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Lincolnville man turns misfortune into opportunity

Staff writer

When Gavin Shields of rural Lincolnville graduated from Centre High School in 2006, he dreamed of becoming a certified mechanic and eventually owning his own repair shop. Two things happened this year, five years later, to help him achieve that goal in a much shorter time than he had expected.

First, his mother, Kim, bought the building at the intersection of U.S. 56/77 and Main Street in Lincolnville from Duane Kahns and John Fenske, seeing it as a strategic location for a small shop. Then, in February, Shields was laid off from his mechanic’s job at Robert’s Truck Center in Wichita.

“You might say that jump-started my entrepreneurship,” he said.

The building was the former Marion County Co-op Filling Station, and it has a service bay. After three months of shop renovation and preparation, Shields Service and Supply opened in May. Shields has been so busy from the get-go that he hasn’t had time to get fully organized.

The former front offices are still a work in progress. They were gutted, and the space is being renovated. Kim plans to open a small antique store and coffee shop sometime in the future.

Shields has been involved in mechanics since age 12. He worked in the family shop of Shields Farms, which does its own machinery repair and maintenance.

“My dad (the late Carroll Shields) and my Uncle Kenny taught me a lot,” he said.

He didn’t get involved in sports in high school but spent time in community service including helping to build the Lincolnville Community Center.

Shields is a highly trained and certified mechanic. After high school graduation — he was president of his senior class — he took a four-year mechanics course at the Universal Technical Institute in Houston, Texas, finishing the course in 18 months. He graduated with certification in auto, diesel, and industrial mechanics. He took Ford factory training at the same school.

Because Shields graduated in the top 10 percent of his class at UTI, he qualified to apply for an accelerated training program, the International Technical Education Program, in Chicago. Among hundreds of applicants, he and 16 others were chosen for the program.

Since entering the work world, Shields has spent time and money to receive Automotive Service Certification in 12 specialized areas of mechanics. He also is EPA certified in air conditioning. His education is ongoing. He estimates he spends from $200 to $400 a year on education.

“Mechanics are never caught up with tools or education,” he said.

He did extensive work on the shop including adding new lighting, insulation, new electrical box, and a new roof.

Shields serves the agricultural community as well as the general public. Services include tire repairs, balancing, and sales; air conditioning diagnosis and recharge; automotive and diesel service; emergency roadside repairs; vehicle pickup; and custom fabrication and welding. Shields has had a parts resale business for several years, which continues at the shop.

After just four months in business, Shields already is looking to expand. He is seeking to employ another mechanic and plans to expand the shop.

“This building is a little bit smaller than I’m used to,” he said. “I’m working with what I’ve got, and we’ll go from there.”

He said customer service is his priority. He is working on building a reputation that will attract customers.

“I do a lot of stuff here and try to run an honest business,” he said.

He has a Facebook page, and a friend is developing a website.

He and his mother are planning to hold an open house sometime next year.

Last modified Oct. 6, 2011

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