Mike and Judy Suess

Judy and Mike Suess stand in front of a vintage IH tractor at their business, Suess Auction & Implement in Racine. The couple are calling it quits after 35 years running a weekly consignment auction. (Noah Fish/nfish@agrinews.com)

RACINE, Minn. — A Dr. Seuss quote from "Oh, the Places You’ll Go" may fit the occasion, but Mike Suess (pronounced swee-es) isn't having it.

Mike and Judy Suess are throwing in the towel after more than three decades in the auction ring, but not in defeat. The couple has hosted a weekly auction at their place of business in Racine for the last 35 years.

Dec. 7 will be the final consignment auction at Suess Auction & Implement, as Judy and Mike will take a step back from the business that's consumed them for 46 years.

"We've done this every day for so many years, so we know it's going to be a big change," said Mike Suess.

The business will continue to operate as a used farm equipment dealer, and the couple will continue to conduct auctions for other companies at their sites.

The start

Mike Suess said that he was "born a mile east of Stewartville and never left," but that's only somewhat true.

While he served in the Army, Suess spent three years living on three continents, which he said was long enough for him to realize southeast Minnesota was the only place for him.

He returned in 1973 and quickly found work at the Allis Chalmers dealership that his father owned. They went on to spend 11 years in business together. It was work Suess found to be fresh and rewarding.

"He was just a farmer and I was a farm kid," he said of his father. "It was something new and exciting for us, and we learned as we went along."

Suess said there was never much thought behind him getting into the auction and implement business on his own, it just surfaced on its own.

"Once we closed that business down, I started this one," said Suess.

A driving force for Suess' to be in the industry was his knack for the work. The auction world is like the world of sports, he said, "either you got it, or you don't."

"I never went to auctioneer school and my brother who helps me auctioneer, never went," said Suess.

A local affair

When Suess Auction & Implement was beginning, Suess said the implement business was strictly local.

"You dealt with your local people, and very seldom did customers travel far from their area," said Suess. "Now with the internet — it's worldwide."

He said that today, a farmer in Minnesota can purchase a piece of equipment in California, have it loaded on a truck that day and then delivered to the their door the following week.

"You can't say it's a bad thing," he said of the internet. "It's just a modern thing."

He's leery of where the auction industry is going, with more of it conducted online than ever before.

"The future of the auction business is that you won't need an auctioneer to sell anything," said Suess.

What concerns him is that the quality might not always be what buyers thought it was online.

An effective team

While Mike has qualms with the digital remodeling of auctions, Judy Suess has kept Suess Auction & Implement on pace by managing its website since the early 2000s.

"She's a paper tiger when it comes to the internet," Suess said of his wife.

The website was setup by one of their sons in 2003' Judy updates and tracks the site's daily traffic.

"We tried to keep it simple and easy," she said. "We don't like confusing things on the internet."

Calling it quits

According to Suess, the couple's decision to retire from the auction portion of their business is simple: they want to work less.

"We've just got to that age when we decided it was time to slow down some, and take it a little easier," said Suess. Mike and Judy have been married "too long," Judy says with a smirk before smiling and adding 48 years.

The retirement has nothing to do with the financial state of their business or the changing landscape of the industry, he said.

"It's just time to go fishing and hunting with my grandkids," he said. There are five to keep him occupied. 

In the weeks leading up to their last auction, Suess said it's hard not to be a bit sentimental.

What he calls "the best help in the world" is what makes him emotional for the final day. Auction days came and went without a hitch for more than 40 years because of the good work put in by a large crew, which Suess said is like family.

"Basically all the help that I've gotten in the auction and implement business isn't hired help — it's friends," said Suess. "That's the part I'm going to miss."

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