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Bad weather good for business

Changes outside keep things busy at May Repair

Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:46 a.m. CDT
(Sarah Nader -
Snowblowers are lined up at May Repair in Spring Grove.
(Sarah Nader -
Lenny May works on a snowmobile in his Spring Grove shop.
(Sarah Nader -
Lenny May works in his shop at 7711 Blivin St. in Spring Grove.

SPRING GROVE – The snow is piled up about eight inches outside, so here’s Lenny May with a shop full of work, tinkering on this or that like he always has.

Today, right now, it’s a snowmobile – a black-and-yellow Polaris with a banged up left ski. Later it will be a snowblower or an ATV.

“It goes from nothing to swamped in a matter of a couple of days,” said May, looking up momentarily from work on the snowmobile, whose owner collided with a fellow rider a few days ago.

The weather has gone bad. Business is good.

This is how it goes for the owner of May Repair, 7711 Blivin St., Spring Grove, the 12-year-old repair shop May moved from his own garage to a shop last fall. Best anyone knows, the building May Repair now occupies was built a little more than a century ago, used as an auto repair shop for most of its life. Its brick facade replaced a blacksmith shop formerly at that spot, which burned down in the early 1900s.

May grew up on a farm working on motors. He spent time as an auto mechanic until developing back problems bending over the cars all day. So he left that job 12 years ago for this.

“It’s been an ongoing transition over the years,” May said. “I’ve always been turning wrenches of some sort.”

Now it’s snowmobiles and snowblowers and ATVs.

Last week, when the first major snow of the season fell across the county, May took in 17 snowblowers in three days. Today, a cold Thursday two days after snowfall number two, there are another 10 snowblowers in the corner of May’s shop, awaiting repair. In the spring, when the weather improves, the lawnmowers and garden tractors and rototillers pour in.

“Any time there’s a big weather change, it really helps my business,” May said.

It took some time for May’s business to get to this point. He’s built a level of loyalty among the Spring Grove market through the years. People recognize his truck, which he offers up for pick up and delivery. When he started looking for a place last year, he wanted to stay local.

But that doesn’t mean May’s eyes aren’t set on a wider share of the market. He competes mainly, he said, with larger companies – retailers of the types of machines he only fixes.

He said he doesn’t know of many other one- or two-man operations quite like his own.

“I’m sort of the last of a dying breed it seems, but we’ve been doing well the last couple years,” he said.

May’s wife, Sue, helps out now with the paperwork and the behind-the-scenes work. She brings to the table 20 years of banking experience.

“She’s the decorator, the bookkeeper, kind of the one to keep all the behind the scenes stuff,” May said.

In the future, the two want to sell some of the machines they repair. The knew shop has a display window out front, and May pictures it filled with new snow blowers and snowmobiles in the future.

Right now, old ones fill the window. Because once again the snow is falling, the weather is bad, and so business is good.

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