After 48 years in the service center business, Nick and Julie Sauser closed up shop on May 31. Nick said the time has come to retire and take more trips. He still plans to drive the school bus for the Monticello School District during the school year. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
After 48 years in the towing and automotive service business, Nick Sauser decided to close up shop and retire. With wife Julie helping to run the business by his side, the two want to take the time to travel and take it easy.
Nick’s career actually started in Cascade in 1955. He worked at a service shop for a few years before a Chevy dealer in Cascade hired him in 1958. A couple years in, he decided to go back to the service shop, where he worked for several more years before moving into Monticello.
In 1965, Nick and his brother Pete Sauser went into business running Sauser’s Body Shop. (The building is now the Monticello Machine Shop.)
In 1966, Nick started his towing business.
Then in 1976, Nick sold his share of the business to Pete and opened his own business where he’s been working for 37 years. He purchased the property from the Sun Oil Company.
“I didn’t like the body shop work,” Nick said of the workload at Sauser’s Body Shop. “A location became available and it was a good move for me.”
When starting out, he purchased all of his equipment from Harry Matthiesen and opened Nick’s D-X and Radiator Service. He did general auto repair, radiator repair and 24-hour towing service.
“I just enjoyed this line of work,” Nick said of his longevity in the business. “It’s been a family business since it started and my sons (Tom and Jeff) even worked for me after high school, learning the trade.”
When Nick opened his own business, it was one of 11 gas stations in town at the time.
“It’s been a gas station from the start,” he said.
About a year and a half ago, he stopped selling gasoline and had the pumps pulled from his property.
Nick’s Service Center location was also a Greyhound bus stop since 1940, and continued until the late 1980s when the company went on strike.
“Quite a few people rode the bus to town,” noted Nick.
He said Greyhound stopped at his place four times a day at one point in time. Aside from the people, Nick said the freight-hauling business Greyhound did was also huge.
Around that time, the Sausers started renting U-Haul trucks and trailers from their shop.
“The company asked me if I’d be interested in doing it,” he said. “So they approached us with the idea.”
While the U-Haul business was added work, Nick teased saying, “It gave Julie something to do every day.”
He said every bit of income helped over the years. The Sausers stopped renting U-Hauls up until their business closed last week.
So what led to Nick’s decision to retire after so many dedicated years in business? He said it’s been on his mind since he turned 65 years old. (He’s now 72.)
“Pulling the gas pumps out a while back was the first step,” he said alluding to his eventual retirement. “It was definitely a hard decision to make.”
Even after advertising his closure in the Express, he said customers were pouring in these last few weeks more so than ever.
“What took them so long?” Nick joked of the upturn in business.
Over the years, he said vehicles became more high-tech and computerized, resulting in higher costs of business. Nick said to stay up-to-date, he’d have to purchase the needed equipment to service the newer vehicles.
“To keep up-to-date, it also required more schooling,” he said. “It’s expensive to keep up with technology as an independent shop.”
Looking back over his years in business, Nick noted that cars today don’t have as many problems as they used to.
“People were lucky to get 10,000 miles on a set of tires,” he said. “As a whole, the auto industry is more sound today than when I started.”
When he started his own business, Nick’s Service Center was located right on Highway 151. When the four-lane was built, Nick admitted the lack of highway traffic hurt his business.
“It hurt everyone down the line,” he said.
Nick and Julie will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this month, so the timing is perfect to start their time off.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Nick said.
He still plans to drive school bus during the school year.
“I’m hoping to play a little more golf, too,” he said.
For now, his property is for sale, with the equipment and tools up for auction on site on Saturday, June 22.