Florida native finds warm reception for his Spring Valley repair business


GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Greg and Suzie Brooks own Root River Auto, Bus & Diesel in the former SEMA building.
By: 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Wheels on the bus not going ‘round and ‘round?

Greg Brooks has a degree for that. 

Brooks, proprietor of Spring Valley’s newest repair and maintenance shop, Root River Auto, Bus & Diesel, has a four-year degree in public transportation, making him federally certified in public transportation, stated Brooks, proud to show off the diploma on the wall of his shop in the former SEMA Equipment building on South Section Avenue. His business can handle just about any general repairs that motorists – bus drivers, diesel truck owners and automobile drivers – may need.

A Florida native, Brooks’ training goes beyond that, as he’s certain he was born with a wrench in his hand, and he grew up watching his father work under the hood of various kinds of vehicles and always wanted to have a shop of his own. 

“I was raised by my father, who was a mechanic, and I’ve followed in his footsteps since I was about 12 years old,” he said. “He had his own shop for about five years, and he was actually the lead tech for the county, and that’s where he retired from. It’s pretty much been my whole outlook to be a mechanic and own my own shop again.” 

Brooks worked with public transportation in Panama City, Florida, for the last five years as the lead tech, and before that, he owned a shop in Panama City. 

There are vehicles everywhere, so the question stood: Why would he move to Minnesota? 

Easy.    

For a guy to move to Minnesota from Florida, there just had to be a girl on the other end of the flight. Brooks met native Wisconsinite Suzie in Florida and just couldn’t let her live in this frigid state by herself, as she’d done since moving to Spring Valley in 2001. 

“We were in Tampa, and she was down for training with Olmsted Medical Center, and I was training for public transportation, and three years in a row, we wound up in the same place,” he said. 

After those years meeting in Tampa, it became apparent that Greg would just have to commit to moving north to marry Suzie. His now wife quickly learned that there was no going anywhere with him without learning that the people driving the vehicles around them really ought not to be on the road before getting a tune-up. In spite of all the diagnostic tools that the lifelong mechanic has purchased to make his business possible, it’s his ears that do a lot of the diagnosing. 

“He’s a diesel mechanic by trade. It’s amazing – we can be driving down the road, he’ll hear a car next to us and say, ‘That person needs a new U-joint or their ‘whatever’ is skipping.’  It all sounds like cars to me,” she said.

Finding a place to open a shop to put those ears to work full time in Spring Valley took patience, but when Brooks learned that Wayne Isenberg was relocating SEMA Equipment to Grand Meadow and leaving behind an empty building on the south end of town, he felt that it was the right place. 

“We actually started negotiating with Wayne in mid-May – that’s when we started talking about it, and in reality, it was July 3 that we actually signed the lease,” he said. “I had tools, I had a lift installed, I brought in the office furniture.  Basically, that’s all we started with.” 

Suzie added, “Some things came with the building, like the air compressor, a parts washer – great assets that we can use as part of the rent. But we didn’t think we’d be able to move in until the end of the month.” 

The Brookses had most everything in place as soon as they finished signing the lease, so the very next day, they hitched up a parade float and took part in the Cherry Grove Fourth of July parade to let everyone know that Root River Auto was in business and ready for customers.  On July 5, Greg opened the garage door and waited for his first customer. 

“It was bittersweet, and I was nervous, because I wasn’t sure how business was going to succeed, but now, every day is just a blessing,” he said. “I have new customers, new people, numerous return customers and numerous new customers from word of mouth, and it’s been spectacular.” 

Suzie cited that her husband was worried about how the business would be received, given that he’s from a state far, far away that’s never seen a single snowflake. 

“People have helped by talking to their family and friends, and it’s amazing and much better than he expected, quicker than expected, and we wouldn’t have thought that he’d have seven vehicles sitting out here,” she said.

Brooks noted the first days he was open, he took a full hour lunch, but when he came back, there were numerous notes asking where he was and leaving phone numbers. 

“Now, I bring my lunch and get half an hour,” he said. “I keep my doors open during lunch hour so that local customers can stop in over lunch hour so I can make repairs.” 

He can do oil changes to major or complete engine or transmission swaps on any size vehicle.  He doesn’t do body work, but he can work on anything from cars and buses to tractors and semis to anything in between.  He has MnDOT inspection, and is universally certified in heating and air conditioning repair.

“If it’s not a motorcycle, he can work on it,” Suzie volunteered.       

Brooks made certain that before he opened his business, he was very prepared to meet customers’ repair needs with the most up-to-date diagnostic tools for any car or truck to a fully-loaded semi. Although he usually knows what’s wrong when he hears problems in vehicles driving down the road, he said his favorite part of this is the “diagnostics, diagnosing and repairing the actual problem.” 

Brooks added that he also likes the perks of being his own boss.

While some shops have hired help to get the work done more quickly, Brooks presently is the only person operating the repair garage, although the couple hopes that the business will grow. 

“He’d like to need more space than he has, grow enough to rent more of this current space in this building, have people work for him so that he can take time off,” said his wife. “We want the growth to continue, to grow and experience success like we’ve had the first months.  We had our ribbon cutting with the chamber of commerce, and we are so grateful for the support from other businesses in town, for the door prizes they donated for our grand opening on Aug. 22, and we’d like our success to grow for many years to come.” 

Root River Auto, Bus & Diesel is located at 1013 South Section Avenue, Spring Valley, on the east side in the former SEMA Equipment building’s north end.  For more information or an appointment for repairs and maintenance, call 507-438-5049, or e-mail rootriverautobusanddiesel@gmail.com

The two enjoy riding motorcycle together when they’re not at work, but Greg often rides his bike to work if the weather’s good, so he invited customers to stop by and ask for help even if they don’t see a car outside. He pointed out that he is usually there from 6:30 a.m. and never shuts the door before 5:30 p.m.