Fifty-three years is a long time to stay in business.
Dennis and Donna Dubsky managed to reach that mark by changing with the times.
Dennis graduated from Schuyler High School in 1958 then attended the Nebraska Vocational Technical School, which is now the Milford campus of Southeast Community College.
After working at a few automotive garages in Beatrice and Columbus, Dennis decided he wanted to open his own business in his hometown of Schuyler.
“I was 24 years old and I thought the world was passing me by,” he said.
“One day he quit and bought a hat and he came home and he said, ‘I'm starting my own business,'" Donna recalled.
From Dubsky’s Auto Center at 1609 Fort St., you can look across the street and see the two-door garage where the business got started before the current building opened in 1971.
Dennis did the repairs and Donna handled the bookkeeping.
“I was always behind the scenes,” Donna said. “I don't know if some people even knew that I was involved.”
In addition to fixing vehicles, Dubsky’s also sold and repaired Toro lawn mowers for 40 years, repaired small engines and offered motorcycle sales and boat repairs for brief stints.
“Whatever worked at the time we would go into,” Donna said.
After Dennis’ father Frank retired from his job as a custodian at Schuyler High, he went to work in the shop.
“He helped out here a lot, especially with the customer relations because he knew all the old-timers,” said Dennis.
Dennis’ grandfather came to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia, and while Frank was born in the U.S. and spoke both languages, Dennis said he was more comfortable with Czech.
“I always said he'd rather speak Czech than he would English,” Dennis said. “When I started, they'd come in talking Czech to me or real broken English.”
Dennis worked on vehicles for multiple generations of some local families.
“I know families where I’ve worked on four generations in that family,” he said. “Because when I started working back in the '60s the great-grandpa came in with his car and probably was 70 years old. And then his son came in and his son came in.”
As the population evolved to include more immigrants, he picked up those customers, too.
The Dubskys' son Scott worked part time at the shop throughout high school. After attending Southeast Community College in Milford like his father, Scott worked at the shop full time from 1982 until about a dozen years ago.
Dennis still has copies of a 1989 Schuyler Sun story about the shop’s 25th anniversary that features a photography of Frank, Scott and Dennis together at the business.
About a dozen years ago, Dennis had both of his hips replaced and they considered closing the garage. He recovered and was able to continue working, but decided to cut back to where it was just him in the shop doing what he could handle.
Around that time, a lot of classic car owners started bringing their vehicles to Dubsky's Auto Center.
“There aren't too many mechanics that know (those cars) anymore,” said Donna.
“I really like it because that's what I grew up with was the older classic cars,” said Dennis. “So it was like going back to the good old days.”
The last vehicle Dennis repaired, a 1948 Studebaker, was waiting for its owner at the garage.
In July, Dennis had his knee replaced. This time he tried to go back to work and couldn't.
“After about three weeks I came back to the shop and I started working for a few hours and I went home and I told Donna, I said, ‘I can't do it,’” he said. “So I stayed home for a couple weeks and I came back down and tried it again and came home and said, 'I can't do it.' So we decided together that maybe this is the time to retire.”
They closed Dubsky’s earlier this month, but haven’t decided what to do with the building. Dennis still has mixed emotions about retirement.
“Just last night a friend of mine said, 'How do you like retirement?' and I said, ‘I don't know,’” he said.
If it works for him, Dennis said he’d like Scott, who works in North Bend, to buy the building.
“(Scott) said, 'What are you going to do?’ And I said, ‘Right now, nothing. Before I do anything I’ll talk to you about it,’” said Dennis. “And he seemed to like that answer.”
Donna still has to finish the year’s financials and taxes before she can officially retire. Once that happens, she looks forward to doing more with art in her retirement.
Dennis doesn’t know what's in store for him moving forward, but he looks back on his time at the repair shop with pride.
“It’s been what I call quite a journey,” he said.