Breathing new life into old cars is what Southern Ontario Auto Restore (SOAR) in Lennox and Addington County does best. Visiting the shop at 108 Dairy Avenue in Greater Napanee is like stepping back in time with a roar of modern flare. The floor is dotted with classic models like the '62 Impala, '67 Chevelle and '69 Mustang in the process of their finely tuned makeover from rust bucket to show car.
What began as a hobby for Rick Saucier, a retired military mechanic, has now become a full fledged successful business. Offering complete restoration services for classic vehicles, SOAR specializes in a wide range of automotive repairs including sheet metal, mechanical, electrical, body and paint, as well as interior work.
Never forseeing himself as an entrepreneur, opening the restoration shop was just a natural next step for Rick.
"At the beginning it was just a hobby to keep me occupied after I retired," he explains. "I enjoyed the work and enjoyed the cars, so I put it all together and thought, 'hey why don't we open a shop!'"
Conveniently located close to Highway 401, Rick explains how this helps set himself a part from his competitors.
"Location is number one because we are right off the 401 which is very key. Our rates are competitive, we have a fully serviced shop, we are fully licensed, fully insured and being a supplier allows us to get better cost on parts so that we can then pass along those savings to our customers."
"I meet a lot of people because of the car shows. I'll set up a booth for the business which attracts a lot of attention. Word gets around and people will be like 'Oh you're the guy from Napanee!'"
Settling in Greater Napanee after 28 years with the Military, and much like his business, Rick found comfort in the details.
"The thing I like about Napanee and I've lived all over from Victoria to Goose Bay Labrador, is that Napanee takes care of their stuff. It's the little things, like the street sweepers are always out, the flowers are always watered, and that to me sets them apart from everywhere else."
Being a hands on owner allows Rick to continue to do what he loves most. "I do everything," he exclaims excitedly. "I'd rather be on the floor, absolutely doing the hands on work. I could go and replace anyone out there, whether it's a body guy or a mechanic."
With that said, Rick truly appreciates the employees he has. "Finding quality employees is crucial. The guys we have now are good guys and they do their job well. I don't have to keep looking over their shoulder all the time. The guys are all great. I just say here's what needs to be done and they do it."
There is a great sense of pride in ownership for Rick that not only emanates from his enthusiasm and passion but also shines through in the finished product.
"This is me. Everything is a reflection of me. You love the work so you want to be there and do it. You have to be confident in your abilities and be good at what you do because people will pay for quality. We don't do cheap paint jobs here. We get a lot of people that come in and just want a quick paint job and say it's just a driver, it's not a show car. But I tell them to take it elsewhere because we only do show cars, we only do quality work. We've set the standard and we don't go below it."
When asked if there was any advice he would give to a person starting out in running their own business Rick offered this: "Find a niche market. Find something that people want but not everybody can offer." Southern Ontario Auto Restore does just that.
If you're serious about turning your classic rust bucket into a vintage rock star, Rick and his team in L&A County can make it happen. Stop by SOAR at 108 Dairy Avenue in Napanee or visit their website and find them on Facebook.
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