to treat me,” Dick stressed in 1969.
“Being in the same location for 75 years shows that we have a good reputation,” Butch mentioned in 2007. “We have a lot of established customers, and they give us a lot of referrals. People know they can trust us. At least half of our customers are people we know personally. There are even some families who have been coming to us for four generations!”
Proud of their accomplishments
Until closing their doors in 2011, Dick’s Standard Service was the longest-serving U-Haul Dealership. That was a huge source of pride for Butch Ostendorf.
“It feels good to be the oldest dealer,” Butch declared in 2007. “U-Haul has been good to us from Day One. In the early days, we had 10 or so open trailers on the lot, and every Saturday we’d do nothing but hook them up and send them on their way.
“Working with my dad was great, too,” he continued. “I worked with him for as long as I can remember and we had a good relationship.”
And oh, the stories they could tell. One that always stood out for both of them involved a customer who was towing a U-Haul trailer to Florida. As he passed through the area, he called Dick’s Standard Service. We’ll let Dick Ostendorf take it from there.
“He wanted to terminate his trailer rental here and rent a truck instead, because the trailer was swaying so badly,” Dick recalled many years ago. “He was afraid the trailer might turn over, so we met him at his calling point ready to help him transfer his cargo … well, it was an elephant!”
While that story is definitely uncommon, one thing that was very common was to see people walking out of Dick’s Standard Service and U-Haul Dealership with a smile. Anyone who worked with the Ostendorfs or walked through their doors as a customer knew they would be treated fairly and be taken care of. And the family remained fiercely loyal to U-Haul for six decades.