Wrench ready: Entrepreneur aims to get auto enthusiasts under the hood

Mechanically minded do-it-yourselfers in Edmonton are at a definite disadvantage if they don’t have a garage to work in when the winter winds blow. 

But in a new take on an auto club, an Edmonton businessman is hoping to build a membership-based shared garage with enough hoists to host up to a dozen hobby mechanics at once.

“I grew up in southern Ontario, in a small town, and I spent countless hours outside repairing my car in –20,” Matt Huber, co-owner of Tuber Towing and Recovery, told CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active on Wednesday.

“You’d be begging a friend to borrow their little garage or you’d be building something out of tarps just to stay warm while you do it.”

Huber thinks the answer is a shared garage, where members can access a warm space equipped with necessary tools for working on your car.

He has launched an online fundraising campaign for the YEG Auto Club, aiming to raise $85,000 in a month. That amount, he said, would cover about half the cost of setting up the space and the first few months of operation.

Club members would book time at $20 an hour, then get to work.

Huber made it clear that, apart from mandatory training programs in how to use the tools, the garage would not be providing advice or mechanical assistance. Instead, people would be encouraged to make use of how-to videos on YouTube or get help from friends with experience.

The open-shop facility would have several entrances and enough space to allow groups to come in with each vehicle, he said. 

“We would hope they would go in with friends … so they can help each other as they work through their problems with whatever they’re working on,” he said. 

Matt Huber grew up working on vehicles without the benefit of a garage. (Submitted by Matt Huber)

The facility would be located in the Strathcona area, he said, with an intent to appeal to younger people who don’t have garage access and would like to save a few bucks on repairs.

“It tends to be your younger generation,” Huber said of who would be interested in the facility.  “Those who are trying to save a dollar and fix their car … or the enthusiast who is trying to make their car go faster, look cooler, but doesn’t necessarily have the funds to take it to a shop.” 

At $20 per hour, versus professional service shop rates that Huber estimated at about $100 per hour, the potential for saving money is good, he said. 

The concept isn’t new. The now-closed Desro Automotive offered hoists, space and tools at a location on 104th Street and 60th Avenue, Huber said.

“It would probably give people the opportunity to gain knowledge from their peers and having a space that you could be comfortable in,” he said. “Especially in –30, you don’t want to be standing there learning how to change something. You just want it fixed.”

DIY car repairs. Matt Huber is pitching for an auto repair shop where customers go under the hood. 6:25

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