With the retirement of a long-time auto shop owner in West Lorne, a young mechanic has moved in, focusing on motorcycles, off-road equipment and boats.
Tanner Brooks has started Brooks Powersports & Marine at the former Bill’s Auto Body at 188 Gilbert St.
“Ever since I got into the trade, it was always the idea (to open a shop) because where I live, there is nothing, pretty much,” the 21-year-old said. “For the last five or six years I’ve been studying a little bit. I look at all the work orders, so I know where they come from. I noticed a big chunk were from up my way.”
Brooks has been interested in motorcycles since a young age, so he said this 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 switched over to Tilbury Auto Salves & RV in October, where he started to learn marine work, while continuing with his powersports background.
Brooks said he plans to continue with the Tilbury business right now until he feels he can work at his own shop full time.
“Every day it gets busier and busier and it looks like it’s going to be achievable shortly,” he said.
So far, a lot of the work has been with the off-road equipment used by farmers. The shop also looks after dirt bikes, side-by-sides, golf lawn, lawn equipment and boats.
Once the shop becomes his only job, he said he’ll look for another young person with a passion for the work.
“I want to see the industry grow and right now … it’s hard to find technicians, really,” he said. “Ultimately, I would be looking for a young guy like myself that wants to learn.”
Brooks heard about the opportunity to buy the building of the former Bill’s Auto Body after his grandfather encountered the owner, Bill Goncalves, and found out he was retiring.
Brooks said he got serious about starting his own business about a year and a half ago, so he had his finances in place.
“I still live at home and I make good money for my age,” he said. “I have a lot of extra finances so instead of blowing it I got hooked up with an investment firm and just invested every spare dollar I had.”
Goncalves said the building is in good hands.
“Tanner seems to be very smart and I’m sure that he will succeed,” he said. “There is a demand around this neck of the woods for small engine repairs.”
Goncalves started his business 32 years ago. Prior to that, he owned a gas station and body shop in the 1970s.
He said it was simply time to retire based on his age and he’ll miss his repeat customers most.
His retirement plans: “Taking it easy. Trying to enjoy life.”
Brooks said the interior of the building – a wide open shop with a paint booth – will work well for his plans.
“There were no real modifications needed,” he said. “We are in the process of just starting to build a showroom, mostly to keep customers out of the workshop. We have to move one heater, but other than that, I’ve been very fortunate in terms of the limited things I’ve had to change.”