Getting the head in gear

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By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

For Jun Zhu, the reason for opening Gearhead Automotive earlier this year was simple.

“We don’t have enough affordable auto repair shops in Keizer,” said Zhu, who opened his shop at 1091 Chemawa Road North No. 11 in January. “I’m also trying to see if I can help the community. I want to help them out.”

For Zhu, he sees that working in two ways, one involving his senior mechanic Richard Gonzales Jr.

“McNary High School is teaching auto repair,” Zhu said. “I want to see if we can send our senior mechanic there to help, or have some of those students come to my shop. And for little league, I’m hoping to be able to sponsor them. I want to get our name out as a sponsor.”

Zhu talked with mechanic James Rockwell last fall and decided to open the shop. The two looked at nearly 60 spaces before settling on their Chemawa Road location. Rockwell recently left due to National Guard commitments, leaving Gonzales as the sole mechanic.

“Right now it’s just Richard,” Zhu said. “Once we get more traffic, I want to get a second person. He’s been trained as a GM certified mechanic. He’s also been fixing foreign cars like BMWs. I go down there every other day. Richard is dealing with the day-to-day. I’m not a mechanic, so I can’t fix cars.”

Gonzales Jr. has eight years of experience working on General Motors products, plus four years working on Audis, BMWs and Minis.

“I’m a great tech,” said Gonzales, 29. “I’ve always been at shops for at least five years. You’ve got to find someone willing to take changes. I come from Southern California. My buddies started their own shop. I started as a helper, next thing you know I’m knocking down motors. We did all makes and models. I put my hands on a lot of fast cars.”

Gonzales got to know Rockwell by ordering parts at O’Reilly Auto Parts and was intrigued by the idea of working at the new shop.

“As long as we keep the customer flow going, it should be good,” Gonzales said. “When I saw the building, I said they are for real. This is the real deal.”

Zhu is optimistic business will start picking up.

“This is brand new here,” he said. “It’s starting a little bit slow. We’re trying to get our name exposed more. We’re here to help and have reasonable rates. I think we are needed in town, it’s just a matter of time.”

The shop labor rate is $82.50 an hour, while police, fire and military members get a 15 percent discount. The shop phone number is 971-202-2299.

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