Archibald Brooks first opened the doors of his Grass Valley auto repair business in 1941. It was the year of the Pearl Harbor attack. “Citizen Kane” was on the silver screen and the average price of a new car was $850.
Having worked as a mechanic in the town of Loomis, “Arch” discovered he didn’t like the fog and was eager to launch a new business above the winter gloom of the Sacramento Valley.
After a little exploration, the small town of Grass Valley seemed like the perfect location for the new Arch’s Automotive Service. He was right.
Today, after more than 70 years in business, the repair and smog shop is still going strong, having been passed down to Arch’s son, Wally Brooks, then grandson, Brendan Brooks. After Wally retired in 2004, Brendan and his business partner, Kevin Maltese, took over the business and have since steered it into a repair shop that Arch — if he were here today — would hardly recognize.
“These days, car shops have a lot of computers talking to computers,” said Brendan, with a laugh. “But the one thing that hasn’t changed is our philosophy when it comes to customer service. There are three other car repair shops on this street alone, so there is a reason people stay with us.
“Honesty is important. We had one longtime customer come in recently with a receipt from 1953. We have second- and third-generation customers. It’s all about word of mouth.”
Today, mechanics at Arch’s Automotive Service and Smog work on most domestic and import vehicles. Technicians are certified by the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (also known as ASE certified) and are continually being trained and educated in the latest developments concerning the auto repair industry, said Kevin.
Owners since 2004, Brendan and Kevin both have long histories in the automotive repair field. The two became friends in the seventh grade at Seven Hills Middle School. Brendan grew up helping his father and grandfather around the auto repair shop, but when he had to attend summer school during his sophomore year at Nevada Union High School, Kevin stepped in to help empty trash cans, sweep the shop and fetch parts for the mechanics. Arch took a liking to Kevin and taught him how to build and repair speedometers. He never left.
Upon graduation, many of Brendan and Kevin’s NU classmates were going into logging or military service. When Brendan went down to enlist in the U.S. Navy, Kevin went, too.
“But then I heard they would be making us do push–ups,” said Kevin. “That was enough for me.”
Kevin, who knew he’d found his passion in auto repair, stayed on at the shop while Brendan spent four years in the Navy, seeing the world before coming back to Arch’s. Today, the longtime friends enjoy a partnership that plays to their individual strengths. While Kevin manages the shop’s mechanics, diagnostic equipment and smog technicians and is known for his expertise in repairing old cars, Brendan oversees daily operations and deals with the business end. In keeping with the history of Arch’s, Kevin’s son is now working in the automotive repair industry.
“Over many years, we’ve earned people’s trust — that really says something,” said Brendan.
“Basically, if we keep doing things the way Arch did, we’ll be just fine.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.