CINCINNATI—When Bob Ryan was a teenager, there was one primary benefit to the U-Haul Dealership his father operated: gas money.
“My three brothers and I all worked here when we were teenagers,” Ryan reminisced. “We all wanted to save money to get a car and have some gas money.”
That was in the early 1970s. Now, some 40-plus years later, Ryan’s Service and U-Haul Dealership is how Bob Ryan earns his living. The business his father started is celebrating its 55th anniversary with U-Haul. And that’s only one of the milestones the Ryan family is celebrating this year.
“The business itself is celebrating 60 years,” he cheered. “My dad opened a service station in 1955, and when he moved to a new location in 1960, he added a U-Haul Dealership. I’m really proud of both of these milestones.”
Though he didn’t add U-Haul rentals until 1960, Jim Ryan was actually in the trailer-rental business from Day One. When he opened Ryan’s Service in 1955, he had a trailer he made by hand that he would rent to his customers. So, when he was approached in 1960 about joining Team U-Haul, he jumped at the chance because U-Haul offered a more organized rental system, more advanced equipment and more of it to rent—it was a win-win for everyone. That was the beginning of a successful partnership that continues to thrive today.
Grew up around U-Haul
When Jim Ryan retired in 1990, he sold the business to his son. That’s fitting, since Bob Ryan quite literally grew up with the U-Haul business.
“My dad became a dealer in August 1960, and I was born in September 1960,” Ryan noted. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to do this; I’ve never even thought of doing something else. I’ve really enjoyed it. Plus I feel like I’m carrying on the family name.”
That name carries a lot of weight to people in Ryan’s community. It’s a legacy started by Jim Ryan several decades ago.
“We have a lot of repeat customers, including several families that have had multiple generations come to us over the years,” Bob declared. “When people who have been coming to us for years to have their cars repaired send their kids away to college, they come in here to rent a U-Haul trailer.”
The reverse is true, as well, because the U-Haul business feeds customers to his primary business. To Ryan, every U-Haul drop-off is a chance to earn a lifelong customer.
“We get to know our new neighbors when they move to the neighborhood,” he asserted. “When people come here to drop off their U-Haul equipment, they know where to get their car fixed. Back when we sold gas, they’d come back for gas, as well.”
U-Haul equipment returns might help Ryan earn new business, but it’s the service he and his employees provide that keeps customers coming back for many years.
“Bob is very easy to work with, and is always willing to do whatever it takes to help his customers,” stressed Drew Case, UHC of Southwest Ohio (Co. 770) marketing company president (MCP). “We take great pride in having a long-lasting relationship with Ryan’s Service and U-Haul Dealership.
“The Ryan family is a U-Haul treasure,” Case added. “Bob has some really great stories from when his father first became a U-Haul Dealer.”
From father to son
It’s in this area that Bob Ryan is a chip off the old block. He learned how to run a business and take care of customers by watching his dad over the years.
“I didn’t go to college to learn how to run a business. Everything I learned about running this place, I learned from my dad,” Ryan emphasized. “He was a wrench turner most of his life, but he knew how to take care of people. We’ve always treated people the way we’d want to be treated ourselves and do things right the first time. Just being friendly and courteous can really go a long way.”
That way of thinking has taken the Ryan family to a milestone only a select few U-Haul Dealers can lay claim to. And Bob Ryan still has a long way to go, because he doesn’t have any plans to join his dad in retirement anytime soon.
“I have another good 10 or 12 years before I’ll even think of retiring,” he proclaimed.
That would put the family business into even more rarified air among other U-Haul Dealers. Not bad for a guy who once saw it as just a way to put gas in his car.
Read more dealer stories and U-Haul history here!