321 Elm Street in Farmington, Minnesota, has had a long history of being a mechanic shop. Before EZ Auto Repair made it home, there was M&R Auto, owned by Marvin Rother. After a long history of ownership, Mr. Rother decided to sell his business to Eric Zeimet.
Mr. Zeimet had been a mechanic for 15 years before taking over M&R and renaming it EZ Auto Repair in April of 2017. Then a disaster took place. Just two months later (June 21), a fire ravished his shop.
The fire started simply enough. "It's a fuel fire, and the gas tank started on fire," said Zeimet. "I grabbed the fire extinguisher and tried to put it out, but then there was a cloud of smoke, and my cousin yelled out for me to get out."
Zeimet continued, "I was replacing a leaky fuel tank, and I had a (water) hose within two feet and a fire extinguisher within reach," he said. "I could not get it (the fire) without it spreading, and the gas was leaking when the car came into the shop, and that was why I was fixing it."
While the fire grew, Zeimet did what he could to control the flames. "I grabbed the water hose and started spraying."
Fire crews got the call shortly after 11 a.m. With two ladder trucks in assistance, it took more than an hour to extinguish the flames. Fortunately, all employees exited safely. Unfortunately, EZ Auto was beyond repair due to fire damage and a collapsed roof. Taking a toll on most, a resilient Zeimet with his toolbox in hand decided to rent a building at 805 Third Street to continue his labor.
Even though Zeimet created a business there, he decided to build back the auto shop on 321 Elm Street. In January of 2018, the building began to break ground. The new shop measures 3,616 square feet, which is double the space from the previous building. It boasts seven stalls, three work bays, and one overhead door. The Farmington Planning Commission granted an approved variance to the city code, allowing the shop to enlarge the driveway giving access onto Fourth Street.
The community rallied around Zeimet during his battle to get back to 321 Elm Street. "It has been really stressful, and there have been a lot of headaches, but it has been awesome to see support from friends, family, and even people I do not know," he mentioned.
On April 9, 2019, 2 years after losing his new business to a devastating fire, EZ Auto Repair reopened on Elm Street. Zeimet was happy to not only see his repeat customers, but new faces as well.
"We've seen a good handful or so of new customers already — and just people from being back at the location and seeing that we're open. Many people have stopped in to check out the place and a few people actually (have been) getting some work done. It's just been really good," Zeimet said.
When speaking of his expansive new shop, Zeimet mentioned, "This one has two more service bays, a lot more shop space. Overall, it is about double the size. … All of our lifts are new … our equipment is new, so all up-to-date. We plan to have an alignment machine soon, so we're expanding our service capabilities," Zeimet said. Since his business has been thriving, he is adding new employees to support his expansion efforts.
Due to such positive customer response to the reopen, Zeimet will be expanding even further this summer. "EZ Auto will add about ten parking spaces out back on the north side of the building during the day, and that is good since now we have only two parking spots," he added.
Ultimately, he is internally gratefully not to just the fire department but also to the community who showed him everlasting support. "I kind of owe it all to them. Without them, I would not be in business. I'm just super happy to be back and real glad that I had all the support while we were out."
Speaking with Mr. Zeimet, the shop has grown since April even more. At this time, EZ Auto has added more employees for a total of five. There will be eight lifts and nine bays. He mentioned: “We are expanding the shop. We will be buying the house behind us.” It seems not only the house is behind him, but also the fire.
Hildreth, Kara: RiverTowns.net, Fire Damages EZ Auto Repair in Downtown Farmington.
Hildreth, Kara: RiverTowns.net, EZ Auto Repair Plans to Open New Shop in March.
Hildreth, Kara: Sun This Week, EZ Auto Expands its Footprint in Downton Farmington.
Kaderlik, Andrea: Approdevelopment, Auto Repair Shop Construction is Under Way for EZ Auto.
Peters, Judy: Sun This Week, EZ Auto Repair Reopens After Fire.