In every community — in families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools — there are people who have knowledge and skills to share — ways of knowing and doing that often come from years of experience and have been preserved and passed down across generations. As active participants in community life, these bearers of tradition are primary sources of culture and history.
One such bearer of tradition, Bernie Hogan began working at Miller Motors in 1962, when Bernie’s father purchased the business. Bernie would have a long career at Miller Motors — one that started in 1962 and lasted until 2012 — when he sold the property to Kyle Smith, a young developer and founder of the Tailwind Group.
The Miller Motors site had a history that began in January of 1926, as a Ford dealership. Mr. Miller was friends with Henry Ford and when Henry Ford wanted him to build a large sales showroom, Mr. Miller declined because he felt that it would make his cars too expensive for the average consumer. When he declined, he fell out of favor with Ford Motor Company and turned the dealership into a DeSoto dealership.
From 1926 – 2012, Miller Motors resided in the same location and had a total of three owners. The founding owner, Mr. Miller was followed by Bernie’s father and eventually Bernie Hogan. This legacy spanned 86 years. Bernie recalls when Front Street used to be the primary thoroughfare. Anyone coming from the south, headed to a northern destination, ended up coming down Front Street and consequently, found themselves right in front of Miller Motors. This created both traffic and sales for the business.
Bernie recalls a time when they would send their own trucks to the warehouse to pick up tires for customers and inventory. This happened monthly or sometimes on rare occasions weekly. Then things changed and consumers expected tires to be more readily accessible. Now, tires are delivered and shipped on a daily schedule. The number of dealerships in Mankato alone has increased dramatically in the last 15 years.
Bernie decided to sell Miller Motors in 2012, after 50 years in the business. Bernie chose to work with Kyle Smith because he believed he was “an upstanding, dynamic young man—fun to deal with and honest too.” He recalls when Kyle needed parking for the tenants in his downtown apartment building. Bernie offered parking options and Kyle expressed an interest in buying the Miller Motors real estate if Bernie was ever interested in selling. When that opportunity appeared, Kyle was ready to purchase Bernie’s property.
Today, Bernie Hogan enjoys driving by the new downtown development. He takes pictures and notes the progress with positivity. He had a chance to review the new plans for the Front Street expansion and was excited by the changes. He also attended the groundbreaking of Profinium Place, the first of the Towers in the new downtown development. He enjoyed participating in that event.
Block 518 and The Tailwind Group is proud to document Miller Motors history and Bernie Hogan’s memories and stories. The past comes to life in the present, filled with vivid history and images of people, places, and events. Honoring these roots, anchors us in a larger whole, connecting us to the past, grounding us firmly in the present, and giving Block 518 a sense of identity.