The minivan makes the man

Or, so he thought.

Then baby number two arrived and his wife’s pleas for practicality won him over and, Jeff says, “I gave up my SUV and finally embraced the minivan.” Much to his surprise, no one laughed. In fact, Jeff liked driving the family van, and came up with an idea. Why don’t I turn my passion for cars, my love of people, and my experience in sales into a new career? He could help people find nice, pre-owned minivans at great prices. He could become the Minivan Man.

Upon seeing his logo (which is equal parts minivan, Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine and VW Bus), visiting his humor-infused web site, or meeting him in person, people who discover The Minivan Man immediately realize that they are not dealing with a stereotypical used car salesman. Comfortably dressed, usually in jeans and Minivan Man shirt, (which states “I’m kind of a big deal — I drive a minivan”) Jeff has a guy-next-door smile, easygoing personality, and sense of humor that put buyers at ease.

His business is more about building relationships than selling cars. When people come to him,  “I try to get to know them a little bit, find out how many kids they have, and what they like doing.” Then he finds out what his customers are looking for. Sometimes they know exactly what they want. Others just know they need a safe family vehicle, so Jeff finds two or three options that best fit their needs and budget.

Though customers do request cars, SUVs, and the occasional vehicular toy, over 70 percent of his sales are pre-owned minivans. He keeps a select inventory of minivans on his lot but, the majority of the time, Jeff hand-picks vehicles for his clients. He finds his customers cars that he would drive himself. In fact, he’s been known to sell his own minivan if it happens to be just what his customer needs — though his wife insists they keep their minivans for at least six months so she doesn’t have to keep moving her sunglasses and garage door opener.

Once his mechanic checks out the vehicle, Jeff polishes it up and spends time getting to know it. “I try to drive every one of the cars a little bit. If it’s going to have a squeak or a rattle or a slipping transmission or something, I’d just as soon that it happens to me.” If there is a problem, he fixes the vehicle or sends it to auction. “It makes me feel good that people trust my advice, and I don’t take that trust lightly... I really try and do my homework and be as honest as I can. Unfortunately, when you sell used cars you can’t always know every single thing about them. I mean you do the best you can and I always tell people, ‘I’ll tell you everything that I know about the car, but I’m not going to make stuff up so that it would sell better.’”

After less than two years in business, the Minivan Man has a loyal following of customers who recommend him to family and friends — like Sarah Desombre. Not your typical Minivan Man customer, Sarah is single, doesn’t have kids and wanted a car. She knew she could find a vehicle at a dealership or on the Internet, but, instead of kicking tires on her own, she called The Minivan Man. “He picked a great car for me ... He’s got energy and enthusiasm, and he has no shame in being The Minivan Man.” And, she adds, if she ever decides to trade in her sporty wheels for a nice, pre-owned minivan, she knows who she’ll call — the Minivan Man.

Myrna C.G. Mibus is a Minivan Man fan who loves driving her sporty minivan, a 2003 Pontiac Montana she purchased earlier this year. She lives in Webster, Minn., with her husband and two children.