Just saw where Grafe Auctions has announced that Little Dearborn Ford Parts' owner is retiring and closing the business. Grafe will be conducting the on location and online auction. Little Dearborn, while mainly selling Model A and 32-48 parts, has had Model T parts and some parts later than 1948. I have bought from him several times. The list of signs and books is long with no pictures or detailed descriptions on the web site I looked at. I didn't look at the parts list, but I am sure it is equally as long. They were located in Minneapolis. Action will be at a site near Minneapolis.
That's a sad thing to hear. People have been doing business with them for a very long time. It'll be the end of an important part of the old Ford restoration hobby.
I remember buying from Little Dearborn when I had a Model A in Minneapolis in the late '60s. Long, long ago!
The difference between a job/business and a hobby is one MAKES money, the
other one SPENDS it.
Hobby-oriented businesses often blur the line so far that the job of running/owning
a business is, in itself, something close to a hobby. And let's be real here, it we
didn't love our old car/s of choice, we'd all be driving throw-away imports/reliables.
And there is the rub ... Joe Carguy starts a parts business out of his own passion,
not really to make maximum money. When Joe gets old and wants to give it up,
finding another passion-driven enthusiast to take on a less-than-lucrative enterprise
can be tough, let alone asking them to pony up some big money to cover the previous
Uff da. Never got the chance with those folks.
I could always call them and order parts for the '38 truck but, a trip to Little Dearborn was like visiting one of Minneapolis' major attractions. My favorite thing was when they'd say, "let me check and see what's in the basement". A great percent of the time they'd come back with some obscure NOS part that really shouldn't have existed.
From there a quick run over to French Lake Auto Parts and a walk around miles and miles of old Fords, everything from Model T's to Galaxy's and...
I gotta go, I think I've got some grit in my eyes!
Way back in the day, they sent parts lists to obscure dealers around the country. They asked the dealers to check their old inventories and let them know what the dealers still had in stock.
The lists had the Ford part number and the price Little Dearborn would pay. Once the parts were boxed and made ready for pick up Dearborn would send a truck out to the dealers and pickup and pay for the parts. They scoured Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, the Dakotas and the Midwest.
I drove past the other day and thought about being surprised they where still there. The area is really being redevelopment. Their rent must be going up and going through the roof. The area is in high demand.
Little Dearborn was a going and viable concern for approx. 55 years, not a hobby business done on a whim. The founder, Pete Peterson, passed away in 1995 and it was still going strong 19 years later.
As Jason said, there is a lot of major redevelopment occurring on University Avenue, much of it sparked by the opening of the light rail line. Also, the area were Little Dearborn is located is an especially hot market for redevelopment due to its proximity to the University of Minnesota.
Little Dearborn's building was sold last May for just over $1 million. Perhaps someone got an offer they couldn't refuse. Don't know what the plans are for the building or if it is going to be torn down.
Little Dearborn hasn't really catered to Model T owners in many years. Not enough locals walking in and with companies like Lang's dominating the mail order market, there wasn't enough justification to carry a large inventory of Model T Ford parts. In recent years I believe the real money for them has been in flathead and later parts as well as the hot rod market.
The last time I was there was two years ago to get a cooling system outlet connection pipe which, fortunately, they had on hand. Prior to that, went in to buy some Timken races but they had nothing for Model T.
You're right Erick, and nobody would ever say Little Dearborn was a hobby. But, they certainly supported the early Ford market for years and they were an extremely important supplier to those of us in this hobby.
One of my favorite memories of their store was stopping by in 2005 and asking them if, by any chance, they might be able to come up with a radiator for a '38 Ford pickup. We'd already had the original re-cored here in St Cloud and anyone who lives around this area knows, when Mike left Lincoln Radiator our options for quality work went with him. You can imagine my surprise when they carried a nearly 70 year old NOS radiator up out of the basement of Little Dearborn in 2005.
And, our story could be repeated several times over by nearly everyone that did business with them. They will be sorely missed as a great supplier to the classic car hobby.
Oops, I'm sorry Erik for mis-spelling your name.
its a growing trend the last few years. Old car parts business's is slowly disappearing either the owner passed away or retires or sells it off to a competitor. As a parts supplier to this hobby I am informed from many parts business's calling it quits in the last 5 years.
I should have written "21 years later" not "19."