Are you the type of person who wants to work on your own car but lack the space or tools? Well, you’re in luck, entrepreneur Stew Waliser is opening his second self-service garage right here in Auburn this September.
The idea for a garage where the customer was the mechanic came to Waliser while he was attending Central Washington University back in 2012. His truck needed its suspension replaced, and Waliser knew how to do it, he just didn’t have the space.
“Since it was winter in Ellensburg, that meant snowy, icy, and windy weather conditions, not exactly conducive to working outside under a truck,” said Waliser, owner and CEO of Stew’s Self Service Garage. “I called around to shops in town asking if I could come in on a Saturday and rent their garage out. Everyone told me no.”
After asking local garages if he could rent out their space to work on his truck and getting turned down, Waliser decided to solve the problem with a business. He dropped out of college and opened Stew’s Self Service Garage in Kirkland back in 2014.
Once people became familiar with the idea, his self-service garage business took off and has been growing ever since.
“The hardest part of the self-service garage model is educating people that a self-service garage exists,” Waliser said “First, we must educate people that such a concept is available, and then we must convince them to try us out. Once they do, they’re sold.”
Amid growing demand, Waliser decided to expand his operation and serve customers in South King County by opening a garage in Auburn. Earlier this year Waliser purchased the former exhaust shop Stan’s Headers on Auburn Way North and has been working to convert it into a self-service garage.
The garage will feature several service bays with full mechanic’s tool sets including everything from spring compressors to brake bleeders. Customers will be trained by experts on how to use the lifts and other uncommon tools safely.
Rates to rent a bay begin at $20 for 30 minutes or $47 for an hour. In order to enter the garage, everyone must sign a liability waiver. Kids ages 13-15 can enter the garage with a signed waiver and supervision from their parent or guardian. Kids ages 16-18 must have a signed waiver from their parent or guardian but do not require supervision while in the garage.
Customers at Stew’s Self Service Garage can save a lot of money by doing the work themselves.
“Our customers can see savings of 50% or more depending on the job they are doing as traditional repair shops have hourly rates more than double that of ours,” said Waliser. “We don’t really have competitors. Some mechanics loosely offer self-service options, but they are limited, and space is generally unavailable. We are the only pure self-service garage open to the public in the state. The business of a self-service garage is not quite as easy to operate as people think, and most just want to run it as a hobby.”
In addition to the space and tools, Stew’s Garage will offer how-to classes for people who want to learn how to work on their car.
“Once we’re up and running, we plan to offer a variety of classes targeted to women, parents and kids, and people who would like to learn more about caring for their vehicles,” Walliser said. “Lessons will focus on basic maintenance items such as oil changes, brake jobs, spark plugs, and inspections.”
Stew’s Self Service Garage will be a great resource for folks with a do-it-yourself attitude but who don’t have the space or tools to work on their own car. While still in the process of constructing the garage and purchasing the equipment, Stew’s Self Service Garage is expected to open this September with an open house for the public featuring classic cars and a food truck.