Three years of dirty hands, fixing cars at Stew’s Garage

One of the few self-service garages in the Puget Sound, Stew’s has been the host of several events and untold hours of enthusiasts toiling over vehicles. And now, it's turned three.

Three years ago, Stew’s Garage opened its rolling doors to the masses, enabling anyone to come in and fix their car.

“Time has certainly flown by. Opening in 2014 seems like just yesterday,” said owner Stewart Waliser. “It doesn’t seem like it’s been three years to me, we’ve been making so much progress and moving forward.”

Since Stew’s Garage opened, it’s undergone many changes. The original yellow paint has been replaced with a clean white. There’s more lifts and more tools, and more spaces for people to use, too.

“My favorite change is the paint, it was a horrible, horrible yellow,” Waliser said. “In January, we took a whole Wednesday and repainted the entire thing.”

The land owner had painted the walls a “White Raisin”, but it was a sickly, pale yellow. They shut down on a Tuesday, painted on a Wednesday, and reopened on a cold January morning the following day. The new white brighten their workspaces.

“We left a couple bits of yellow up as a reminder of the past,” Waliser said.

They had 5 bays when they first opened with three, four-post and two, two-post lifts. When they had their first full day in December 2014, they realized they needed to make a change of lifts. Now, they have a seven bays with five and two four-post drive-on lifts, along with a larger lift and another lift for low-profile vehicles.

(More below photo.)

“It’s been great for big trucks who want to do oil changes or transmission,” Waliser said. “They love the four-post because it gives them all the access they need, they’re not on a precarious lift, it’s very convenient for them. The big four-post has been a big revelation for us.”

They’ve had a lot of large vehicles coming in, like a Minnie Winnebago, big diesel trucks, full-size sprinter vans, and even one two-foot extended-frame F-250. Stew learned early on that every vehicle under the sun could come rolling in their doors; from McLaren 570’s to Toyota Prius’.

(More below gallery. Below images courtesy of Stew’s Garage.)

Learning what customers want works sometimes, and sometimes not. He had installed a tire changer after feedback, but when few people used it, Stew moved the machine on. The spring compressor was a tool that has stayed around and is commonly used.

Another that hasn’t gone by the wayside is customer service.

“It’s nice. I meat these people when they come in, we interact, and they want to keep bringing their nice cars in,” Waliser said. “Then they sometimes end up letting me drive them, which is a huge perk.”

The friendly staff also helps bring customers back.

“I first found them two or three years ago, and this is the third vehicle I’ve brought here,” said Clint Hadeem. “My favorite thing is that it’s warm in here, even if its cold and rainy outside, but besides being warm, it’s the lifts. It’s such an advantage.”

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Hadeem has brought his Toyota Prius and his 1980’s El Camino, on which he recently installed a new exhaust system while at Stew’s. Other than the warmth and lifts, Hadeem uses the online scheduler to ensure that he gets the time that works best in his schedule.

“The ability to make online reservations is fantastic,” Hadeem said. “I’m doing it myself so it’s significantly cheaper than a dealership, but the fact that it’s quick and I can see what’s available is great.”

So that staff is always available, too, Waliser hired three staff members. Two are trained and experienced mechanics, while the third is both mechanic and front-desk receptionist.

Stew’s Garage offers on-staff help with lift safety and even help clients who don’t know how to complete a task. While there’s some customers that can change a BMW E36 from automatic to manual transmission in three hours, others need help with brake changes – and Stew’s Garage has staff for that.

“I’m sometimes teaching customers, and sometimes I’m talking to car enthusiasts,” said Steven Szeliski, Do-er of Stew’s Garage. “I’ve always been a do-it yourself-er, and we get do-it yourselfer’s in here, they’re not afraid to get dirty. I’ve made some really good friends through the shop.”

After he saw the shop racecar and the ad looking for a ‘shade-tree mechanic’, he decided to try it out and started with minimal hours before transitioning full-time to Stew’s.

“I advise them, I help them, and I talk to them,” Szaliski said. “I think people keep coming back because they just enjoy being here.”

And that’s the case for Hadeem, along with hundreds of other return clients at Stew’s Garage.

“It’s so convenient versus working in your own garage,” Hadeem said. “Oil changes bring me back here every few months.”

In the future, Stew hopes to expand locations to more Puget Sound cities. For more information about Stew’s Self-Service Garage, please visit the website: https://stewsgarage.com/.

Note: Waliser said that in the last three years the only make of car they haven’t had come in was a Lamborghini – so, Lamborghini owners let it be known: take your car to Stew’s.

 

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