WORTHINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) — A former Minnesota auto dealer used to be in the business of selling cars. Now, he’s dealing in something a little more personal: memories.
Marv Spomer, 70, has an impressive collection of vintage auto memorabilia, from neon signs to classic cars and he’s packed it all into his former Chevy/Buick dealership in the heart of Worthington.
He calls it Spomer Classics.
“Everybody likes to go back in time,” Spomer said, “and we’ve created that atmosphere.”
Spomer likes to wow his visitors when they step into the main room. He flips a few light switches at a time, bringing to life nearly 200 bright neon signs for companies like Studebaker, DeSoto and Edsel.
“They have no idea what’s going to happen back here before we start flipping them on and it is a wow,” he said. “You’ll hear the voices get louder and louder and louder as the signs come on.”
He’s bringing back the glow from a time that was very important to him, a glow that seems to be contagious.
“I mean, you want to see some faces light up? They do,” he said. “They just start glowing.”
Spomer has been into cars, and everything that comes with them, since he was very young. He credits his first vehicle with attracting his wife of 50 years, Jeanine.
“My first car was a ’55 Chevy,” he said, ‘and she kind of fell in love with the car and I says ‘it’s a package deal, I go with the car.’ So here we are.”
The automotive memorabilia collection started coming together in the 1980s, when Jeanine Spomer tried to get her husband more interested in her own hobby of antiquing.
“Instead of him sitting in the vehicle waiting, I said one day, ‘why don’t you just go in and look for automotive stuff,” she said. “So here we are. This is what happened. Be careful what you wish for.”
Spomer is especially proud of the well-preserved porcelain signs that line the museum’s walls. He also has several classic cars on display, including one that once carried Robert F. Kennedy in Worthington’s annual Turkey Day parade.
It’s a lot of work to keep the museum operating, with several more items in storage, waiting to be restored and displayed. The payoff for Spomer comes when others stop by and share their own enthusiasm.
“It means a lot when people come in and look at it, and recognize it for what it is,” he said. “People come in here and they just go back in history and it’s really neat to see.”
Spomer personally leads the tours when groups of people come in. They pay a $10 admission, which helps cover the costs of keeping everything lit.
For those who’d like to visit, he’d prefer that they call ahead and make an appointment.