| WILL FIX BRAKES FOR FOOD — FOR TWIN CITIES NEEDY
THAT’S THE OFFER FROM 3 LOCAL GARAGES
Auto repair shops are not known for giving customers freebies.
But that’s what three Twin Cities shops are doing, and their work is benefiting two food shelves.
|Signal Garage in West St. Paul and H&H Automotive in Lakeville and Burnsville are giving free brake jobs to customers who donate a full bag of groceries or school supplies.This is the fifth straight year Signal Garage has held the promotion to help Neighbors Inc., of South St. Paul, and Neighborhood House, of St. Paul. Owner Rami Derhy said the promotion, which began Aug. 1, has gone over so well this year that the shop decided to extend it through September.
Derhy asked his friend Mike Hammond to help out with people he has had to turn away. Hammond started the deal at his two H&H Automotives. The nonperishable groceries donated at Hammond’s shops will be given to the Emergency Foodshelf Network of New Hope.
"We’ve been extremely, extremely busy," Derhy said, adding his shop is averaging 10 brake jobs a day on top of its other work. "We’re booked through the end of September, and we’re taking names for cancellations."
Derhy, 50, of Inver Grove Heights, said the crush could be attributed to customers wanting to tighten their belts because of the economy.
"We’ve had people from all over the Twin Cities and as far away as Monticello," he said.
In exchange for the groceries or school supplies, the shops inspect the brakes and, if needed, replace worn-out pads or shoes — a job that runs between $150 and $200 — at no charge.
"My technicians weren’t too crazy about the idea of not getting anything for their work," Hammond, 49, of Prior Lake, said. "But I think they thought about it and realized what it was going for — helping people — and they jumped on board."
Customers will have to foot the bill if rotors, calipers or drums must be replaced.
The shops have worked out agreements with area auto parts stores for discounts on materials; Derhy snagged the West St. Paul AutoZone, while Hammond is working with the Advance Auto Parts store in Savage.
"I don’t know that we could do it without them," said Derhy, who runs his business with his wife, Heidi. The couple bought the shop, which dates back to the 1920s, from Heidi’s father, Fred Wessel, in 1998.
In previous years, Derhy’s shop averaged about 70 cars during the promotion. This year, his four mechanics have done more than 200 brake jobs already, working extra hours and weekends.
"People have been very appreciative," Derhy said. "We’ve been getting two kinds of responses from people. They say, ‘You guys are life-savers, because I can’t afford to do my brakes.’ Or else it’s, ‘I’m so happy to bring in the bags of food and help out.’ "
Some people have dropped off food and left without asking for anything in return, Derhy said.
"This has exceeded my wildest dreams," he said, adding his lobby was overflowing with bags of groceries. "It’s been exciting."
Call Signal Garage at 651-457-2668
Nick Ferraro can be reached at 651-228-2173.