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658 Danbury Rd.
Wilton, CT 06897

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“Nothing worth having comes easy.”

“There are no shortcuts–you have to work for it.”

There are lots of quotes about hard work, and Mike Lindquist probably knows them all by heart, because hard work is how he’s making his dream of opening his new Wilton Auto & Tire location a reality.

It was three years ago that Lindquist, the proprietor of the Shell gas/service station business at 211 Danbury Rd. just south of the Wilton Historical Society in central Wilton, started on the road to opening day of his new location in North Wilton at 658 Danbury Rd.

With a 20-year-stretch of working in Wilton under his belt, he’s definitely a survivor and well established in the community. Along the way, however, he had some well-publicized obstacles tossed in front of him in the form of threatened closure and eviction lobbed at dozens of CT gas stations, and for which he took a lead role among fellow station owners in fighting back. He’s had recent changes in brand identity from BP to Shell as a result of the sale of his building from one landlord to another. And getting through the town’s planning, permitting and opening process has taken longer than anyone anticipated, and required significant investment on his part.

Lindquist certainly has a lot invested and a lot on the line. Which makes opening his relocated Wilton Auto & Tire business an even sweeter prize to savor.

“This is the biggest project or investment I have ever made. I mean, I look at it as not just expanding and continuing my business but to create stability with the companies and my lease and that stuff. And now I own the building so we’ll have elbow room, room to grow and all of that,” he says, acknowledging that everything looks better than he even anticipated.

The sleek, grey building with the familiar green-and-white sign is a lot cleaner and more modern than anyone expects an auto service and sales business to be. The transformation from a former CL&P building that stood vacant for a long time has been remarkable, something Lindquist says will continue when he can do more landscaping in the spring.

It’s also a far cry from his other space three miles down the road, which he was clearly outgrowing.

“We’ve done what we could with what we had for many years. I called it putting lipstick on a pig,” he jokes. ” We’ve been busting at the seams forever, and I maximized every inch of space in that place. I’ve lost a lot of business for being busy. Being busy can be a curse sometimes. So you come in at 3 o’clock on a Friday or at noon and lunch time and you want an oil change. Well most people have it engraved in them that Mike and Don are not going to be able to do that, so they need to make an appointment or come early in the morning if they want to wait with it.”

So what will the new space offer? Exactly that–much more space. There are 54 parking spaces outside, but it’s what’s inside that gets Lindquist excited.

“Number one, we’re going to have eight working bays versus the three that we have now. We’re going to have the ability now to pretty much do an oil change virtually any time of day that you would like. We’re always going to have a bay open for that.”

That, says Lindquist, will increase his shop’s efficiency and productivity.

“You can bring a car in, put it on the rack, they check it out and do whatever they need to do for diagnosis and checking out the problems, discussing with advisors and then bring another car in. They don’t have to spend the time taking it down off the lift, putting the wheels back on, whatever the case may be if something had to be taken apart, we’ll have another bay to do that. We’re always going to have a bay open to get you in as quick as you can.”

It also means people can wait while their cars are being worked on, so Lindquist wants to make things comfortable.

“We’re going to have a beautiful waiting area for people instead of that little closet that you’re used to coming into to drop your car off and stuff. There is barely room to stand, let alone sit. I’m excited about that probably mostly for the consumers. We’re going to have a nice area that is comfortable and quiet and wifi, which we have down there but nobody really knew it because not too many people hung out there,” he says.

Of course, he’s still going to have candy bars in the lobby to offer customers, and he’s looking for suggestions on how to spruce up the waiting area, acknowledging that the walls are a little bare. “If anybody has an idea, if there are local artists that want to hang up a couple of pictures in our customer lounge area, for sale or just for show, I’d love to get some local folks in here to do that.”

But for people who still don’t want to wait, or who have to leave a car for much longer than the time it takes to do an oil change, he has added a service that suits their needs too.

“We now have four loaner cars. We want to make it as easy and as simple as we can. So if you live in South Wilton and you’re worried about the morning rush and commute and you’re going to be late for work, you can drop it off at night or at lunch time and take one of our loaners and come back 24 hours later instead. That’s what we’ve always been about, just trying to make everything as easy as we possibly can,” says Lindquist.

He’s been able to add a long list of other services that Wilton Auto & Tire will now be able to provide.

“I’m working on getting a locksmith certificate. That will allow us to deal with coding keys where you normally have to go back to your dealer if you need a new key made for your car cause it has those chips in them,” Lindquist boasts.

“We’re also going to be getting into hybrids and electric vehicles much more. On these older hybrid cars what is happening now is these hybrid battery packs are failing and if you go to the dealer, in some cases it is a new battery pack that is $7,000 or $8,000. For $2,500–roughly, no quotes there–we can remove the battery pack, repair it and recondition it for a fraction of the cost and get you to about 95 or 97 percent of new battery. So these Prius–especially the Prius, because they were the first hybrids out there–a lot of them are going to start having battery problems. And instead of having to jump the car or sell it we’re going to be able to keep it going for folks.”

Customers have been very supportive and excited for Lindquist and his new enterprise, a testament to the relationships he’s built over the years. It’s something he has made a point to focus on.

“My foundation is this. If people like you and they trust you, then they do business with you. It’s that simple. You meet my guys, you talk to them, you understand what they’re saying and if you don’t they explain it to you. And it keeps on going and you get that comforting feeling. We make sure that our customers understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

It pays off with loyalty from customers, many of whom have been bringing their cars to Mike for service for the 20-plus years he’s been in business.

“The feedback is tremendously positive and people are excited. It’s a nice new place but I think that most of our customer base and people in town know how hard me personally and, of course, my people that work for us have worked and how hard we strive to be great. Everybody is pulling for us. They ask, ‘When you moving? When you moving?’ It’s really exciting, everybody is just really ecstatic.”

Keeping the Shell Station

Lindquist is still going to be operating the gas station at the original location. He plans on turning the repair bays into a convenience store.

“People will laugh and say you can barely pull in there half the time. That sure doesn’t help us sell gasoline. Gasoline sales, you want wide open and easy flowing, and that’s why the convenience store is a better use for that particular piece of property without all of those cars there under repair. It will be a lot easier for people pulling in and out of there to grab some groceries and fill up,” he says.

Making all these changes is a leap of faith in some ways, adds Lindquist, getting philosophical.

“This is my retirement. I’m investing basically every penny and every ounce of energy I have left in myself to pull this off and make it happen. I need stability and either an income or a sale derived in life to cash in or collect rent or pass it along to one of my kids and just know that they won’t have to deal with any of the things I had to deal with as far as rent or leasing. That’s the biggest thing–to secure my future, and not have to look back, because the only thing that should increase are taxes and regular business expenses but I own the property and pay my mortgage and nobody will take it away from me.”

So perhaps there’s one more quote about hard work that fits the situation Lindquist has built for himself: It’s the things we work hardest for that reward us the most.

“I’m really looking forward to it. I walk around here some days and I’m just in awe myself, I have to pinch myself sometimes and say ‘Wow this is really happening!’”

It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

. . . .
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Wilton Auto & Tire Center

Wilton Auto & Tire Center is a pillar of the Wilton, CT community. Wilton Auto & Tire Center is a leader in offering name brand tires, wheels, auto repair and brake services for customers located in and around the Wilton, Connecticut area. Our goal is to focus on customer service. It is the foundation of our business. Wilton Auto & Tire Center employs a well-trained staff specializing in the sale and installation of passenger car, performance and light truck or SUV tires. Custom wheels are available at Wilton Auto & Tire Center. Special wheels and rims compliment any tire or customer vehicle. Complete under-car services, such as oil changes, brakes, shocks, struts, alignment, and transmission fluid flush for both foreign and domestic vehicles are readily available at competitive prices. Take this opportunity to browse Wilton Auto & Tire Center website or call us for personalized service.

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Phone: (203) 761-9541
Fax: (203) 762-3493
Address: 658 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT 06897

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