FILL ‘ER UP - Prestige Auto Repair is one of many new businesses in Jasper. Pictured, owner Don Nichols inspects a vehicle that rolled in Friday afternoon.
Last Friday, just three months after opening shop, Don Nichols’ garage in Jasper’s downtown business district enjoyed a steady stream of motorists with vehicles in need of repair.
“I just wish we had our facelift,” said Nichols, pointing to the empty space on the side of his building where new signage will eventually read Prestige Auto Repair. “We’ve been slowing putting our name out there, but in May we’re going to have our grand opening and really get going.”
Nichols is no stranger to auto mechanics, having been in the field for over 30 years, at one point owning a chain of six garages in the metro-Atlanta area. Nichols took a hiatus a few years ago to operate a bar in Cartersville called The Alley, but after what he said was “the biggest mistake of my life” he’s back in the auto world.
Pickens residents may be most familiar with Nichols’ new space as the old Burgess station, which offered full-service and self-service gas. Nichols says his station will eventually offer a full service option, and inside the garage he says he will be able to fix just about any vehicle-related problem customers can throw at him - from domestic to import to recreational vehicles.
“We just can’t do the big 18-wheelers because we don’t have the space,” said Nichols, “and up here you don’t have to have those emission inspections, but when you’ve got a check engine light on it can create all kinds of problems. I’m used to working in areas where emissions are required so we can manage those issues.”
The addition of Prestige Auto Repair is a welcome sight in Jasper, which is experiencing a period of growth after several years of vacant buildings and a stream of failed businesses. Lola Kitchen and Bar, a new restaurant at the corner of Main Street and Stegall Drive, and the new building for Last Catch seafood restaurant are both set to open soon.
“In addition to being another indicator of improving economic conditions, the Prestige station opening in downtown Jasper is excellent news for the community as well as for the consumer,” said Pickens County Economic Development Director Gerry Nechvatal. “One of my first jobs was pumping gas so to see this being offered is personally very gratifying and complements the other services available at the station very well.”
The new Pickens business owner said he has wanted to live in Jasper since he was five, when on a family trip his parents stopped in town.
“That was the first time I saw the mountains,” Nichols said. “It’s crazy, but I told them then that I wanted to live here. I’ve spent the last 13 years coming up here at least once a week looking for spaces. Then one day I took a different route and came right through town, and I saw this station in my rear view and it looked closed. I immediately started making calls. I originally planned to get my house first and then the business, but it just worked out this way.”
Nichols says he will spend a few months building up his business’ reputation in hopes of expanding into a few other areas in the future.
“I’m all about my customer and we do things the right way,” Nichols said. “I’ve heard customers complain about two and three week turnaround at shops, and there’s no way that’s happening here. We’ll stay late or whatever we need to do. I’ve watched the sun come up to get people off to Florida on a Friday.”
Nichols will hold a grand opening in mid to late May,with the date to be announced in the next few weeks.
Be sure to pick up next week’s edition for a full profile of Nichols, who outside of auto repair is an avid musician, having played with well-known acts like the Marshall Tucker Band and 38 Special.