Auto shop

Interest in motorcycles leads to auto shop ownership

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With the retirement of a longtime auto store owner in West Lorne, a young mechanic moved in, focusing on motorcycles, off-road equipment and boats.

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Tanner Brooks launched Brooks Powersports & Marine at former Bill’s Auto Body at 188 Gilbert St.

“Since I’ve been in the business it’s always been the idea (to open a store) because where I live there is next to nothing,” said the 21-year-old. “For five or six years, I’ve been studying a bit. I look at all the work orders so I know where they came from. I noticed a lot of it was coming out of my way.

Brooks has been interested in motorcycles from a young age, so he said it was an obvious career choice. Right after high school he began an apprenticeship with Inglis Cycle Center in London before moving to Hully Gully.

He moved to Tilbury Auto Salves & RV in October, where he began to learn maritime work, while continuing his experience in powersports.

Brooks said he plans to continue with the Tilbury business until he feels he can work full time at his own store.

“Every day it gets busier and busier and it looks like it will be achievable shortly,” he said.

So far, much of the work has been done with off-road equipment used by farmers. The store also deals in off-road motorcycles, side-by-side vehicles, golf turf, lawn equipment and boats.

Once the store becomes his only job, he said he will look for another young person who is passionate about the job.

“I want to see the industry grow and right now… it’s really hard to find technicians,” he said. “Ultimately, I would be looking for a youngster like me who wants to learn.”

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Brooks heard about the opportunity to purchase Bill’s former auto body building after his grandfather met the owner, Bill Gonçalves, and found out he was retiring.

Brooks said he decided to start his own business about a year and a half ago, so he had his finances in place.

“I still live at home and earn a lot of money for my age,” he said. “I have a lot of extra finances, so instead of blowing it all up, I got in touch with an investment firm and invested every reserve dollar I had.”

Gonçalves said the building is in good hands.

“Tanner appears to be very smart and I’m sure he will be successful,” he said. “There is a demand around this part of the country for small engine repairs. “

Gonçalves started his business 32 years ago. Before that, he owned a gas station and body shop in the 1970s.

He said it was simply time to retire due to his age and that he will miss his loyal customers the most.

His retirement plans: “We’re going slowly. Trying to enjoy life.

Brooks said the interior of the building – a wide open store with a paint booth – would work well for his plans.

“There were no real changes needed,” he said. “We are in the process of starting to build a showroom, mainly to keep customers out of the workshop. We have to move a radiator, but other than that I was very lucky in terms of the limited things that I had to change.