MOORHEAD - Matt's Automotive Service Center is back to where it began.
Eleven months after a heavy snowfall collapsed the roof at 1234 1st Ave. N., totaling the old structure, a new state-of-the-art two-story service center now stands.
The 9,750-square-foot building opens for service on Monday, Feb. 10, with an open house scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 15.
It sports a big, climate-controlled service bay with seven lifts, extensive sound insulation, plenty of windows to bring in natural light, and touches that range from a $30,000 tire tread checking system to a room set aside for staff training and customer classes.
Owner Matt Lachowitzer said the $1.7 million investment is both a recruiting tool and a thank you to a part of Moorhead that helped him jumpstart his Fargo-Moorhead fleet of auto and collision repair centers.
“Obviously, we think it was important to rebuild here. We’ve been here a long time,” Lachowitzer said Thursday, Feb. 6.
As workers installed and calibrated equipment or toted in new furniture, Lachowitzer showed off the building he had designed to his specifications.
The customer intake area is fully enclosed, leading to an auto detailing area, and then a repair bay with room for 20 cars to be worked on at the same time.
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The repair bay is brightly lit and is air conditioned in the summer. The building’s sound system is also zoned to allow workers in different areas to listen to the music or news they enjoy most. Lachowitzer said he wants to make the environment as welcoming as possible for employees.
“I wanted this to be like a talent recruiting tool, basically,” the former auto technician said. “The whole thing was built around ease of use. If I was a technician still, this is exactly what I would want.”
Nearly everything is new, but there are some touches of the old. Lachowitzer made sure that lift doors, heaters and other items that could be salvaged from the old shop were incorporated into the new shop.
The first floor customer waiting area has four televisions, a coffee bar, USB ports and plenty of plug-ins for computers, Lachowitzer said. But you won’t see tires or other auto merchandise, he said.
“I wanted it to really feel like you’re in a living room, not an automotive shop,” he said.
Upstairs are storage areas and a room for pumps and the fluids used in the shop.
The second floor also has an area for the company’s marketing team, as well as a lunchroom/training room with a projector and large screen for staff training and customer classroom events. A small office for Lachowitzer and an adjoining conference room take up the remainder of the second floor.
Lachowitzer said he had a lot of sleepless nights when designing the facility.
“It was a big decision for us to go this big or not,” he said.
“I had a chance for a fresh start. I designed this building,” Lachowitzer said. “We’re very, very proud of this facility” and feel it will be an asset to the downtown and the city.
Since he had other service stations in town and offers for the property, he did ponder selling, but dismissed that thought. Customer loyalty weighed heavily in that decision.
“This store had been where we started. It was important to me in that sense. This area had been very good to us” and it had been one of his top-producing stores, he said.
“We’re hopeful the community will support us as they have for the last 10 ½ years,” Lachowitzer said. “I built this with the community in mind. Everything in here is the state of the art. I didn’t cut one corner.”
Lachowitzer now has six shops in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
He said a nearby auto repair shop and offices purchased after the roof collapse has now been repurposed.
The building at 1321 Center Avenue has been rebranded for his Hammer Promotional and Valpak companies. The repair bays will be refitted for off-site mechanical work on vehicles that requires higher-tech repair equipment, Lachowitzer said.
Saturday’s celebration will include door prizes, food, child-friendly fun including inflatable games, various prizes, including door prizes for the first 250 people, and tours of the facility, Lachowitzer said.