New garage ready to help local customers

Published 2:36 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Opening a new business during a pandemic isn’t an easy feat, but for John Arvin and his family, it was a necessary step as a way to give back to his community as a well-versed mechanic.

With the Southern Maintenance shop opening its doors just last week, Arvin said it’s all about getting a feel for what his community needs from him and what skills he will need from future employees.

“There’s a lot of great garages in Harlan, and we mainly want to fill the gaps where other places don’t have time for certain jobs and to see what’s in demand,” he said. “We do hope to offer employment as soon as we see what we’ll be doing most.”

Arvin said since opening his garage he’s been surprised at how quickly locals began responding to his service, anything from transmission work to oil changes. Luckily, he said between the nasty February weather and it being his first week open, he was able to buy all of the parts he needed locally, offering a quick turnaround for customers in need.

Arvin, who has been a mechanic for 15 years, said it’s been his dream of his to open his own shop as he grew up watching his parents work on their cars.

“I remember thinking ‘this is what I wanna do,’” he said. “I aspire to be honest and fair with my pricing. Hard times shouldn’t mean hard on the wallet. We all have families to feed, and in this economy, if I can offer that here, I feel like that’s a great way to give back.”

Arvin said he worked for Turner Trucking for many years, also working on exhaust for Ken Towery’s and Leak Eliminators as a lead mechanic. After the company shut down, he moved on to work for Amerit where he serviced AT&T trucks.

“There’s not many things as far as mechanical work that I’ve not had my hands on,” he said.

After moving back to Harlan County, Arvin said he was laid off because of COVID-19, adding that is where his journey to open Southern Maintenance officially started.

“I started working on cars from my home, and before I knew it, I had eight to 10 cars in my driveway at any given time. My wife and I prayed about it for a long time,” he said. “Gary Craig and his wife Raysha decided to rent their building soon after we decided to start looking for a spot. It all really worked out for us. They’re great people and we’re happy to be here.”

Arvin said since opening himself up to help locals, he’s met some interesting people, something he loves about his new business.

“The building has a soul. First from Bill’s Garage, then from Gary’s. I’m honored to be a part of the history of the garage on the hill at the foot of Pine Mountain, no matter what people wanna call it,” he said. “We don’t mind to be referred to as ‘where so and so use to be.’ Those are two great men who ran this place amazingly.”

With plenty of other local garages strung throughout Harlan County, Arvin said he doesn’t like to think of other small businesses as competitors.

“There will be times when I’ll refer customers to others, just the same as I hope they’d do for me, as I already have started doing. My wife is an amazing business woman, and she’s taught me so much as far as respect and rapport,” he said. “There’s enough cars for everyone to work on. We want to break the stigma of small town chitter chatter and work with all of our local garages.”

Arvin and his wife Stephanie recently ventured to other garages in Harlan to take lunches to the owners and employees as a way to show their respect and introduce themselves.

“We all have one common goal: help people get back on the road,” the two said. “Small businesses, especially in Harlan, have to band together and support one another. So from our garage to theirs, we continue to wish everyone the best.”

For more information regarding prices and services, call Southern Maintenance at 606-262-2927 or follow the garage Facebook page for updates, pictures of current jobs and more.