Jim Chronister of Minooka has been around cars for most of his life. If he wasn’t driving them, he was repairing, maintaining and building them.
Heck, his father-in-law is Jim Anderson who owns Al’s Garage and Auto Salvage. The love for the auto industry runs in the family.
After doing some research and talking to owners of shops in similar nature, Chronister decided to open the first self-serve auto shop in Illinois. A fully equipped space that allows customers to rent a vehicle lift and fix their car on site, Self Serve Auto Shop opened June 15 in the industrial industry of Minooka.
“The idea came from what I learned while serving our country in the military,” Chronister said. “I have taken the military’s idea of providing a place for customers to rent an area to do their repairs and have access to tools needed.”
In fact, Chronister said he found the dozen self-serve auto shops in the nation are all owned by U.S. veterans. As a sign of appreciation, Chronister offers a 10 percent discount to veterans every day.
“Just show me anything that proves you're a vet and I will give you a discount,” Chronister said. “It’s a way to thank all my brothers and sisters of the U.S. military. I have to take care of them.”
The rental fee to use space at the site includes access to tool kits that are equipped with basic wrenches and sockets. The shop also provides up-to-date technical service manuals for cars dating back to the 1950s. The bay area can also be used to conduct an oil change or build a car.
Each stall includes free compressed air, a drop light, oil drain and refuse, parts washer, vise and a workbench. All can be rented by the hour, day or week. Prices are based on an hourly, daily or weekly rate and vary based on the service, he said. For example, to use the lift costs $25 per hour and up to $550 for the week.
“It’s a great place to work on your own stuff,” Chronister said. “Whether it be a new car or something from the 1930s, bring it in and save some money, as well as the pain and agony of rolling on the floor. You know that it’s being done right.”
The shop has a metal-working stall where customers can weld—another feature that is unique in the area to Self Serve Auto Shop.
When a customer is unsure of what to do next on their repair and needs assistance, Chronister can connect them with a professional technician at $25 per hour.
“Don’t be afraid to ask,” Chronister said. “I will get you help, save you money and the job will be done right.”
Savings to customers
Chronister can get his customers a good deal on parts. According to Chronister, a recent customer said if he had not done the work himself and purchased the parts through Self Serve Auto Shop, he could have paid close to $1,700 in repairs elsewhere.
“I was able to save this customer $1,100,” Chronister said. “And my customer was able to get the parts he needed quickly.”
Customers can find 20 percent savings Monday through Thursday. Specific details can be found at the company's website or the shop’s Facebook page. The first 10 customers to print the website's home page and bring it into the shop will get 80 percent off stall rental.
Chronister soon will offer free seminars to individuals who want to learn basic car care. These seminars will teach individuals how to change the oil and a flat tire. He said he hopes to have one seminar focused solely on teaching women the basics of car care.
“It will teach people something they don’t already know and may need to use some day,” Chronister said.
From 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, customers are encouraged to come and show off their “cool rides” and brag about their cars, Chronister said. Rockabilly music and cool refreshments will be served.
If business goes well, Chronister said he eventually would like to open more facilities in Illinois.