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New owners take over Silver Bay auto repair shop

New owners recently purchased and took over operation of J&H Auto Repair in Silver Bay. (News-Chronicle photo by Jamey Malcomb) 1 / 2
Mike Johnson (left) and Zac Harrison, both Silver Bay residents, recently purchased the former Blazers Auto Repair and rechristend it J&H Auto Repair. (News-Chronicle Photo by Jamey Malcomb)2 / 2

Silver Bay residents driving through town may have noticed a few changes on Outer Drive in the last couple of weeks.

Instead of Blazer's Auto Repair, the sign on the building reads J&H Auto Repair reflecting the shop's new owners Mike Johnson and Zac Harrison. Former owner Jim Blazejack decided to retire and approached the pair about purchasing his shop after owning it for 28 years. Johnson, who had worked at Blazer's for several years starting in 2008, jumped at the chance to become his own boss.

"It's the freedom to control your success," Johnson said. "It's not based on what somebody else's review of you is. It's more of you see your own success right now and you're a key player to what happens in your own future."

Harrison echoed Johnson in the opportunity help determine his own future.

"It's the freedom to set your own hours and know that your work is going to benefit you directly," he said.

Johnson has about 10 years of experience in auto repair and recently sold his small engine repair business to take over ownership of J&H. Harrison has been working with Johnson for about two years and has had helped his friend and business partner break into the business.

"I kind of took him under my wing," Johnson said with a sly smile.

Johnson and Harrison have several changes they have made or are planning to make over the next few years. Eventually, Johnson said, there is a plan to expand the facility and add a second flatbed tow truck to their arsenal. They also plan to expand the roadside assistance program. J&H already works with AAA for 24-hour roadside assistance, but the hope is the business will contract with other similar programs in the future. In addition, they have changed to a web-based parts ordering system to make the system more efficient and accurate.

"We're streamlining that so you get the right parts and you get them here in a timely fashion," Harrison said.

There is also a plan to upgrade the self-serve car wash already available at J&H. The plan is to refurbish the car wash and to eventually allow credit card payments in addition to the coin operated system already in place. Another change to the car wash is now the business is allowing ATVs to use the car wash as well.

"If the ATV guy wants to come get his ATV washed, I'm not going to turn him away," Johnson said.

Johnson, who has 18 month old twin boys, and Harrison, with two young daughters, both emphasized that the business is family friendly, a place with some toys and entertainment for parents with children waiting on a repair to finish up.

"That's the big thing here, we're family friendly, no matter what," Johnson said. "We've got a bucket of trucks over there so if kids come in and want something to play with, it's here."

Johnson also said he is encouraging the mechanics at J&H to take certification classes through auto parts dealers like NAPA, Snap-on and O'Reilly so they stay up to date on the best parts and practices out there and right now his focus is on certifications in computer control modules and diagnostic systems.

"We send our guys to every one of those that we can just so that they are up to date on the most recent stuff that is out there," Johnson said. "Then we can offer the best service that we can."

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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