Why would any sane person start their own business? The romantic notion is of a driven entrepreneur working well over 80 hours a week against long odds, to avoid working 40 for others. Their mission is sustained by a shining dream no one else shares until they meet with success… or failure. While there may be some touch of reality in that ideal, but the more accurate reality is of grueling hours for little instant return. As my mother’s concerned “When are you going to get a real job?” rang in my ears I did have an ideal to sustain me… I would succeed (or fail) by working to bring higher levels of client and vehicle service to a rightfully mistrusted industry. I believed that thorough physical inspection, records management, proper equipment, accurate recommendations and even a little bit of heart would put me miles ahead of the pack. Naïve? Maybe. Quixotic? Yes. But this month we’re celebrating 36 years in business and 30 years in Sellwood, so the hard work and staying true to ideals seems to be working so far…
I didn’t start my own business to begin some auto repair empire; I started my own business because a former boss wanted me to do repairs his customers didn’t need. When I told him I wouldn’t do unnecessary work and that my tool box had wheels for a reason, he told me that if I wouldn’t do it someone else would. We parted ways. That was my last paycheck job and it started me on my long road of self-unemployment (“unemployed” is how you feel and are treated by banks etc. when you are newly self-employed) It took several years, at first working from a friend’s property, then from a rental home garage with a zoning variance, to build clientele. As my clientele grew my work space seemed to shrink and I was forced to grow or die. Luckily in 1987 my friend Marla (now my wife) found a Sellwood industrial building willing to divide some space. Up went the painted wall sign.
30 years later, some things have stayed the same while others have changed. Paying my bills each month is still important, but now a bigger motivator is the pride I feel in providing a professional work environment and living wages for the staff while delivering the best (anywhere!) service and value to our loyal clients. Those bills are bigger but now they cover the entire building and 20 top-flight Technicians and Staff that provide a range and level of services magnitudes beyond my 1987 capabilities. It’s now their mission to keep the original principles alive: providing client-centered, precision service with no BS sold ever while delivering quality at a fair price every time. I think they’re doing an amazing job and they make me damn proud.
Our company’s grown with Sellwood as it changed from an inexpensive working-class neighborhood to an upscale part of one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. You helped us survive the Sellwood Bridge reconstruction but now we’re all dealing with the increasing density, paralyzing traffic, vanishing parking, and omnipresent construction that growth brings. More is on the way. As we celebrate our 30th Anniversary in the neighborhood I know I’m not alone in worrying that everything I’ve loved about Sellwood is in peril. I want to reach out and scream “STOP!” but no one can stop greed and the quest for the mighty dollar. But even though I can’t stop it you can help shape our future in fundamental ways.
Sellwood’s shops and boutiques are as critical as parks and trees. Without neighborhood support these businesses will close and we’ll all lose our local options for the products and services we need. Every business obviously depends on customers, but the small, local, sole-proprietor businesses predominant in Sellwood are even more sensitive than the big guys to the support of their neighbors. If Starbuck’s loses 50 customers they’ll never even notice, but 50 customers for the independent coffee shop is the difference between success and failure. No one person can save our Sellwood businesses, but each person… individually… has a choice about where to spend their money. Don’t do business on auto-pilot; consciously look for local options and intentionally choose to support local businesses when you can. I think you’ll like the advantages of dealing with businesses where you matter in a real and tangible way. And I know they (and we) will appreciate your extra efforts and will do our best to make sure you know it.
I’d like to offer my personal gratitude and appreciation for making our first 30 years in Sellwood such a spectacular mission. With your support, and ONLY with your support, we’ll be here for another 30 years to come!
Make a great day,