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February 18, 2020

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Once upon a time in Ada

Businessman Carl Luft

By Leland Crouse
October 1980
Carl Luft, Ada businessman for the past 67 years, turned the keys to his shop on Lincoln Avenue, over to Tim Rodabaugh, bringing to a close one of the longest continuously operated businesses in the village.

Carl began work in Ada June 9, 1913, working for Prof. Maglott in the old McCurdy building on Johnson Street. He recalls that Maglott sold out to L.E. Ruff three years later, and Carl “went with the business,” working for Ruff for the next three years. Ruff sold the business to Carl and his brother-in-law, Harry Gardner, in 1919.

The business was for many years called the Luft & Gardner Garage, until Harry died in 1954. Over the years the men did welding, sold cars, repaired anything with an engine, and made their own machinery. Most of the machinery in the garage was built by Carl, including lathes and grinders. In the early years of his work he also attended ONU, studying electrical and mechanical engineering.

Luft recalls having sold Plymouths, DeSoto’s, Chryslers, and an automobile many may not remember, the Graham Paige. He had the dealership in Ada, as a subsidiary of both Kenton and Lima dealers over the years. He gave up the car dealing after 1944, when cars were harder to get. “We were lucky to get three or four a year in those days,” Carl said.

 For several years after he gave up auto dealing, he rented his building to a Chevrolet-Oldsmobile dealer, and ran his welding shop from the back of the building. The building was where the auto car wash is now, on East Lincoln, 1980 (now a parking lot 2017). He built the brick structure in 1925, but lost most of it in a fire in December, 1969. After this fire he moved across the street to the location he has sold to Rodabaugh (in 2017 this building holds the Charter Realty business).

Tim and twin brother Tom will be operating the welding shop while also working at Rockwell International in Kenton.