Never mind that Jim Troutner has opened the hood of a customer’s car only to find a hornets’ nest. And his wife, Nancy, once had a mouse run away from the home it had made in a car air filter. Rodents’ nests, they say, aren’t uncommon, as they often find the engine compartment warm.
But despite the occasional unpleasantness, the couple says that life has never been better.
Years ago, they met while working in the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley. Nancy was in sales and Jim was an engineer. They began running an Eagle Quick Lube on the side with extended family members in the town of Oakhurst. It suited them, and although Jim was still traveling for his other job, they were able to fine-tune daily operations to the point where they knew they had the ingredients needed to run a successful small business.
Because they are raising their two grandchildren, Jim and Nancy were eager to get out of the city. They moved to Nevada City, an area they had adored for years, which was nearer their houseboat at Bullard’s Bar Reservoir.
Then one day, a friend told Nancy there was an empty oil change facility in Penn Valley. It was rented out as storage for the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office boats.
The Troutners went to check out the property and knew they’d stumbled upon something good. The property included 10 storage units, a self-service car wash and auto bays for full service oil and other fluid changes, as well as for minor auto repair and detailing.
“There was a real need for this kind of service in Penn Valley,” said Nancy. “It just felt right.”
Nearly one year ago to the day, the Troutners took ownership of the property and began three long months of preparing the site for the opening of their state-of-the-art business.
In January of this year, the Troutners had the grand opening of Eagle Quick Lube on Penn Valley Drive.
Jim has finally been able to quit his former job, which required him to travel frequently, and is now home evenings to help raise the grandkids. He trains employees, tracks inventory, oversees daily operations and monitors the car wash, which has been upgraded.
Nancy serves as the bookkeeper and fills in wherever needed. In addition, there are three other employees — lube technicians Trevor Thompson and Tobin Blank and manager Raymond Hurley.
“The Troutners are wonderful to work for,” said Hurley.
“I’ve worked in the lube field for 12 years and I have a degree from Universal Technical Institute. The Troutners really go the extra mile for customers and their employees. They’re very community oriented.”
Jim said he’s had to retrain several employees.
“Employees at many of these other lube businesses are encouraged to up-sell and pressure people,” he said.
“We’ll educate you on what needs attention and what can wait. If a customer is mechanically interested, I’ll show them exactly what’s going on.”
Thorough service includes checking all fluids, belts, batteries, wipers and tire pressure. The business offers all grades of oil, including diesel.
Knowing your customers is an important part of a family owned business, Jim added. He wants employees and customers alike to come to him when they have honest concerns. For that reason, he schedules weekly meetings to discuss what they could do better. The Troutners feel it’s important to offer discounts to firefighters and members of the military and law enforcement.
The spotless, dog-friendly waiting room boasts a broad range of reading materials, free coffee, Wi Fi and Disney movies for the kids. Nancy is even planting a vegetable garden along the fence line.
If a service requires more time, customers can make use of a shuttle.
Thanks to word of mouth, the Troutners have gotten to know a great many Penn Valley residents and now volunteer at community events.
If there’s a question as to whether the Troutners landed in the right place, just ask them.
“Since 1974, I’ve worked for someone else,” said Jim.
“It’s really exciting to finally have our own business and enjoy what we do. It’s the people who make us like what we do every day.”
To contact staff writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.