POPLAR BLUFF, Mo.—Herb Schenewerk is 85 years young, and every morning he gets up and opens the doors to Schenewerk Service Station and U-Haul Dealership, just as he has done almost every day for the last 55 years.
“Going to work every day keeps me going,” Schenewerk proclaimed. “The day I was born, I was ready to go to work. My dad died when I was seven, and when I was 10 I started working on a farm to help my family survive. I did that all through World War II, earning 50 cents a day. Hard work has been a priority all my life, and I’ve been very fortunate to have pretty good health.”
“My husband eats, breathes and lives U-Haul,” noted Anna Schenewerk. “He’s just that dedicated.”
Herb Schenewerk and his brother, Roy, got into the service station business in 1957, using a $500 loan to open their own business. They added a U-Haul Dealership in 1960, knowing it would be a nice complement to their service station. At the time, they certainly weren’t thinking the partnership would still be going strong 55 years later.
“It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve done it,” Herb declared. “Being a 55-year dealer means a lot of hard work has gone into it for many years. If you don’t put in the work, you won’t be a dealer for long.”
“We never dreamed we’d still be here 55 years later,” added Anna, who has helped to keep the books from Day One and took on a larger role when Roy passed away in 1994. “There have always been some ups and downs, but it’s been a good experience overall.”
“I don’t think you’ll find more dedicated U-Haul Dealers than them,” cheered Area Field Manager Kevin Sanders of U-Haul Center of Missouri. “They wash just about every piece of equipment inside and out, and when they close they forward their phone to their house or cell phones so people can reach them.”
To the Schenewerks, being available 24/7 isn’t going above and beyond, it’s a fact of life for U-Haul Dealers.
“It’s just part of the job,” Herb shrugged. “You have to take care of your customers. If they have a breakdown or a flat tire, you go out to help them, no matter what time of the day it is. It’s part of the service we’ve always provided. Probably the main reason we’re still around is that people know we’re reliable.”
These days, Herb and Anna aren’t able to answer calls at all hours of the night, so their son-in-law, Dennis Fox, takes any after-hours calls. Dennis is married to the Schenewerks’ daughter, Sue. The Schenewerks’ other daughter, Nancy, and their grandchildren help out, as well, making it a true family business with several generations involved.
That’s Herb’s job
Despite all of the available help, don’t expect anyone but Herb to hook up a U-Haul trailer.
“If I show up and see him moving a trailer and offer to help, he won’t let me,” Sanders related.
“I think I’m the best at hooking up trailers,” Herb declared. “I enjoy going out and rasslin’ those trailers around. People are amazed when they see me pick up a trailer and hook it up. They offer to help, but I tell them I don’t want any help because I want to focus on what I’m doing without any distractions. I say, ‘That’s my job and you don’t have to worry about it.’
“I want to be sure the customer is safe when they leave here,” Herb continued. “When I go home at night and go to bed, I rest easy knowing our customers are safe.”
Herb Schenewerk’s “go-go-go” attitude has suited him well for 85 years, but even he knows he has to take it easy and not pretend he’s still in his 30s. Especially after a heart attack in 2009 that slowed him down, but not for long.
“I was technically dead for a little bit,” he observed. “I ended up needing four bypasses, but 60 days later, I was back here pulling those trailers around. They replaced one of my heart valves with a cow valve, and that old cow is mooing every day!”
As evidenced by their longevity, one thing Schenewerk Service Station and U-Haul Dealership has excelled at is making sure customers are happy and keeping them coming back. The Schenewerks seem to know everyone in town, and it’s common for them to serve people whose parents or grandparents stopped in several decades ago.
“They know we’re here and they will get the best service,” Herb stressed. “Also, people who haven’t been here look at our customer reviews online. We get people from all over who say they came here because of our good ratings. Plus, we’re easy to get a hold of because we’ve had the same phone number since 1960!”
“Herb and Anna are very nice and humble people,” mentioned Executive Assistant Julie McNeil, who has known the Schenewerks since she was a kid. “They’re very easy going and laid back, and they’re a joy to work with.”
Perhaps the greatest compliment Herb has received came from the person who knows him best—his wife.
“Herb is the main reason for all of our success,” Anna emphasized. “He always makes sure people are treated the way he would want to be treated.”
While the accolades from those who know the Schenewerks are plentiful, Herb Schenewerk wants to be sure it’s a two-way street. He knows his family business wouldn’t still be around without the help of many people, including several Team U-Haul members.
“Kevin and all of the AFMs I’ve had over the years have been very helpful,” Herb pointed out. “There are a bunch of people in U-Haul that have helped me over the years. I can’t name all of them because there are so many of them. I’m just very grateful for all they’ve done for us.”