FAIRFIELD — Pat and Julie Watson finally secured the location they wanted for their Midway Automotive & Muffler shop.
The couple wanted to open an automotive repair business in Fairfield for about 10 years. Several years ago, they saw that Midas automotive repair closed at the building at 1655 W. Texas St. and thought they found the right place.
But there was a problem. Midas wanted someone to open a Midas franchise there. The Watsons wanted their own business. They couldn’t convince Midas to simply sell them the land and the building, Julie Watson said.
Then Midas in 2012 merged with TBC Corp., which owns Big O Tires and other businesses. Watson said the merger led to the decision to sell surplus property. The Watsons made an offer and Midas accepted.
Midway Automotive & Muffler opened April 1. But, though the Fairfield shop is new, the Watsons are hardly newcomers to auto repair.
“I’ve done this basically my entire life,” Pat Watson said.
His father owned a number of automotive stores in the Bay Area, so Pat Watson grew up surrounded by the business. He decided to open his own shop after his father retired.
In 1986, he opened Midway Muffler & Brake in El Sobrante. That’s why the sign at the Fairfield shop says that Midway got established in 1986, even though the local shop is new.
The Watsons moved from El Sobrante to Vacaville in 1995 and to Fairfield in 2003. That’s what got them thinking about a second shop, this one in the city where they lived.
Pat Watson has seen the automotive repair business change as cars have become more high-tech. Ten years ago, a scanner for autos might cost $1,000. Now it’s $20,000. Even the cheapest car today has five to seven computers, he said.
All of this pushes out the guy who can’t afford $60,000 in diagnostic equipment, he said.
Another change is the move to online data. Midway Automotive is missing the shelves crammed with repair books for the various makes of cars, as found in repair shops in earlier decades.
Pat Watson said he tells customers their options for repairs when possible, instead of simply presenting the ultimate and most expensive fix. He realizes it’s hard to budget money for repairs that are unexpected, he said.
“We don’t want to see you one time, we want to see you for the lifetime,” Pat Watson said.
He remains in the automotive business because he enjoys working on cars, Pat Watson said. It’s like any other service industry, knowing you can help people, he said.
“It’s pretty much instant gratification,” Julie Watson said. “Within a few hours, you have a happy customer.”
Midway Automotive & Muffler is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 422-7000 for more information.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.