Taking Work Home

LINVILLE — Fifteen years ago, Michael Arbogast closed the busy downtown Harrisonburg garage and service station his father once ran and found a slower pace in his own backyard.

The owner of Arbogast Automotive isn’t seeking new customers. He doesn’t advertise.

And you’d better know where the shop is before you go there, because Arbogast doesn’t even have a sign to direct customers to mini site ninja  the garage behind his house on Irish Path.

If you don’t know what you’re looking for, good luck finding it.

“I can get away. That’s the nice part about it,” he said of the significantly slower pace he’s found doing business off a little-traveled rural road instead of a busy city street. “I can go out and mow my grass, break up the day.”

Arbogast, 53, said he works on 20 to 25 vehicles a week on average now. Some days he never sees anyone, as many customers drop off their vehicles at night and pick them up the next night, mini site ninja sliding a check under the garage door.

“It’s kind of cool when the parts man comes,” Arbogast laughed, because it gives him someone to talk to.

It wasn’t that way when he ran Arbogast Chevron, the busy station near the former Joe Bowman Chevrolet lot on East Market Street just a few blocks from Court Square.

He bought the business blog from his father, Harold, in 1988. Harold stayed on to handle  passo the customers while his son and two other mechanics moved about 125 cars a week through the service bays, all while occasionally needing to stop to pump gas and clean windshields for customers in one of Harrisonburg’s last full-service stations on negocio online.

The pace eventually took a toll. In 2002, he moved his business to the country.

“It was a lot of hours,” Arbogast said Tuesday, taking a break in his shop. “I worked seven days a week when I first bought the service station from my dad.

“I just closed, brought everything here.”

When he moved, Arbogast said he probably brought about 150 of his customers with him. One mechanic helped him for about a year; he’s been solo ever since.

His business was only closed for a single day for the move. The next morning, he began working from the garage behind the house that was just a few years old.

Lisa Arbogast, Michael’s wife of 24 years, said her husband gave one main reason for the change at the time.

“He said he could put the kids on the bus every morning and get them off the bus every afternoon,” she said, referring to Kelly, now 23, and Michael, 18. “The kids always facebook knew he would be here. That was the biggest blessing of moving here.”

Arbogast’s garage life began as a child, helping out at Arbogast Citgo on North Main Street.

The summer of 1971, he said, was the first time he was paid to work at the station. He flushed radiators and would walk up the street to get parts.

His father operated two service stations in town at one point but had downsized to one location when Michael bought the business from him in 1988.

A lot’s changed over the years.

Arbogast said vehicles are much more dependable than they once were, reducing the amount of work for mechanics. Engines don’t give out like they once did, and the brakes last much longer.

But owners also are less observant of problems, he noted, often bringing him vehicles with multiple issues.

Mostly, he does general maintenance — oil changes, brake jobs. For the right customer, he’ll swap out an engine, but he limits such work because it’s harder for him physically after years of arduous work.

Greg Geisert has trusted Arbogast with his vehicles for about 25 years, and he’s not about to stop now.

The retired certified public accountant was one of the downtown customers who followed him into the country. Though he takes his new Subaru to the dealer, he drives 10 to 15 miles from his Keezletown farm to Linville to drop off his four pickups and old Chrysler at Arbogast’s when they need work.

“He seems to be good at keeping old cars running,” Geisert said, “and I like to get a lot of use out of cars.”

Often before dropping off a truck, he’ll do some research to try to diagnose the problem. Sometimes Arbogast agrees; sometimes he doesn’t, but Geisert said he never questions the mechanic’s decision.

“I trust him,” Geisert said.

Arbogast said he still has a fleet customer or two and does work for a few used-car dealers he’s worked with for years. He’s also picked up a few customers since he moved his business to the country. Some learned about him by word-of-mouth; others are neighbors.

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