Why do the continents drift? Why do the magnetic poles switch places often in an eon? To the roster of such profound geographical conundrums, add one more: Why is Hermann G. Albers’s Rolls-Royce dealership located in little Zionsville, Ind. (pop. 3,948), 18 miles from Indianapolis?
“Indeed, it’s unusual, very odd,” admits Reginald Abbiss, a Rolls-Royce corporate spokesman. “Indiana is not where you’d expect to find someone like Hermann Albers selling our cars.” Odder still is that Albers, 49, sells more $205,500 Corniches and other models than any of the other 56 Rolls dealers in the country, except for those in Manhattan and Beverly Hills, and in parts sales he is No. 1 in the world. As for service, he’s, well, the Rolls-Royce of Rolls-Royces. “Hermann is regarded with reverence by Rolls owners throughout the world,” says Abbiss. “I know people who drive 600 miles oneway to have their cars serviced by him.”
Or farther, “Right now we have cars in here from as far away as California,” says Albers, giving a tour of his garage, which is as spotless as a surgical theater. “People going to Europe drive in, and we drive them to the airport. When they fly back, their cars are ready.” Albers, who comes equipped with a Hyundai-size ego, often acts as chauffeur himself. “Take me for what I am, not for what I sell,” he says. “I’m a Hoosier.”
The son of a painting contractor, Albers grew up in Indianapolis. He proved a gifted mechanic. Right out of high school, he was hired by a Rolls-Royce agency and soon became the shop’s foreman. At 23, he opened his own repair business in Zionsville, and six years later he had his own franchise. Why Zionsville? “I got a good buy on the building,” he says.
Although he has a staff of 12—including wife Jerolyn and sons Mark, 23, and Gregory, 26—Albers personally supervises all the work. He keeps exhaustive records on every car he has ever sold or serviced but rarely needs to look anything up. Show him any part, and he can instantly recite its 17-digit serial number.
To most of Zionsville, though, their neighborhood Rolls dealer is more puzzle than legend. Cars are kept inside Albers’s gray cinder-block building on First Street and are shown by appointment only. The dealership’s locked doors are opened only to admit the kind of people who can afford to drive out. Charlotte McMillen, 61, who works at the Dairy Queen next door, says she enjoys seeing “those rich ladies with their fur coats and little poodles get out of their cars.” Her only regret: “They never come in for a peanut-butter parfait.”