OWOSSO TWP. — So many people think highly of Long’s Transmission, they have voted it The Argus-Press “Best of the Best” transmission shop in Shiawassee County for 25 consecutive years.
This year, as Long’s Transmission celebrates a half century in business — led by two generations of Longs — current owner Ron Long reflected Wednesday on why he thinks residents consistently support the shop, located at 210 N. Lyon St.
“It’s our old-school values: The customer is always right, and honesty,” Long, 60, said. “If you need a little sensor instead of a new transmission, that’s what you get.”
Long’s Transmission has three employees, including Long’s 29-year-old son, Victor Long, who said he hopes one day to be the third-generation owner. Another employee, Dan Schneider, has been there for 25 years.
It all started in the early 1960s with drag racing, a hobby of award-winning racer Howard Long — the late father of Ron Long and grandfather of Victor Long. Howard Long’s race cars established such a strong track record, other people asked him to soup up their own cars.
Ron Long, standing knee-high to a hood ornament, helped his dad.
“I was 6 years old when I first held a wrench,” he said.
Howard Long obliged so many wanna-be racers, working on their cars at home “eight days a week,” that his wife Marilyn Long told him he needed to operate his own shop.
In 1970, Long opened Long’s Service Station, located at the corner of Chipman and Main streets in Owosso.
“I worked there nights and weekends, and I’ve been working there ever since,” Ron Long said with a laugh.
The shop eventually moved across the street, and in 1987 the son took over from the father, who retired. The younger Long decided to get out of selling gas and into transmission work. That same year, Ron Long renamed the business Long’s Transmission and moved it to South Chestnut Street.
In 2009, needing a larger space, Long’s Transmission moved one more time, to the 5,000-square-foot facility on Lyons.
Explaining how the business has managed to last 50 years, Ron Long said, “We’re stubborn. Basically, it’s just pride of ownership. And time just flies.”
He and his wife, Leona Long, have been together since they were 16-year-old sweethearts at Morrice High School. They live in Bennington Township and have two adult sons, Victor and Kurtis Long, and two grandchildren.
Ron, Victor and Kurtis Long all took up their forebear’s drag racing hobby, entering races in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Ron Long has seven classic cars in his collection. His favorite: a 1962 Dodge Dart station wagon.
As good as all three are at drag racing, “My dad was the best,” Ron Long said. Howard Long died about seven years ago.
Ron Long is looking at retirement these days, but not really liking what he sees.
“I’m a work-a-holic,” he said. “If I’m away for three days, I’m going crazy. I get here at 7 a.m. and work until 5 or 5:30 every day, and take a 15-minute lunch break. I’m here on the weekends.
He explained: “I really care about my reputation. I run on referrals.”
Long said he has never considered moving out of the Owosso area because he’s a small-town guy who doesn’t enjoy driving in large, high-traffic cities.
He also appreciates Long Transmission’s loyal customer following: Some of them were once his father’s customers.
“Probably the best part (of working in this business) is having customers who know they can depend on us,” he said.
The worst part? When parts suppliers don’t deliver parts in a timely manner, especially now amid the pandemic.
“That used to be rare,” he said. “Now, it’s continuous.”
Victor Long, who has worked at Long’s Transmission on and off over the years — playing college football and working high-paying construction jobs — is back, and maybe to stay this time.
“I kept finding myself coming back to the family business, and here I’m am,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like work, and you’re helping people out. It’s a nice feeling, know you’re helping someone out.”
Victor Long is impressed by the 50-year milestone.
“I think it’s kind of cool, having a family business here in town for 50 years, and leaving a mark in the town’s history,” he said. “Everyone knows us, for how much business we do.”
Long said he’s a bit in awe of his father’s expertise and experience, and is hoping for more time to catch up before the older Long retires.
“If I take over, it would be nice to know the shop would keep going without missing a beat,” Victor Long said.