History and Heritage

Tenvoorde Ford Inc Saint Cloud MN

The roots for the Tenvoorde dynasty were planted when John Tenvoorde led a group of German Dutch settlers from Pennsylvania to Indiana and, then, to St. Cloud, Minn. A merchant, Tenvoorde was one of the founders of St. Cloud.

His son, Steve Tenvoorde, and his buddy, P.R. Thielman, nicknamed 'The Daredevils,' accomplished the feat of driving a Milwaukee Steamer 70 miles over a rough oxen trail from Minneapolis to St. Cloud to bring the first automobile to their home town in 1899.

Tenvoorde Ford Inc Saint Cloud MN

Steve Tenvoorde, son of John W. engaged in several occupations, working for a carriage builder, opening a blacksmith shop, and inventing several items that were patented. He developed an interest in bicycles and opened a bicycle shop on fit have so where he achieved fame as a bicycle racer. In 1899 his career took an abrupt turn when the opportunity arose to purchase a Milwaukee Steamer. Steve and his buddy P.R. Thielman drove from Minneapolis to St Cloud over a rough oxen trail, bringing the first automobile to St Cloud. In 1901, he began selling cars from his bicycle shop in downtown St. Cloud. He signed the second Ford franchise on March 21, 1903, before Ford Motor Co. was incorporated that June.

William Hughson, founder of Hughson Ford Sales in San Francisco, signed the first Ford franchise only a month earlier, in February 1903. That business no longer is operated by the family.

Steve Tenvoorde also was the St. Cloud dealer for Oldsmobile, Saxon, Buick, Chandler, Oakland and others. He eventually dropped all other lines and concentrated on Ford.

In 1910 a brick building, later enlarged, was constructed on fifth avenue South. The business remained at that location for nearly 70 years, until a new facility was constructed on Rossevelt Raod in 1978.

His son Cy Tenvoorde, started working at the dealership when he was 12 and became an official member of the company when he kept the company's books in June 1921.

Cy and his two brothers became the second generation to take ownership of the dealership when Steve Tenvoorde died in 1943. It was not an opportune time. The dealership, like those across the nation, had no new cars to sell because factories were converted to producing military equipment for WWII. They were forced to lay off all its Salespeople, except one. The store concentrated on repairing engines and other components. They sold service by encouraging, through advertising, to keep cars in good repair. The purchase of a crankshaft grinder that cost a shocking $8,000 at the time eventually paid for itself through repairs.

Against all odds the business grew. The company reached a point where it was rebuilding an average of 125 engines a month for customers and several competitive dealerships.

"Dad made more at that business than he did selling cars," said Jack Tenvoorde. "When the war was over, Ford put in its own official factory machine to rebuild engines, and put him out of that business."

Cy went through eighth grade and two years of business college, "He pulled the dealership through the Depression as a teenager. When he came home after 18 hours of work, he would break down in tears" recalls his Son Jack.

Tenvoorde Ford Inc Saint Cloud MN
Tenvoorde Ford Inc Saint Cloud MN

Still, the business flourished. The dealership built a larger facility on a 3/4-quarter-acre lot in downtown St. Cloud in 1951. 'My dad paid cash for it,' recalled Jack Tenvoorde. 'He didn't believe in credit.'

Jack Tenvoorde laughed describing his uncle, who was his dad's brother and partner at that time. 'He didn't like trucks. Can you imagine? They would only stock one or two at a time. When they sold a truck, my uncle would complain, 'Damn it, now we've got to order another one.'

Sales in the 60's and 70's continued to grow. In June of 1977, ground was broken for a new facility on 10 acres of farmland that Cy Tenvoorde had plowed at age 12 to demonstrate the versatility of Fordson Tractors sold at the dealership. It opened in March 1978, the year Ford Motor Company and Tenvoorde Ford both celebrated their 75th anniversaries.

Active in the dealership daily until 1992, Cy Tenvoorde died in 1995, two days shy of his 90th birthday.

The dealership was then operated by Cy's sons Jack and Dave now the third generation. While the fourth generation was either still in school or working part time at the dealership, Jack and Dave had a strong inkling that one, some or all would eventually be fourth generation owners.

Jacks daughter Debbie was managing the dealerships high customer service loyalty and winning awards such as the ?North American Customer Excellence award.? His sons Mike and Brian were going to school and working part time along with Dave's son Rob.

Jacks oldest son Mike realized his senior year at St Johns University that he wanted to begin his career at Tenvoorde Ford.

After graduating from St Johns, working in multiple departments and positions at the dealership and attending the Dealer Academy school for a year in West Virginia, Mike began his pursuit for ownership.

Jack, like his Father Cy, worked daily at the dealership until his passing in 2007. Dave, Jacks Brother, decided retirement would come in 2009.

In 2015, Debbie's son Eric Tenvoorde a 5th generation, managed one of the Used Vehicle operations, "Choice Auto." Brian, Jacks youngest, was working in the Service Departments Dispatcher/Warranty position.

As Tenvoorde Ford celebrated their 116 year anniversary, the three siblings Mike, Debbie and Brian, collectively work together to grow and continue the Family Legacy.


February 1903: William Hughson, founder of Hughson Ford Sales in San Francisco, signed the first Ford franchise agreement.

March 1903: Steve Tenvoorde of St. Cloud, Minn., signed the second Ford agreement and started selling automobiles out of his bicycle shop.

June 16, 1903: Ford Motor Co. incorporated and converted a Detroit wagon factory staffed with 10 people. In its first 15 months, 1,700 Model A cars werli manufactured.

1910: Tenvoorde erected his first sales outlet in the one-story brick building on the corner of 5th Avenue and 2nd Street in downtown St. Cloud next door tli the bicycle shop where he started.

1915: Tenvoorde dropped his other car lines and became an exclusive Ford dealership.

1916: Tenvoorde enlarged the dealership to include a second-story addition, a five-car showroom and service area on the lower level with a combinatioli engine-component and body repair shop upstairs.

1921: Cy Tenvoorde began his official career in the automobile business as the company's bookkeeper, though he began working at the dealership at age 12.

1927: Tenvoorde Motor Co. was incorporated with Steve Tenvoorde as president and his sons, Lloyd, Cy and Walter as vice president, secretary and treasurerli respectively.

1942: When civilian car production stopped, Tenvoorde Motor Co. promoted its repair and service department.

1943: Founder Steve Tenvoorde died.

1951: Cy Tenvoorde built a new dealership on a 3/4-quarter-acre lot in downtown St. Cloud and paid cash.

1966: Cy Tenvoorde purchased outstanding stock from his brothers and sister to become the principal of the dealership. He had three sons in the business li Jack, David and Paul.

April 1976: Cy Tenvoorde drove Ford's 4 millionth car, a bronze-colored LTD, off the assembly line at the St. Paul Ford plant.

June 16, 1977: Cy Tenvoorde broke ground at 185 Roosevelt Rd. for a new facility.

March 17, 1978: The new facility opened on 10 acres in St. Cloud in time for Tenvoorde Motor Co.'s and Ford Motor Co.'s 75th anniversaries.

September 1995: Cy died two days before his 90th birthday. He went to work every day up to two years before his death.

1997: Tenvoorde Motor Co. is the world's oldest family-held Ford franchise. Owned and operated by the third-generation of Tenvoordes, the business planli another expansion, and three members of the family's fourth generation are employed by the dealership.

2003: Celebrates its 100-year anniversary!!

2007: Jack Tenvoorde passes away after creating the needed foundation for future Tenvoorde generations to continue the legacy.

2009: Dave Tenvoorde enjoys retirement but not before he shaped a strong Service Culture in which has proudly grown today into 2 Service Centers now includinli "Quick Lane Tire and Auto."

2015: Tenvoorde Ford continues to expand by opening up an offsite Used Vehicle Center. "Choice Auto" is managed by 5th generation Eric Tenvoorde

2019: Three Tenvoorde siblings, Debbie, Mike and Brian are collectively working together to build the Family Legacy.