Business feature: Closing up shop

CNJ staff photo: Gabriel Monte Jack Lapp, owner of JL’s Automotive Service, said he has worked more than 12,000 work orders since setting up shop 29 years ago. On Oct. 1, Lapp is retiring from the mechanic trade and closing his shop.

Jack Lapp said one reason he is closing his auto repair shop after 29 years is simple.

“I don’t do computers, man,” said Lapp, who owns JL’s Automotive Service on 21st Street.

A mechanic for 52 years, Lapp said the auto repair trade these days involves a knowledge of computers and he is too old to learn.

Even his office lacks a computer to access a parts database for cars. Instead, files and knickknacks clutter his desk.

He said tune-ups, brake work and replacing air and fuel filters are the bulk of the work he performs at present.

Lapp, 67, said he grew up in an era when repairing car parts was common, as evidenced by the carburetors, distributors and other car parts that lie in piles in his garage.

“Before, you could just repair about anything you tore apart,” he said. “Consequently, you do collect a lot of stuff.”

He said he plans to spend his retirement traveling in his RV and fishing after he closes his shop at the end of the month.

“I want to get out and enjoy life while I can,” he said. “I plan to do a lot of fishing that I haven’t been able to do for many, many years.”

While manufacturers have made vehicles complicated, he said, others repairs are pretty simple. About eight years ago, a regular customer called and said his pickup truck would start but would not move.

When Lapp arrived on scene he got into the truck and found the problem: The emergency brake was engaged.

“I never let him forget that,” he said of the customer.

Lapp, who was raised in Clinton, Mich., said he learned the auto repair trade from his father. He worked in his father’s Detroit garage for three years before joining the Air Force in 1959.

He was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in 1973, where he worked as a mechanic in the general purpose vehicle department.

In 1979 he retired from the Air Force and opened his auto shop on 21st Street.

“He is probably one of the most honest mechanics that I know. He didn’t take advantage of anybody,” said Ken Fox, a friend of Lapp’s for over 34 years and a regular customer.

Lapp said he follows his father’s advice when dealing with customers.

“Treat everybody fairly,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always tried to do.”