Gator Road Repair - 6.18.2020

From left, Konner Barnes, his mom Jill Schmeeckle and step-dad John Schmeeckle operate the family business, Gator Road Repair.

John Schmeeckle learned nearly everything he knows about auto repair and running a business from his dad. And he is keeping that legacy alive by passing that knowledge along to the next generation as well.

John’s dad, Ed, started his own business in Gothenburg, Schmeeckle Repair, in 1970. “He had the Conoco station downtown, then built the G-Tec (Gothenburg Truck Equipment Company) building. He did heavy truck repair and fabrication, and was one of the first in the United States to stretch trucks,” said John.

In 1986, the family bought the building which was known at the time as the Vannier building. “All the growth my dad did, I was there for. I literally grew up around it,” John said.

He has fond memories of working next to his father in the shop as he was growing up. He continued to work in the family shop after high school for a while before joining the staff at Pony Express Chevrolet in 1993. John remained in that job for the next 27 years.

“When my dad was diagnosed with cancer we talked about buying out the business, but it went really fast and we didn’t get that done,” John explained. “I was working evenings and weekends just to pay the taxes and insurance on the building, and I finally decided if I was gonna do that I may as well have my own business.”

That was the turning point for John in deciding to follow in his dad’s footsteps, at least somewhat. He did give his business a new name - Gator Road Repair, LLC, and unlike his father, John does not work on trucks. The one thing that has remained the same is the building and the family’s commitment to quality.

“The whole family has been very supportive,” John said. “Our plan with the building is to keep it as original as we can, and just spruce things up.”

He said the exterior of the building, located at 1108 8th Street, is getting a fresh coat of paint and some updating - but the architecture will remain the same. John said that going into business for himself is something that has been in the back of his mind for more than 10 years, and he actually began making plans toward that reality about six years ago.

One of the driving forces behind his decision to start a business in his dad’s old shop was not only to continue the legacy begun by his father, but also to pass that on to his own children. John and his wife Jill have three sons, and all of them are involved in the automotive field. “So part of the reason we did this was to have something for them,” John added.

His son, Konner Barnes, is currently shop foreman at Gator Road Repair and will soon be joining the business as a partner. Another son, Jacob, also helps out at the shop when he can.

Like John, Konner also worked at Pony Express Chevrolet for a few years. “He always told the boys that he wouldn’t involve them in the business until they had worked for someone else,” Jill explained.

Konner has memories too of spending time with his grandpa Ed growing up. Not only does he share his grandfather’s love for auto repair, he also has his passion for drag racing. That was a hobby Ed engaged in for many years, and Konner is proud to carry on that legacy.

John said part of the motivation to start the business came from several community members supporting him and asking him to do it. While it’s a different type of stress than working for someone else, John said he is very much enjoying being his own boss. That, however, is not the main objective for starting the business.

“I wanted to have something to pass on,” he said, as he looked at Konner. “The plan has always been to hand it down.”

Like father, like son.

Contact Ellen Mortensen at ellen@gothenburgleader.com or call 308.537.9498