Down to Business: When you’re in the auto repair biz your whole life, there’s always something new to learn – Chicago Tribune
Business: Nelson’s Services Inc.
Address: 670 W. 5th Ave., Naperville
Phone/website: 630-355-4456, www.nelsonsautorepair.com
Owner: Patrick Ripsky, 53, of Sandwich
Years in business? 87 overall, five with Ripsky as owner
What does your business do? “General automotive repair. … Anything we can figure out,” Ripsky said.
What got you interested in this business? “I always liked taking things apart at home. Taking my bicycle apart. Mr. (Donald “Buzz”) Nelson asked if I’d like to pump gas and work at the station. I grew up a block away from his house. … He was looking for somebody to help out at the gas station. I was 15.”
How did you become a mechanic? “Helping the guys who were working on cars. Gradually learned how to do it. After that, taking some classes. There are webinars now. There are classes in all the colleges. A lot of the auto parts stores have classes two, three, four times a year. Guys will come in and teach you some of the new stuff.”
You’re always learning? “Oh, yeah. Cars are so complex. It’s driving us crazy, all the new stuff that comes out. Try to keep up with everything. … The reason I woke up today is to learn something new.”
What does a customer say? “We’ve been customers for years because he does great work. Yesterday, we drove our car right here without telling him we were coming and, look, he got it fixed. … He’s honest. Good service,” Cathy Bromiel, of Naperville, said.
What do you like about this business? “The people. I have such an awesome customer base. I’m working on some third-generation vehicles. … I get new customers every week, but it’s the people I’ve been working with for 30-plus years.”
What’s the history of Nelson’s? “Buzzy’s dad, Lee Nelson, started this in 1935. Buzzy’s dad passed away in the early ‘60s. Buzzy had just started at North Central (College in Naperville). Buzzy dropped out of college, ran the shop with his mother.
“We didn’t exist for a year and a half after Buzzy sold the original property downtown at Washington and Van Buren. We closed up at the end of 2000. We all went our different ways. I went to another shop. It was OK, just wasn’t the same. I told Buzzy ‘We’ve got to open it again somewhere.’ We opened up here in 2002.”
Is there a busy time? “Summertime is always busier. Winter is not as busy anymore.”
Why’s that? “Mechanical stuff, carburetors, did not like cold weather. Electronics don’t mind cold weather.”
How many people work here? “Just the two of us, me and Guy Barenbugge. He’s been at this 40-plus years. “
Is there still a sense of satisfaction when you fix a problem? “Oh, yeah. Figure something out that is just a very weird, strange issue going on with a vehicle.”
Any funny stories? “There were heat shields on top of the exhaust system. There was a walnut that a squirrel or gopher put up there. It would roll, but never fall out. You’d stop, it would roll forward and you would hear it. Bam. You’d start up and hear it. Bam. … I figured it out. It was weird. I gave the owner the walnut.”
Any negatives? “Long hours. I’m here 7:30 (in the morning) until 6 o’clock at night. Plus, an hour and a half in the car each day. That’s why we’re not open weekends. Saturday and Sunday are for the family.”
What misconceptions do people have? “That we’re crooks. That we’re dishonest. There a lot of them out there that are. Mr. Nelson did not teach me to do that. He was always honest. Why would I want to change that?”
What’s your business philosophy? “Treat everybody the same.”
What impact has the virus had? “We didn’t have to close down. … When it first hit, the first week or two were a little slow. After that, people who worked at home started bringing their cars in. We were going crazy. We had too much to do for the two of us. And we’re still that way.”
Do you want to hire someone? “It’s getting to that point, yes.”
What’s your advice for someone starting a business? “I don’t have any advice. Just (wish them) good luck.”
If you know of a business you’d like to see to profiled in Down to Business, contact Steve Metsch at [email protected].
Steve Metsch is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.