Since the day he opened his auto repair shop, the owner of Harris Garage has been in business at 201 14th St. The location has been good for his business, and he didn’t want to risk moving and losing customers, he said.
Harris still repairs vehicles each day alongside his son and only employee, Kenneth Harris.
“It was something that I always wanted to do,” Harris said. “It was just ambition, I guess. I always wanted to be a mechanic.”
Harris said he took a correspondence course to learn how to become a mechanic, and after working at other shops for years, he saved enough money to open his own auto repair shop. Then in his 30s, he was the only employee.
“I didn’t have a great deal of money to start with. I just purchased stuff as I went along,” Harris said.
In the early days, Harris worked in general auto repair, but 20 years ago, he started specializing in automatic transmissions, which enable vehicles to change from one gear ratio to the next.
“It was more profitable. Things have gotten so technical now, it’s very hard to do everything on a car, which is general auto repair,” Harris said. “If you notice now, most garages or auto repair shops are specializing in different items.”
There’s a lot of competition locally in the auto repair business. There are repair shops on every corner, he said.
To stay in business, Harris focuses on building relationships with his customers. He has worked on vehicles for generations of clients, from the grandfather, father and son.
Between competition and the economy, business hasn’t been easy over the years. Harris said he maintains his bottom line by having a tight budget. He carefully manages his expenses, which include mechanical tools, hydraulic lifts, scanners, computers and utilities.
Harris and his son work long hours, but he doesn’t mind because he loves his job. Now 74, Harris plans to work as long as he’s healthy and able to work.
He loves figuring out how cars work, taking them apart and putting them back together, he said.
“It’s the joy you get out of doing a job and seeing it work and work correctly,” he said.
If Harris and his son aren’t repairing cars, they’re at the shop for customer convenience, performing estimates and troubleshooting. He enjoys working alongside his son.
“We have a great communication. We work well together,” he said.