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Blink and It's Gone

Iowa shop closing after 63 years follows sad pattern

Blink Electric Motors, a longstanding shop in small-town Iowa, is permanently closing on June 30 after 58 years in business. The shop's shutdown mimics an all-too-familiar trend for similar setups, proving how difficult it is to keep a smaller, family-owned electric motor repair shop running in the modern era.

Since 1995, it has been owned and operated by Kathy Buschbom, the daughter of the shop’s founder, Bernard “Benny” Blink. The founder originally named the business Reliable Electric Motors in 1959, changing its name in 1971 to reflect the family ownership. Benny Blink retired in 1988.

According to the Times-Republican, a local newspaper whose staff writer Sara Jordan-Heintz provided a thorough report on the closing: "The business specializes in the sale of electric motors and motor repairs. In its prime, it offered these goods and services to Marshalltown’s various plants, manufacturers, heating and cooling businesses and dairies. However, the clientele Blink Electric Motors relies upon has dwindled since the mid-1980s."

This reflects a brutally common dialogue known to many shop founders and their second or even third generation families who've tried to take on motor shops that initially flourished during the postwar boom of the 1950s into usually the 1980s.

“The base is gone,” John Bendlage, a 46-year employee, told the Times-Republican. “Factories here started going out of business, and the ones that stayed send out for repairs or have their own in-house repairers … There’s been a decline in motor sales too, and that’s basically what we live on.”

Again, all too true for many modern shops, whether EASA-affiliated, independent, or attempting to restructure. The options appear to have dwindled to either getting bought up by a large company like IPS, or going out of business.

Blink Electric Motors of Marshalltown, Iowa.—Photo by Sara Jordan-Heintz of the Times-Republican.

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