Going fishing? Need wigglers? Wax worms? Night Crawlers? The Brenner brothers have got those and other creep crawly creatures like leeches and crickets to entice fish. They’ve also got rubber bait, and Randy Brenner, co-owner of Brenner’s Service, swears steelhead trout go for the scented pink rubber worms. By the way, you can also get your car serviced at Brenner’s.
“We’ve got hooks, bobbers, sinkers…everything a bait shop should have,” said Terry Brenner, Randy’s brother and co-owner of the bait and auto repair shop at 4765 West River Dr. in Comstock Park.
“We do brakes, tire repair, sell tires, general (car) maintenance,” said Randy Brenner, who started working at the shop when he was seven years old and never left because. “It was always my dream to work for my father.”
Bill Brenner, Terry and Randy’s father, bought the business, then called the Old Dutch Gas Station, in 1963 and turned it into a Phillips 66 gas station. Terry Brenner said the original gas station was built in the early 1950’s by Wally Done who also built the adjacent Brook Haven Trailer Park. A tornado destroyed the gas station and devastated the trailer park in 1956, and Done rebuilt both.
Bill Brenner, at the age of 11, had a stand on West River Drive where he sold 100 worms for a dime. Now his sons, who added the 1132 square foot bait shop in 1999 sell three dozen worms for $3.29. The old garage now a room for lunch breaks and making lures, is 780 square feet and the current auto repair area of the building is 900 square feet. Bill Brenner, who is deceased, stopped selling gas in 1995. His sons bought the business from him in 2003.
The bait shop is an angler’s paradise. There is every type of bait and lure imaginable, many made by Terry and Randy. There are a stands of poles, shelves of reels, and they sell nets. On the walls over the shelves of lures are pictures of customers with fish they’ve caught using Brenner’s bait. Mounted fish Brenner family members have caught and antlers from deer the family hunted also line the walls. At the back of the shop are tanks of minnows.
The shop has a lot of long-time customers, some who were children with their parents when they first came to the shop and now bring their children. Dawn Brenner, Randy’s wife, said she started a Facebook page for the shop “as a way to bring in younger people.” Three years ago, she also organized a fishing contest for kids ages three through sixteen as a marketing event offering prizes like fishing poles and gift certificates to the youngsters who brought in the heaviest fish.
“We don’t separate by ages,” said Dawn Brenner, who started working at the shop after losing her job as an export coordinator at Wolverine Worldwide in Rockford in 2009. “A three-year-old can catch as big a fish as a sixteen-year-old.”
Dawn Brenner said that between the auto repair and the bait and tackle businesses, it’s a toss-up as to which is the bigger part of their total operation. The bait and tackle business slows from October until lakes freeze enough for ice fishing. During that time they close on Sundays, but the rest of the year they’re open seven days a week.
The family has deep roots in area with the brothers’ great-grandfather Charles working at the tanneries located in Dwight Lydell Park in downtown Comstock Park in the early 1900’s.
Terry Brenner, who graduated from Comstock Park High School in 1975, still lives in Comstock Park. He was a member of the Comstock Park Downtown Development Authority when it was founded. He has two children and ten grandchildren. Randy Brenner graduated from Comstock Park High School in 1978. He and Dawn live in Morley and have three grown children and four grandchildren. Dawn Brenner graduated from Comstock Park High School and from Phoenix University with a degree in business management.