Keeping service alive

It might be old fashioned, but in a modern sort of way that suits customers of Harley’s Automotive Center just fine.

Harley’s is a throwback to the days when virtually every gasoline station operated a service bay or two. The service station and their service bays were replaced by today’s convenience stores several years ago, but maybe Harley’s never got the entire message.

“We’re one of the very, very rare service stations that still exists or still under the same ownership,” said Mark Schmidt, managing partner of Harley’s Automotive Center. “We’ve expanded and kept it alive.”

As of April 1, 2014, Harley’s had been doing business at the corner of Second Avenue and 16th Street Southwest in Minot for 50 years. The facility is named after owner Harley Schmidt, Mark’s father and a man who became a well known person to countless automotive customers. Harley’s original service station has changed several times through the years. Today it is what motorists have become accustomed to elsewhere, a convenience store and gasoline station.

However, a few steps to the north Harley’s Automotive Center remains one of the busiest shops in the city. The business built on customer service still does a full range of automotive work such as oil changes, repairs and alignments. They sell tires, batteries and other automotive necessities too. By July 1 an addition to existing service bays will expand the facility that still retains the Harley’s name.

“We’re adding five additional service bays,” said Schmidt. “It will be a 12-bay facility. It will be a further expansion of what we do. We’ll have more office space for more administrative support and we’ll probably add one or two more techs.”

Schmidt says Harley’s is “still very much a neighborhood business,” but acknowledges changes at the same time. Those changes are mostly due to a growing community and influences associated with the Bakken oil boom.

“We’re servicing a lot of trucks. It is definitely a major increase of what it was five years ago,” said Schmidt. “It’s a lot different.”

Different, yes, but the business has artfully managed to retain its neighborhood appeal and welcome approach to customers. While Schmidt agrees that the days of the service station on the corner may have changed in appearance through the years, he says customer service remains foremost even in a era where everyone seems to be on the move.

“People are constantly on the go so cars are getting used. The demand for maintenance has increased all around,” said Schmidt. “The old days of just pulling up and getting right in has changed, but we try to accommodate schedules depending on the person’s needs at the same time.”