Familiar face is new owner of Premier Auto PartsSeptember 6, 2023
Local partnerships, support helps former employee Louie Shellum realize dream
The dream of business ownership and a love of the automotive industry led Louie Shellum to where he is today.
Shellum is the new owner of Premier Auto Parts in Madelia. After starting as a salesman in 2014 and managing many of the day-to-day operations for the past eight years, it seemed like the natural next step.
“It wasn’t shortly after starting that I knew one day I’d like to own the place,” Shellum said.
He was presented the opportunity when the former owner made the decision to retire. Now, he is planning for the future of his store and credits local partnerships plus family and community support for helping him realize his dream.
Automotive industry leader
Premier Auto Parts sells automotive parts, accessories and service items. It’s an independently owned affiliate of the national NAPA Auto Parts chain.
While Shellum has no formal education in automotive sales or repair, he has nearly a decade of experience.
“I really enjoy the automotive industry,” he said. “I came here with a few years’ experience and I’m self-taught, learning while on the job.”
Former owner Jeff Niemeier said Shellum thrived as a salesman.
“Louie is very likeable,” Niemeier said. “He treats people fairly and is hardworking. He knows what needs to be done and just does it.”
Niemeier recognized Shellum’s skills and promised to turn over the business when the time was right.
“I bought the store in 1991 after nine years as an employee. The previous owner really helped me in that situation, and I wanted to do the same for Louie,” he said. “He has a young family, and the customers really like him. With Louie in control, I’m sure the business will be very successful.”
Support system backs project
Shellum grew up in nearby New Ulm and moved to Madelia, his wife Natalie’s hometown, in 2012.
Natalie also works in Madelia as chief financial officer at Christensen Communications Company. Given that role, Shellum is grateful she’ll also be lending her expertise to the auto parts business.
“Needless to say, she’ll be handling all of my paperwork and bookkeeping. I’m grateful for her assistance at work, but also for being in my corner throughout this process.”
The backing from his wife mirrors the support Shellum found throughout the Madelia community.
Chris Trembley, general manager of Madelia Municipal Light & Power (MMLP), and Glen Christensen, president of the Madelia Area Redevelopment Corporation, were both supportive of Shellum’s efforts.
They introduced him to Casey Crabtree with Heartland Energy, which ultimately led to obtaining financing through the Heartland Economic development Loan Program (HELP) Fund, to assist purchasing the business.
Heartland Energy supplies wholesale electric power to MMLP. The HELP Fund offers low-interest financing through a revolving loan fund.
“The HELP Fund is designed to provide gap financing,” said Crabtree, Heartland Energy’s director of economic development. “We are invested in the success of the communities we serve, and we work with local banks to help get projects like this off the ground.”
Shellum is grateful for the supplement to the more traditional financing methods.
“The HELP Fund was a perfect fit—it offered a lower interest rate and the process was simple.”
Upholding a reputation
As Shellum looks to the future, he hopes to enhance customer service.
“I’d like to hire a few more employees and start offering a delivery service someday,” he said.
He also says he has a goal to have more inventory on hand to better serve customers.
“If we are more equipped and ready to assist with same-day service, we can eliminate them putting projects on hold.”
Until then, he’s focused on maintaining his store’s stellar reputation and best serving the community that has supported him.
“I have always felt welcome in Madelia. I hope people feel just as welcome when they visit my store.”