For decades, travelers and locals alike have flocked to Speedway, Indiana, to spend a few hours enjoying the famous Amish buggy races in the fall. But is this really the case, or has this tiny town built its brand on more than just racing? Let’s take a closer look at who actually owns these gas stations and motels, because despite what you may think, they’re not all owned by one family.
The Diverse Group Of Investors
The Diverse Group of Investors was established in 1899 and owns many prominent companies in the Indianapolis area, including Hendricks Global Inc., an international transportation company, and Indiana Litho Company, a commercial printer. This entrepreneurial family has several gas stations and motels in their portfolio, including the iconic Greenbrier Resort & Spa, a well-known Amish country destination. Today, the Diverse Group is made up of 10 generations of Amish and non-Amish entrepreneurs who continue to serve the community and pursue expansion opportunities in other industries. Perhaps it’s not a total coincidence that the founders of The Diverse Group all used their respective initials in their company names: T.G.I.F., or ‘The Group for Investment in Foundations.’
While the Diverse Group of Investors is certainly not unique in owning gas stations and motels in Speedway, it is interesting to note that all of their properties are either directly or indirectly associated with the Amish. Many people know the Amish are famous for their buggies, but did you know they also build furniture, grow vegetables, and operate hotels? It’s true! The Diverse Group properties in Speedway include three gas stations, two motels, and the Greenbrier Resort, all of which are operated by Amish entrepreneurs. Furthermore, a large portion of the population of Speedway is made up of Amish people, leading some to speculate that the town might even be considered ‘Amish Country.’
Bertie Aten first came to Indiana in 1907 and settled in the small town of Charlestown, eventually buying the local gas station. After selling the gas station and motels he founded in Speedway, he and his wife, Effie, established a series of travel-related businesses, including lodges, inns, and golf courses. Aten is credited with building the first modern hotel in Porter County, the Aten Country Inn. Effie passed away in 1937, leaving Aten to serve as the sole proprietor of the family’s diverse business interests. In 1945, Aten established the Greenbrier Country Club and Spa in partnership with a local builder, and a decade later completed the construction of Greenbrier’s main lodge, which he named after his wife. Currently, Aten remains the largest individual landholder in the town of Speedway, owning nearly 500 acres of land and buildings, including homes and shops. It is interesting to note that some of the other properties the Diverse Group of Investors owns are connected to the Aten family as well, including the Greenbrier Golf Course and the Greenbrier Lodge.
Johnstown Keswick is an international firm that owns many well-known companies in the pharmaceutical industry, including Remicade, an anti-inflammatory medication, and VEGF-inhibitor (brand name: Bevacizumab), which treats ovarian cancer. A pioneer in the field of anti-aging medicine, Keswick launched ‘Rejuvenation’ — a project devoted to ‘optimizing’ the lives of the elderly — with the opening of the Keswick Cream and Sugar Factory, a luxury resort and casino, in 2016. The company continues to develop innovative projects that serve the healthcare industry, including the establishment of a kidney cancer treatment center in New York City, a liver disease center in London, and a macular degeneration treatment center in Israel.
William Stead is notable for founding both North American Van Lines and American Van Lines, which still operate as separate companies under one umbrella. With offices in California, Florida, and New York, the company has been providing moving services for families and businesses for more than 100 years. Stead is also the founder of American Moving and Storage Company, which owns and operates more than 80 moving and storage companies in the United States and Canada. In addition to his business interests, Stead is an active philanthropist and has donated many properties to various nonprofit organizations, including the Indianapolis Arts Council, which owns and operates the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Indy Arts Garage, a gallery space for local artists. The William M. Stead Building, a luxury apartment building funded by the philanthropist, is named after him.
Homer L. Wolf
With more than 60 years of experience in the trucking industry, Homer L. Wolf founded Wolf Group in 1967. This global truck brokerages has offices in Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles and is one of the world’s biggest trucking firms. Additionally, Wolf Group serves as a holding company for other successful businesses, including truck stop franchises and travel agencies. In 2007, the company purchased the rights to the Big Jim Trucking Company trademark and started a new line of truck stops under the ‘Big Jim’ banner.
Richard H. Kline
Richard Kline is the founder of Kline Retail Company, which provides management services to large retail organizations, including specialty stores and superstores. In addition to being the founder of one of the country’s largest retail management firms, Kline is also the founder of Discount Tire Centers, Inc., and owns and operates several Kline-branded retail stores and parking lots. In 1959, Kline opened his first SuperTire Store and began expanding the business to include several other regions of Indiana and neighboring states. His largest and most profitable store, located in Carmel, Indiana, is known for its ‘wonderful’ winters and draws customers from all over the country. In 2010, Kline was named the ‘Most Influential Retiree’ by the Indianapolis Business Journal for his continued philanthropy and support of local community organizations. He continues to this day, supporting numerous non-profit organizations with donations in both cash and kind.
George A. Hormel
One of the most prominent names on this list, George Hormel is the founder of George Hormel & Company, a canned food processing company with headquarters in San Francisco. George Hormel & Company is most well-known for its canned hams and turkey, as well as its Spam, which was originally manufactured in his own backyard in Austin, Minnesota. Additionally, the firm has grown into a global corporation, with additional offices and production facilities outside the United States. In recent years, Hormel & Company has diversified its operations by establishing a line of gourmet sausages, including boar, duck, and rattan sausage, and forming a strategic partnership with a New York-based coffee roaster to develop gourmet coffee.
James J. Heffernan
As an active member of the Princeton community for more than 40 years, James J. Heffernan has made great contributions to the town, including the James J. Heffernan Scholarship, which provides funding for up to four years of full-time study at Princeton University. In 2018, Heffernan established a $20 million endowment to provide support for students at his alma mater. In 2015, Heffernan and his wife, Mary Kay, donated $7.5 million to the University of Notre Dame to endow the James J. and Mary Kay Heffernan Chair in Catholic Thought and Culture.
John K. Powers
John K. Powers is the founder of Powers Coffee-Makers, Inc., a manufacturer of high-quality office coffee-makers and espresso machines. In addition to his coffee-related businesses, Powers is also the founder of Powers Real Estate Services, an Indianapolis-based residential real estate firm. He is a well-known philanthropist and in 2018, donated $2 million to the University of Notre Dame to establish the John K. and Mary Kay Powers Prize for Catholic Civic Leadership. It is interesting to note that all of these businesses are either owned or controlled by the Powers family, which still operates the majority of its properties today.