Ronnie Leroy has seen Evans grow up around him.
When he and Rusty Marshall opened Evans Auto Clinic in 1979, he was alone on North Belair Road.
"Many of my customers then asked me why we were out here in the boondocks," he said. "There was nothing out here."
Leroy remembers a farmhouse down the road and a barn behind him. A large field was beside and directly across from the business, where the Columbia County Government Center is now.
"Our biggest thing in the evening was trying to catch the cows that got out, and put out fires at the railroad tracks behind us," he said.
Ronnie Leroy has run the Evans Auto Clinic fron the same location on North Belair for almost 25 years, but next week his shop moves to a new location two miles away.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Now, the 15-foot hedges are the only thing that separates the shop from the busy Evans Town Center district. Before the development, Leroy said he could look across the hay field all the way to Washington Road, with nothing in the way except an airplane guidance tower.
On Friday, Leroy locks the gate behind him for the last time as he closes the Evans Auto Clinic for a new location on Industrial Park and Triangle Industrial Drives across from Club Car's service department.
After nearly 25 years in the same place, Leroy is looking forward to an updated and bigger building and said he won't miss the old one.
"It is sad to say, but no. I had another partner (Haskell Dicken), who had a massive heart attack and died right there on the floor two years ago," he said pointing to the concrete outside the offices. "That left a bitter taste in my mouth losing a close friend like that. But I have been locking that gate every night for more than 20 years, going in and out every day."
Leroy says he will be spoiled by having vehicle lifts in his new location, which he also is opening in partnership with Rusty Marshall. The old building was built in pieces, and was not designed to allow room for hydraulic lifts.
The new location of Evans Auto Clinic will not miss a beat with its opening on Monday only two miles from its original home.
"We have been working over there getting everything ready for months."
Leroy and his staff will work on anything, he said, but they specialize in foreign cars like Jaguars, Mercedes and BMWs and any vehicle with a computer system or fuel injection.
The shop is the only place John Burnham feels safe taking his Corvette, and he has not taken it anywhere else in seven years. "When you have an expensive sports car, it's comforting to walk in and see Porsches, Mercedes and Jaguars sitting in the bays," he said.
Burnham is happy for Leroy and the new shop, but admits he's upset he won't be able to drop off his car and walk to the work at the government complex anymore.
"I am glad (the new shop) is still nearby," Burnham said. "I'm sure one of the other employees here that go to him can pick me up. When I find good service, I spread the word."
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