Webster's Auto maintains familial ties
Webster’s Auto owner Barry Allen is humbled by the trust he has earned during his 40 years as a mechanic.
It’s one of the most important lessons Allen says he learned from his grandfather who started Webster’s Auto in 1953.
“We have people who move away, and when they come back to visit family, they try to schedule a visit,” he said. “It feels good that they trust you that much to make that effort and come back.”
Spending time at the shop as a child sparked Allen’s desire to learn the automotive trade.
“I’ve always had the mechanical side, even being really young,” he said. “Being around here every day really helped.”
He started full time at Webster’s Auto after graduating high school in 1979.
Allen said he might have the opportunity to pass the business on to grandchildren who also love to hang around the shop.
“They like to help,” he said. “It’s good to let them get the experience and see if it’s something they like. I can hope.
“That would be pretty cool if we get one of them to come in and take over.”
Allen’s oldest daughter has two sons who seem to have inherited the family talent.
“The older one especially, seems pretty mechanically inclined,” he said. “Even when he was really young he’d come down here and seemed to be able to figure out how to use the tools.”
Allen has witnessed many changes in the automotive industry over the years.
“The engines last a lot longer than they used to,” he said. “I remember when, if you had 100,000 miles on an engine, then it was done for. Now, it’s just getting started.”
While many drivers have some understanding of their vehicles, most overlook regular maintenance, Allen said.
“Having a vehicle has become so much more important for them,” he said. “As long as they keep going, it’s just ‘go, go, go.’ You need to stop sometime and do a little service.”
A well-maintained car is important in a town like Marion where many people work elsewhere, Allen said.
“The needs of the cars have become so much more important,” he said. “A lot of people drive to work, and that vehicle is an essential part of their lifestyle.”
Another major change through the years has been the boost in popularity of cars manufactured outside the United States, Allen said.
“Back in the day when I started, we hardly ever worked on a foreign-made vehicle,” he said. “Now it’s pretty common.”
Training for a career as a mechanic has become more sophisticated along with the technology built into newer cars, Allen said.
“With the technology change it’s become a lot more complicated,” he said. “You have to be a lot more skilled and knowledgeable. In years past, there wasn’t as much studying.”
Last modified Oct. 23, 2019