Meet Your Merchant: Building a business ‘one bay at a time’
March 25, 2012
TRUCKEE, Calif. – What started with some Sears tools in the back of a 1971 El Camino has now evolved into a full service automotive repair and maintenance shop built around the ethics of honesty and professionalism – two valuable traits not often found in the mechanic business.John Lamoreux, owner of the Auto & Tire Doctor in Truckee, has been an automotive technician in the Tahoe Basin since the tender age of 16 when he started earning extra cash after school as a gas station mechanic in South Lake Tahoe.”That was my beginning to the auto repair world,” Lamoreux said while taking a break from his managerial duties at the Auto Doctor.After graduating from high school, a young Lamoreux relocated to San Francisco in search of steady work and a metropolitan way of life. A job with a Bay Area 76 gas station provided Lamoreux with further automotive training and eventually led to a manager position, but the fast-paced lifestyle was taking its toll on the born and bred mountain man.”I got burnt out on city life and I was tired of driving so far to go skiing,” Lamoreux said. “That’s definitely something we take for granted living up here.”While Lamoreux was away, his family had moved from South Lake Tahoe to Truckee and Lamoreux was eager to explore the new alpine territory of the north, so he moved back and began a freelance auto repair business of sorts.”My Mom’s friends started asking me to service their cars, and through word of mouth, people kept coming to me for auto work,” Lamoreux said. “At that point, I came up with the idea of doing a mobile auto repair business where I would drive to wherever I was needed and service people’s cars, so I went to Sears and bought a thousand dollars worth of tools.”Lamoreux loaded his shiny, new tools into the back of his 2-wheel drive El Camino and drove all over North Lake Tahoe making house calls, and the Auto Doctor was born.”Pretty soon, I had a decent following of mostly local people, and realized I needed my own bay – I was tired of servicing cars on the freeway while it was snowing,” Lamoreux said.Lamoreux got wind of an old storage space-turned-auto-bay on West River Street, so he took over the lease and enlisted his father to help construct the interior of the shop.A reminiscent gaze crosses over Lamoreux’s olive-toned face as he recalls the long days spent hovering above and below hundreds of engines in the single-bay shop.”When I first rented that bay, it was seven days a week, usually 15 to 18 hours a day, every day,” Lamoreux says, shaking his head. “Eventually, I ended up renting the whole building, and the business started to grow one bay at a time.”Lamoreux’s knowledge of cars combined with his tenacity for business earned him credibility among the local community, and longtime customers, like Jon Putnam, appreciated not being taken for a ride when it came to auto repairs.”I’ve been a customer of John’s since he started on West River Street,” Putnam said. “The thing that I like is the fact that they’re extremely honest and they try very hard to tell you exactly what’s wrong with the car before they work on it, which is not often the case in auto repair.”The Auto Doctor survived two recessions throughout the late 80s and early 90s, and by the 2003, Lamoreux was ready to expand his operations, so he purchased two acres on Pioneer Trail and constructed a modern, clean facility focused on employee care and customer appreciation. Above the shop, several apartments were constructed to house employees and keep quality workers in the area. In the shop itself, Lamoreux decorated the walls with eclectic auto paraphernalia, like old license plates and race car driver pictures. He also installed flat screen televisions, designated the office dog-friendly, and furnished the waiting area with plush couches so customers can relax while their car is being serviced. As a local business owner, Lamoreux also understands the importance of giving back to the Truckee community, so he extends discounted services to local transportation-based companies like Sierra Senior Services, Caltrans, the Truckee Fire Department and the Forest Service. “John is an exceptional person, he cares about the people who work for him and he cares about his customers,” Putnam said. “They are honest, they are ethical, and they’ve got very good people working for them.”Lamoreux’s hands no longer reflect time spent under the hood of a car as he now has a qualified crew of mechanics working in his bays so he can focus his attention on front-of-the-house matters. He has a quiet, humble disposition about him, and he conveys an overwhelming gratitude for where his life has taken him. “It’s been an amazing ride, that’s for sure, and I sure do appreciate everything I have, no doubt,” he said.