Denny Amrhein wanted to be a salesman his whole life.
Graduating from Central Catholic in 1967, Amrhein attended college— first in Adrian, then at the University of Toledo— at the urging of his mother. But Amrhein was dedicated to the pursuit of not studying, and after one semester at each school, he had a frank talk with his mom about his goals in life.
“’What are you going to do with yourself?’, she asked. I said, ‘Mom, my whole life, I wanted to be a salesperson, you know that. Every time we went to the grocery store I’d be off talking to people, you’d get so mad, because I was little.’
“I said, ‘I know what I want to do— I want to be a salesperson.’ She said, ‘Okay, do what you want.”
Amrhein’s first job was selling coffee, which he promptly quit when it cut into his hours of playing baseball. But another of his passions soon came calling: Cars. He still speaks in poetic tones about his first automobile, a 1969 GTX 440 Magnum Convertible. So when he saw a sales position open at Papenhagen Oldsmobile, he thought it was meant to be.
Amrhein came in to interview with the sales manager at Papenhagen. As he was leaving, the owner, Ted Papenhagen himself, called out to him. Ted had been listening to the interview from just outside the door.
“He said, ‘Denny.’ And I replied, ‘Yeah?’ He said, ‘Do you really wanna sell cars?’ And I said, ‘Yep. That’s going to be my life, selling vehicles.’ And he stepped right around the corner and told [the sales manager], ‘You’re hiring this young kid.’
“From the first day that I started selling cars, I was the leading salesman for Papenhagen Olds.”
Amrhein worked for Papenhagen for a dozen years, becoming one of the leading salespeople in the nation for Oldsmobile. Soon, he became a full-fledged Ford dealer in Wauseon, and eventually moved to Grogan Dodge in 1990. Today, Amrhein is the managing partner for both Grogan and Charlie’s Dodge in the Toledo area.
“The stores are two of the biggest stores in the United States. We win about every award you can win from Chrysler,” Amrhein said proudly.
Q & A With Denny Amrhein
What do you admire in people? Mostly their personalities, how they act around other people and how they talk.
What are the words you live by? My family is first to me, and then trying to be number one in everything that I do is the second thing to me. But my family is the first thing.
What advice would you give to the younger you? Put in more time, more effort, be happy that you have a job and you’ve got somewhere that will make a living for you.
What inspires you now? What keeps me going is my family, and I love work. I love coming in, I love talking to people. I don’t plan on ever retiring.
What’s your favorite food? Probably my wife’s meatloaf that she makes for me and everyone at the dealership.
Who do you most admire? My dad would be number one, and number two would be Ted Papenhagen, because he is what made me what I am today.
Who is someone you’d like to meet? Larry Bird.
What is your pet peeve? The weather in Toledo.
Favorite movie? White Men Can’t Jump.