Lee Singer is the owner of Duke and Lee’s Service Station, a family-run automotive repair shop in Geneva, IL. One challenge he faces is educating customers about the cost of vehicle maintenance.
Below is the article as it appeared on the Geneva Sun website.
Duke and Lee’s Service Station
Family-owned automotive business adapts to changing technology.
March 31, 2010
The fire-engine red, shiny tow truck at Duke and Lee’s Service Station is named, "The Gavster," after owner Lee Singer’s 11-year-old grandson Gavin.
Duke and Lee’s is a long-running family owned business. The station was started by Duke Singer in 1953. Duke’s son Lee, the current owner, started sweeping floors and cleaning car parts for his dad when he was 10. "Auto parts houses didn’t have delivery back then so I’d either walk or ride my bike to get parts," said Lee.
I noticed a 1947 Illinois license plate on the pegboard wall in the waiting area. It felt like printed cardboard.
"That’s the last year of the soybean plates after WWII," said Singer. "Metal went to the war effort you know. There’s two plates there. That’s the year my wife (Linda) and I were born." There’s also a Skelly gas pump from the ’40s on display that pumped leaded gas, which was banned from use in on-road vehicles by the Clean Air Act of 1996.
Keeping up with changing technology in his business is an ongoing challenge, said Singer. "Almost everything (in a car) is controlled by electronics now. There’s a bunch of chip boards in a car that control the air bags, brakes, emission, even steering without fluids now. I’ve told my doctor customers they have it easy. The human body doesn’t change; cars always do."
Few independent service station owners sell gasoline any longer, said Singer. "It’s not feasible for the independents to satisfy all the IEPA regulations (Illinois Environmental Protection Agency). Not selling gas any longer, we still see our customers, just not as often. One of the best parts of this job is our customers. We enjoy their trust."
Singer said it’s tough to educate customers about the cost of automobile maintenance. "They see an ad for a $59.95 brake job and it never ends up being that (price). It’s impossible to do a quality brake job for that. It’s never an opportune time to have a car fixed. You have to have a feeling for people. With the down economy, we have to help people prioritize what they need to do now and what can wait. That’s where trust comes in."
Singer’s son Scott, a 20-year Marine Corps Reservist, will be working in the family business when he returns from Afghanistan. Daughter Stephanie Johnson and her husband Lincoln currently work at Duke and Lee’s, as does Singer’s wife Linda.
I asked Singer to show me his right hand. "Yeah, I still do the work," he said with a smile.
To read this article on the Geneva Sun website, visit http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/genevasun/business/2129040,2_6_2_TC31_DUKELEE_S1-100331.article.