ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Before retiring, a Michigan car dealership owner wanted to thank his employees in a special way.
All 89 employees at the Howard Cooper Import Center in Ann Arbor were given $1,000 for each year of service to the 47-year-old auto dealership.
"The lady behind me had tears running down her face," employee Sandy Reagan told AnnArbor.com. "I sat next to a person who drives the parts van and he's been here almost 28 years. He doesn't make a ton of money, but he got almost $28,000.
"I watched his face and he just said, `Oh my God,' " said Reagan, who has been with the company 46 years.
The 83-year-old Cooper sold the dealership in April to Ohio-based Germain Motor Co., and employee retention was part of the deal. The business is expected to change hands later this month.
"I wanted to thank my employees and that was a way I could do it," Cooper said of the surprise checks. "I hope it makes a difference in their lives like they have made in mine."
Cooper received a standing ovation when the checks were distributed Wednesday morning. He did not reveal how much workers received in total, but 26-year mechanic Bob Jenkins' check was $26,000.
"I was shocked," Jenkins said. "You just don't expect something like that. The whole place was just in shock. People are still talking about it."
Jenkins said his check is going into the bank.
"I have two little kids -- a 5-year-old and a 9-year-old -- so the money will go to good use," he said.
The dealership opened in Ann Arbor in 1965, selling Volkswagens. Porsche and Audis were added in 1972, and Hondas came along in 1979.
"The business has been my whole life for 47 years," Cooper said. "I love what I've done and I enjoyed going to work in the morning."