After half a century of servicing every model of vehicle on the island, one auto repair center continues to serve the community.
Gary’s Service Inc. offers auto repair, brake service, maintenance and inspections for new customers and ohana that have been returning since its opening in 1967.
“We do auto repair, almost everything except transmissions,” said owner Glen Konishi.
Over the years, Konishi has learned a lot from his father, Gary, who originally started the small family business as a gas station and automotive store.
“He was one auto mechanic from the start and used to work as a foreman at a repair shop,” said Glen. “He brought in two guys from the other shop to come work with him.”
His father’s strength was being a good mechanic, but Gary was also number one in the state for selling tires, batteries and accessories, earning many awards, trips and accolades.
“When he started there was less competition, it was a little bit easier,” Glen said. “It’s still hard. We used to sell a lot of tires back then. Kauai never had any big boxes or tire places.”
Glen learned the trade skills from his father, while working there from the time he was in eighth grade. He left to attend college at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and earn his degree in business administration.
After college, he came back to work full time with his father.
“Even while I was going to school I was coming back to help at the shop while my dad was on vacation,” Glen said.
College studies helped with operating the business, but his father’s strong work ethic and automotive skills proved to be his most lasting lessons.
“It’s not the same, it’s more hands on,” Glen said. “It’s different, but learning the basics about marketing and all that kind of stuff helps.”
While living in Hilo, Glen worked part time at a gas station. But other than that, Gary’s Service has been his only job — and his whole life.
“His dad and his mom, Marjorie Konishi, started the business,” said his wife Shelley. “We were at the corner Chevron across from the old Lihue Theatre 50 years ago. We were just Gary’s Service, and then we incorporated around 1990.”
“It was a lousy land situation,” Glen said. “What we had was a three-party deal where the land was owned by Weinberg, the property was leased to Chevron, and Chevron leased the property to us. We were put in a high rental bracket where Chevron still assessed some kind of lease on the rental equipment.”
Shortly after the automotive shop became incorporated, the business relocated to its current location at 4469 Kolopa Street behind Home Depot.
“We struggled a little bit in the 2000s because of the rent,” Glen said. “The oil companies weren’t afraid to increase the rent. A lot of the old-timer gasoline dealers left at that time, about the same time we left too.”
Fortunately, his loyal customers returned to the new location because of the quality work and friendly service they knew they could count on.
“We have a lot of customers from all over the island, even guys from Hanalei and all,” Glen said. “We’re kind of lucky for those.”
“It’s the old-time service,” Shelley said. “It’s a family business, so we treat all of our customers like family. We’ve had customers coming for 50 years, if they’re still alive.”
The small business employs eight workers and has seen some retire. Edwin Garcia has been a mechanic here for 35 years; and Juanita Agaran has worked the front desk for 32.
“I’m the low man on the totem pole,” said Shelley. “I help on Saturdays by staying out of their way, and we close on Sundays.”
Glen’s cousin’s son, Ryan Konishi, has worked there as a mechanic for about a year, but all employees are considered family.
“We have three kids, and nobody is gonna take over. Nobody is interested,” Shelley said. “It’s like a lot of other family businesses, no one in the next generation wants to take over.”
Their hours are Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Thank you for your support and letting us stay in business for 50 years,” Glen said. “We’ve been pretty lucky.”