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Car help close to home

Susan Cunningham

Rocco Lombardi grew up watching his dad fix cars at his full-service gas station in Oak Creek and helping out wherever he could.

He remembers well the day his father called him and his brother — they were 13 and 12, respectively — and said, “We’re going to have a party.” Lombardi and his brother hopped on their bikes and raced down to the garage, where they were handed mops and brooms on arrival and told, “Let’s get this place cleaned up.”

Lombardi also remembers washing windows and pumping gas for everyone who drove in, addressing them with a courteous “Yes, sir,” or “No, sir.”

But the hard work never turned Lombardi off from the business.

Now, Lombardi has opened an auto service garage in Oak Creek, called Lombardi’s Service. It is the only business of its type in Oak Creek as far as anyone knows.

With new homes going up and new families moving in, Lombardi said he thought there was a need for an auto service business in the town where he was born and raised.

Lombardi didn’t have much of an idea of what he wanted to do for a career until he was a senior in high school, when he chose auto service.

“I decided that would give me an opportunity to stay around here,” he said.

He went to an auto and diesel trade school in Denver, but when Oak Creek experienced a coal boom in 1973 and 1974, he went to work for the coal mines. He stayed with that job for 20 years, maintaining heavy equipment.

After that, he and his wife opened a gas station, store and cafe in Yampa, which they owned and ran for more than a decade, until 2001.

They sold the store because of the long hours it required, and Lombardi started fixing cars out of his garage.

Then he realized that Oak Creek had a need he could fill.

“There just wasn’t a place in Oak Creek to just get a tire fixed,” Lombardi said. “I thought there was an opportunity there.”

He got the appropriate permits and put up his steel garage last summer, finishing on Thanksgiving of 2004 with the help of local contractors.

Lombardi’s garage serves most maintenance needs, inlcuding oil changes, lubrication, brake work and full tire service.

The ultimate goal is to “try to maintain a high quality of work, not disappoint people,” Lombardi said.

Reactions to the business have been good.

“So far, we’ve been busy,” Lombardi said.

When people walk in for the first time, they often are surprised to see how well-equipped the garage is, he said.

Lombardi’s uncle works at the garage, his wife does the books, a high school student helps out through a work-study program and a friend works a few days a week.

Lombardi said he keeps his prices reasonable, and has space in his garage for four cars at once. He also can work on heavy equipment, such as dump trucks.

Lombardi doesn’t mind getting dirty, which the work requires, but built a shower in the garage so he could always go home clean.

He enjoys the trouble-shooting involved, though it “never lets you relax,” he said. Sometimes he’ll go home at night and think through a problem, then return to work with a new way to try to fix it.

If he doesn’t have the technology to fix a specific issue, he’ll find it or help get the car to someone with that equipment.

Lombardi likes working for himself, meeting people or visiting with friends every day, as well as the satisfaction that comes with a job well done.

“It’s always good to see something go out the door and feel like you’ve accomplished something,” Lombardi said. “To help somebody and keep them on the road.”

His No. 1 piece of advice for car owners is to maintain their vehicles regularly. Although it costs a little money on a regular basis, it saves a lot in the long run.

He doesn’t have a favorite type of car to work on or problem to fix. “It’s all good work,” he said.

Lombardi’s Service is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and is at Arthur Avenue and Kodiak Lane in Oak Creek. Call 736-2650.


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