WICHITA — Mt. Vernon Automotive made it to its 50th anniversary this month, but that’s the end of the road for the repair shop.
“It’s a little bit sad for the whole family, but … it’s just really gotten so hard to run an independent automotive service because of the expensive diagnostic equipment and everything you have to buy nowadays,” says Charles Schmidt, whose father, Laurence, started the business.
“My dad started the business April 16 of 1964, and at that time he was at 3028 S. Hillside, and the name of the business was Hillside Auto Service.”
Then the shop moved to 2309 E. Mount Vernon in 1974 and became Mt. Vernon Auto Service. Around 1994, the business incorporated and became known by the name it is today. About the same time, Laurence Schmidt purchased the property across the street from his shop as a place to store more cars.
The main shop is a 1959 building with 3,550 square feet and five bays on a 12,600-square-foot lot. The storage property is on a 12,493-square-foot lot and has a 540-square-foot building, which was built in 1955 and at one time was a gas station.
Charles Schmidt says the family first began trying to sell the business before his father died in 2009. Then Schmidt’s brother, Gary, took over managing the business.
“Finally, we just decided to close it,” Charles Schmidt says.
Part of the reason, he says, is there were a number of things in the shop that needed updating or replaced.
Schmidt says something such as a diagnostic scanner can cost $34,000.
“That’s … a lot of money to shell out for a small, independent garage owner,” he says.
“Also, it’s getting harder and harder to get the information … to do the diagnostic work and repair the cars,” Schmidt says. “I feel like the automotive manufacturers are purposely making the information … harder and harder to get and more and more expensive to get to weed out the independent garage owners so all the business goes to their dealerships.”
A lot of independent garages have closed in the last several years, Schmidt says.
“There’s still some that are making a good business, but you know, they’re spending the money. It takes a lot of money.”