After 50 years of family ownership, 18 of them as All Seasons Automotive, the highly regarded car repair shop and gas station in the heart of Jefferson is closing.
On Friday, July 2, the bays will be empty, the doors will be locked, and the Jefferson community will be without the gas station and repair shop that has served it for more than half a century. The single gas pump is already dormant.
On July 1, 1971 Keith Jewett bought an established auto repair shop at 207 Waldoboro Road. He renamed it and owned Jewett’s Garage for the next 31 years.
Jewett’s son-in-law Greg Reynolds started working on cars at the Hillside Collision Center in Waldoboro when he was in his 20s. He was a natural who said he really enjoyed the work.
It wasn’t long before he had his own single-bay automotive repair business called All Seasons Automotive in Waldoboro. But the appeal of a larger, four-bay shop convinced him to buy out his father-in-law in 2003. He renamed the shop and has owned All Seasons Automotive in Jefferson for the last 18 years.
Steven Reynolds is the third generation to run the shop. He took over the day-to-day operations about a year ago when his father stepped away from active involvement in the business due to hereditary back problems that made the overhead labor difficult. While his father still owns the business, Steven Reynolds has been managing it as a one-man shop ever since.
According to Greg and Steven Reynolds, in its heyday All Seasons Automotive serviced the buses for the Jefferson Village School, the ambulances for Jefferson Fire and Rescue, the Central Lincoln County Ambulance Service, Waldoboro Emergency Medical Services and rigs from other surrounding towns. The shop also had a number of commercial charge accounts for fuel.
But Steven Reynolds said All Seasons Automotive couldn’t retain the staffing to meet that level of demand, and the larger commercial accounts that were using 1,000 gallons of gas a week eventually wound up getting their own tanks and pumps at their own garages.
Greg Reynolds said that when improvements in technology on the ambulances surpassed his automotive knowledge the ambulance companies moved their repair contracts to the dealers. Despite that, the shop had plenty of business, he said.
We draw from quite an area, Whitefield, Somerville, Washington,” Greg Reynolds said. “We’ve been there long enough to have a good rapport with customers.”
Steven Reynolds loves the shop and said it is not closing due to a lack of business. He said his labor costs were “half what the dealers charge” so he had a large enough customer base “but as a big picture, it was not sustainable.”
He said the newer vehicles are getting more challenging. “You need to put more money into the equipment to work on them,” he said.
As a one- or two-man shop “I never actually leave this place,” he said. “I can’t go home and not think about all I have to do.”
He applauds anyone who owns their own business, but he and wife Kendra have decided on a different path. “I’ve seen my parents stressed out. I don’t want that for our future,” he said.
Greg and Steven Reynolds had a number of conversations about the fate of the business over the past months. Greg Reynolds had always planned to sell the business to his son but ultimately they agreed the right move was to close and sell. “It hurt a lot,” Steven Reynolds said of the decision to close. “It’s been in the family so long. But we have to think about our future.”
Steven Reynolds accepted a job at Bath Iron Works with benefits, insurance, and paid vacation, none of which were available to him at the garage. He said he hasn’t had time to take a real vacation with his wife in several years. “You can’t just leave the shop with no one here,” he said.
Greg Reynolds is pursuing a new venture in light excavation that includes driveway repair, field mowing, rototilling during the spring, summer, and fall, and plowing in the winter. His new business is once again named All Seasons.
Steven Reynolds said he feels like All Seasons Automotive has been the heart of the town since Bond Hardware and the previous iteration of the Jefferson market closed.
He is happy to see that the market has been reborn. He often goes there for a sandwich when he has too much work to go home for lunch.
Despite the conflicting emotions involved in making the decision to close, Steven Reynolds is not regretful. “I feel this is a step in the right direction. We’re happy and excited for the future, excited to see what becomes of this place.”
Greg and Steven Reynolds said they have talked to several interested parties about buying the shop. Father and son both hope it will remain a garage and will continue to serve the town of Jefferson.
“Pumping gas and sweeping floors are some of my earliest memories,” Steven Reynolds said. And he’ll miss hanging out with the older fellows in the town who stop by.
“There will normally be five or six out in the shop on a Saturday with coffee and crackers, shooting the breeze, sharing a lot of the history of the town — a meeting of the minds,” he said. They keep up a running commentary as he works, talking cars, occasionally offering advice on how to approach a specific repair.
But Steven Reynolds said he prefers the idea of working on cars as a hobby and looks forward to having the time to do it. Three out of four of his personal vehicles need to be inspected, which he said is ironic, since he does inspections.
“At the end of a 10- or 12-hour workday, the last thing I want to do is work on my own car,” he said.
Steven Reynolds said he usually started at 7 or 8 a.m. Closing time was 4 p.m., but he often worked later, especially during winters when he would be there as late as 8 p.m. changing snow tires.
He very rarely sent work away. “I can’t say no to my customers,” he said.
“It’s been a heavy stretch the last couple of years. It’s a lot to run this place by yourself,” he said. “It will be odd not to be there. Weird to drive past it.”
Kendra Reynolds said her husband often put the needs of the town and the community ahead of his own. “Customers don’t realize how much passion he has, how he wanted to make them all happy,” she said. But she knows how much his customers appreciated him.
The response to the closing announcement on the Jefferson Maine Community Facebook page bears this out. It’s filled with messages of gratitude, understanding, and well wishes for the future.
Rachel Austin Bethea summed up the sentiments in her post, saying, “Wishing you and yours all the best. We are selfishly sad for the loss of a trusted mechanic and great business.”