End of An Era

Blink Electric will shut down after 58 years

Blink Electric Motors, Inc., a Marshalltown, Iowa motor repair shop, will close its doors at the end of this month. The news reflects a number recurring industry stress points, and raises questions about how independent, family-owned motor shops can continue to survive in the current industrial climate.

Blink will stop business operations on June 30, reported Sara Jordan-Heintz of the Times-Republican, a local Marshalltown newspaper. With a core in electric motor repair, Blink thrived on plant services and area manufacturers. Many of its clients (which have long since diminished) were local farmers and dairies, as well as HVAC-R customers. Since 1995, it has been owned and operated by Kathy Buschbom, the daughter of the shop’s founder, Bernard “Benny” Blink.

“Orval Maulsby reached out to my dad, who at that time was doing construction work in the Marshall Islands, to see if he wanted to open a shop in the other half of his building (Maulsby Electric) here in Marshalltown,” Buschbom told Jordan-Heintz. “Dad started what he first called Reliable Electric Motors on July 1, 1959. In 1971, he changed the name to Blink Electric Motors after buying the rest of the building from Orval. Dad ‘retired’ a few times, and finally did retire in 1988.”

In another familiar tale, the timeline of when business started to decline was around the mid-1980s. Blink employees say that factories were the first to go, and those that stayed either outsource repairs or have their own maintenance staffs. Predictably, a decline in motor sales and the interference of online services have also gashed Blink’s profits.

The business had been working with only three employees for the past few years: Buschbom, Bendlage, and his son Jason, a 15-year employee. Buschbom has been employed at Blink since 1975, when she began in the shop’s office.

One last echo: Bendlage “said a frustrating aspect of the decline in business is the move away from American-made motors to ones more cheaply made elsewhere,” Jordan-Heintz reported. Not the first time we’ve heard independent, family-owned shops lament the obstruction of offshoring. Motors made in Mexico and China require different parts often tougher to access for local shops. Bendlage told the Times-Republican that the shop used to rewind four to six motors a day…now that number has been stretched thin to one every six months.

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