George Jansing remembers one special parts delivery well. He was a teenager and was taking an exhaust system from the family’s auto parts business on Main Street to a nearby automobile dealership on the delivery bicycle when a car struck him and sent the pipes and muffler flying out of his basket and across the street.
Instead of waiting for the Norman police to arrive and check on him he quickly picked up the parts and hurried on down the street to make the delivery. On the way out he was met by a Norman police officer who wanted to know if George was hurt and why he would have left in such a hurry.
“I had to make the delivery or my dad would have fired me,” he jokingly recalls. “He was pretty tough on us.”
The Jansing’s Palace Auto Supply will celebrate 100 years in business this spring. It’s easily one of only a handful of Norman businesses that have remained in the same family ownership for a century. A May event is in planning stages.
Palace is also one of the last remaining independent parts houses in the area. When they got their first telephone the number was 19. Today, it’s 321-8019.
Palace Garage, founded by W.A. and Ben Jansing, opened in 1917 at 306 East Main Street. They later moved a few storefronts west to 302 E. Main, the distinctive, two-store brick building on the southeast corner of Main Street and Crawford Avenue. They were a full-service garage, parts house, vehicle storage and wrecker service. They sold automobiles and boats, too, for a few years.
Palace stored and serviced cars for OU faculty members who were prohibited from having vehicles on campus. They operated a Conoco station at the location for many years. Big sellers were springs, batteries, tires and tubes.
Brothers Ben and Henry Jansing operated the garage in its early days. Ben died in 1945 and his son, Bernard, eventually owned the garage.
“They did a little bit of everything back then,” says George Jansing, one of four sons of Bernard and Frances Jansing. Bernard worked at the store from age 16 until his death in February of 2016 at age 90. “I remember he’d work all day and then he’d be out most of the night running the wrecker service,” George recalls.
George’s brothers, Ben Jansing, Jon Jansing and Greg Jansing round out the family team at Palace which relocated from Main Street to 340 24th Avenue NW in 1983. The move came as most of Norman’s car dealers had left downtown Main Street and Porter Avenue for 24th Avenue NW and later to buildings with interstate frontage.
All remember working in the business from early ages and a hard-working father who was as tough as nails.
“We just did whatever Dad told us to do,” said Greg.
Like any family business, members bring different strengths to work.
“You have to separate the two,” said Ben, the oldest son. “You can’t bring your work problems home and you can’t bring your home problems here.”
With cars lasting longer and fewer owners working on their own vehicles, the company has had to evolve. It has found a niche in paint and body supplies and parts for fleet customers.
“We’re still pretty successful but it’s a different business today,” George said. “We’ve had to make a lot of changes over the years.”