WASILLA — After 24 years, the iconic Mr. Lube located in downtown Wasilla near the Carrs/Safeway Mall is changing hands, marking the end of an era.
“It’s bittersweet… We had a good time there but it was time to go,” original owner, Andy George said.
Andy grew up in Wasilla and hid life around it. He said that he started off in 1994 with the original goal of being his own boss and raising his family around the shop.
“It definitely exceeded expectations,” Andy said.
Mr. Lube started with three bays and full service auto repairs and maintenance. Today, it’s a “one-stop- shop” with five bays and a car wash. It’s undoubtedly one of the most frequented auto shops in Wasilla and greater Valley.
Since the beginning, Andy worked at Mr. Lube alongside his wife Stephanie George and his sister Margaret Keene.
“It’s definitely a family business,” Keene said.
Keene said that her brother always seemed to have a knack for mechanical work.
“It came to him naturally,” Keene said. “I think it was pretty much in his blood.”
Keene said that fall and spring are the busiest times of year due to tire changeovers. She said on average, it would be normal to have about 100 customers per day during peak seasons and they’ve even hit 200 people in a single day. She said that regardless of season, there’s always wave after wave of customers.
“It never slowed down, from day one,” Keene said.
Keene said that there was always a line of people waiting to talk to Andy, even if they didn’t have work that needed to be done that day.
Stephanie said that Andy’s employees loved being at the shop, too, adding that at least 85 to 90 percent of employees who quit eventually came back. She said that Andy would work side-by-side with his employees.
“Andy was a leader; he wasn’t a boss,” Stephanie said. “He was the hardest worker at the shop.”
Stephanie said that Andy always supported his community. She said that his lasting legacy of kindness and integrity kept people coming through the doors.
“People would come to Andy and he would tell them the truth, ‘this is what you need done.’ And especially if they didn’t have the money to get it all done at that time he would say, ‘this is what you need to focus on first. This is the most important and to save up and do this,’” she said.
Stephanie said that her husband was pretty humble and enjoys the simple things like snowmachining. She said that even if Andy had a long day at work, he would jump on his machine and ride for hours. She said that he told her all he needs with his newfound free time is “eight gallons of gas a day.”
Andy graduated from Wasilla High School and all his sons followed suit. Andy won the Iron Dog in 2006 and now he helps his son Brad race, providing air support along the way.
Nov. 28 was Andy’s last day at Mr. Lube. He said that the Valley has grown so much since he first opened up. He said that he can’t remember how he came up with the name but it “popped up and just stuck.”
“It’s kinda cool how it all worked out,” Andy said. “… The one thing I’m gonna miss about that place is all the people.”
Andy said that he is taking some time off but will return to work in the spring. He laughed and said that he thinks he’s “in between jobs, but I won’t be open 7 days a week. We can leave it at that.”
All the original employees stayed after the change of hands. Andy helped in the transition process and is confident that the new owner, Keith Santerre, will keep that local mindset.
“They’re gonna do fine,” Andy said. “They’ve got the right attitude and the right skill set they can do it.”
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at email@example.com