After landscaping for a decade, Brent Beaulaurier shifted gears and opened a shop to repair the equipment he used: lawn mowers, weed trimmers and rototillers.
Even though the landscaping business was good — he’d groom about 75 yards a week — the 51-year-old decided to take the plunge into service and repair.
“I just needed a change I guess,” Beaulaurier said. “I told my dad that I was going to start a new business and he looked at me like, ‘Oh, now what are you gonna do?’ and I just went from there.”
That was 28 years ago.
Today, his shop, housed in a small brick building at the corner of Third Avenue and Stewart Street, buzzes with people bringing in lawn mowers, tillers and other lawn-care equipment in need of routine maintenance or repairs before being put into service for the season.
After nearly three decades, Beaulaurier doesn’t get many surprises: “I’ve seen every walk of life come through the door you could imagine.”
His shop is the place to go for mower parts that aren’t made anymore. He knows what type of oil customers need to put in their old equipment. His bread and butter? A strong rapport with customers and a focus on acquiring old parts.
On a recent spring day, an elderly man who had called earlier popped into the shop. Beaulaurier immediately grabbed a large tube of heavy grease and squeezed several ounces into a large, empty medication bottle the man brought.
“Good enough — that should do it,” he told the customer. “You don’t want to put in anymore than that.”
Beaulaurier refused to accept a few dollars the man attempted to hand him. “There’s no charge. Go ahead and take it. That stuff will last you a long time and it’s only a little bit.”
The man, who wouldn’t give his name, said he needed the grease for his mower’s transmission.
“I called yesterday and he told me what I needed,” he said. “I called the parts house and they didn’t have it, so I stopped by here.”
Over the years, Beaulaurier has gained an affection for elderly customers.
“The fun part of the occupation here is taking care of the elderly,” he said. “You kind of take a special interest in them — you get to know some of them by first name.”
Many come in routinely to have their mowers tuned up, blades sharpened, oil changed and carburetors adjusted, he said.
“It’s amazing what I’ve seen the last couple of years,” he said. “Many are keeping their lawn mowers up just to get some exercise.”
He goes out of his way to pick up and return mowers and other equipment needing work from customers as far away as Ellensburg and Prosser.
When Beaulaurier first opened, he sold new mowers and other equipment in addition to providing mechanical work. But when the big chain stores began to crop up and undercut his retail prices on new equipment, he had to make some adjustments.
“We had a couple of hairy years when we brought in too many riders (riding mowers),” he said. “When the box stores began supplying more, we couldn’t keep up with them on prices. So, I saw a huge need in service.”
His dad, Paul Beaulaurier, who retired as a manager for Crystal Linen in Yakima, help him run the business the first three years.
“He helped out quite a bit — probably more than he wanted being that he was retired — answering telephones, greeting new customers,” Beaulaurier recalled.
Focusing solely on service and repair has paid off.
A handful of mowers needing repair work sit out front of his shop. More are out back next to a row of repaired machines ready to be picked up.
“This guy has been here 14 times,” he said, pointing to a yellow riding mower. “Tune ’em up, get ’em ready and send ’em out.”
There are many people who would rather fix their mowers than buy a new one, a trend that’s grown in recent years.
“A lot of people were fixing instead of buying,” he said. “People, they will repair something versus going out and replacing it.”
Beaulaurier has a flatbed truck he uses to pick up and drop off mowers and other equipment needing service. He employs one mechanic, 38-year-old Mark Belair.
“Literally, it’s a doctor’s shop for lawn and garden equipment,” Beaulaurier said. “It’s just a two-man operation with two different doctors.”
At the front of his business is a small counter. A door opens into the shop, where a handful of shelves filled with parts line one wall. In the center is the equipment being worked on, and tools are everywhere. Belair stands over a riding mower and adjusts its throttle cable. He prefers working on small engines.
“At times it’s really interesting instead of working on something big,” he said.
Beaulaurier buys a lot of older mowers just for parts. He gets most of his old mowers from people who wander into the shop looking to sell. “A lot of people will say, ‘I don’t want this anymore. What will you give me for it?’”
He credits Belair for often spotting rare parts on equipment people no longer want.
“It’s funny when someone comes in and asks if you have an old part or a spring they can’t find anywhere,” Beaulaurier said. “Then you pull one out and their eyeballs fall on the ground.”
He said he doesn’t mind spending the more than 50 hours a week it takes to operate the shop.
“I like dealing with the customers and the public,” he said. “There are a lot of friendships built here.”
• Phil Ferolito can be reached at 509-577-7749 or firstname.lastname@example.org.