Grumpy’s happy to stay east of the freeway

By ED MERRIMAN Baker City Herald July 03, 2009 11:20 am

J.R. and Dana Streifel’s vehicle repair shop is one of several businesses in a commercial area east of Interstate 84 that Baker City annexed a couple years ago

Editor’s Note: Starting with today’s issue, the Baker City Herald looks at changes taking place on “The Other Side of the Freeway.” The series begins with a look at the recent move and expansion of Grumpy’s Repair and continues next week with a look at planned moves of car dealerships away from 10th Street and downtown Baker City to the east side of Interstate 84.


For J.R. Streifel, the economic downturn that has dampened sales of homes, new cars and consumer products has turned out to be a boon for his auto and truck repair business.

“With the economy like it is, I think people are holding off on buying new rigs and they’re choosing to fix up and hang onto the ones they’re driving a little longer,” said Streifel, owner of Grumpy’s Repair.

Business has been so good that Grumpy’s Repair outgrew the 2,800-square-foot shop located on Campbell just east of Interstate 84.

In looking for a larger location, Streifel said he considered sites along 10th Street and other areas of town.

But in the end he opted to remain on the east side of the freeway, and on May 1 he moved into an 11,000-square-foot building on H Street, just around the corner from the Campbell Street location where he launched Grumpy’s Repair five years ago.

“It’s a good move. Everybody thinks there is nothing happening on the other side of the freeway, but that’s not true,” Streifel said. “There is life on the other side of the freeway.

“We are the next Campbell corridor. There’s talk they are putting a car dealership out here. I think it will be a nice addition to the area,” Streifel said.

He said his cousin, Mike Hutton, recently opened Northwest Ag Supply east of the freeway.

Streifel’s wife, Dana, said more businesses have been popping up on the other side of the freeway in the vicinity of Campbell Street since the area was annexed into the city a couple years ago.

In addition to holding down a part-time job as a legal secretary in town, Dana serves as president and head bookkeeper at Grumpy’s Repair, where she also answers the phone and waits on customers who come into the new waiting room the Streifels built on the front of their new shop.

“It’s kind of scary signing (papers). We already had the ball rolling in 2008 before the economy went bad,” Dana said. “We bought the building right, but it’s still scary.”

“We hope we do a good job for people and our reputation will help us,” she said.

To help their customers get repairs done during the down economy, Dana said they are giving discounts.

“It’s definitely great having more space, and more parking,” Dana said. “We were leasing the old building. Now we are buying.”

J.R. Streifel said he worked for 14 years as a mechanic for Mel’s Auto Parts, but when Mel sold out about five years ago, J.R. took a leap of faith and with Dana’s support opened Grumpy’s Repair.

“She is the one who gave me the confidence to start a business. She does the billing and all that good stuff,” he said.

It’s truly a family business. Streifel’s daughters, Rachel and Nicole, also work for the company when they’re not in school.

Those who get acquainted with Streifel know he’s not that grumpy, despite his shop’s name.

Streifel, 41, grew up in Portland but he has lived and worked in the Baker City area for 21 years. He is an A&E certified master mechanic. His shop crew includes A&E certified mechanic Fred Pelcha, a 4 1/2-year employee whom Streifel calls Freddy the Muffler Man. Other employees include mechanic Henry Koos who is in the process of taking his A&E certification tests, Dennis Dickison, who is the company’s new boat repair guy, and apprentice mechanic Buddy Ebell.

One day last week the crew at Grumpy’s Repair had a wide variety of work lined up with 15 cars, including four at various stages of engine rebuilds, a rewiring job, a fuel pump replacement and repairs to a radiator, carburetor and clutch.

Also there was a diesel truck with a coolant leak job, and a motor home with wiring problems.

“The additional space allows us to do a wider variety of RV repairs, and we’re getting into boat repairs,” Streifel said. “We’re a one-stop repair shop for everything from cars and trucks to semi-truck and trailer rigs, RVs and boats.

‘We do a little bit of everything on RVs, from electrical problems to water leaks. We fix refrigerators, heaters, inverters, hot water heaters and stuff like that,” Streifel said.

Grumpy’s new building has five vehicle hoists, compared with two in the old shop.

The additional hoists make for faster turn-around times when customers drop off their vehicles for repairs, Streifel said.

Grumpy’s also does fleet maintenance work and repairs for several area businesses and corporations.

For customers who want the work done on the spot rather than bringing a vehicle into the shop, Grumpy’s has a mobile repair truck capable for making repairs on the road.

 Streifel said he believes it’s important for business owners to be active and supportive member of the community. For his part, he is active in the Haines Rodeo Association, is a contributor to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, sponsors girls softball and supports the Baker County Fair and area youth by purchasing 4-H animals.

He has also contributed with the successful $500 bid for a hand-made hat tree at last weekend’s auction supporting the Baker County Livestock Association’s Beef to Schools program.

“Our new location is at 225 H Street,” Streifel said, adding that in the past the street had different names, but city officials finally took a stand and clarified the street to the left at the east end of Campbell as H Street, which now shows up as the location of Grumpy’s Repair on GPS units and Internet mapping sites.

“I think a lot of people would be surprised at how many businesses are out here,” Streifel said. “It’s definitely a growing area.”