Curtis Napier can get right to the point with customers when it comes to assessing the value of a piece of lawn equipment.
“If someone brings something in that’s not worth repairing,” said Napier one day last week, “I tell them it’s junk and to get rid of it.” He says there’s no need to waste their money on something that can’t be fixed or would be expensive to fix.
“I really try to give them my honest assessment of its worth. There are times you can buy a new one cheaper.”
His shop is Napier’s Small Engine Repair at 145 Cardwell Lane, on the left just off Louisville Road.
Napier, 58, got his start fixing his mini-bike and go-cart. That childhood experience turned into a business that’s going strong now nearing 40 years.
“I’ve heard people say I’ve gone — or am going — out of business,” said the Frankfort native. “It’s just not true. I can’t afford to retire!”
Napier’s shop looks like any other large, gray, metal building. There’s no sign telling customers what business it houses. One would have no idea except during his 7 a.m.-4 p.m. hours when the space outside the building is occupied by a legion of ride and push lawnmowers, roto-tillers and other devices with small engines.
The inside is much the same as tagged items await pick up, attention — or elimination.
First paying job
Napier’s first paying job was repairing mowers and other equipment at Yagel’s Hardware Store in the building now occupied by Save A Lot near Casa Fiesta. His “office” was behind the store during warm weather and inside when it was inclement.
“Joe Yagel was a great guy to work for,” said Napier of the late Yagel. “I started working in the store and I guess Charlie (Joe’s son) figured I could work on lawnmowers.”
The rest is ongoing history.
When the store closed, Napier — seemingly always on or near Louisville Road — moved on west a couple of miles and opened in a building behind Paul Booker’s kennel. He was there for about 10 years before moving to his present location where he’s been for seven years.
“The bank and I own this one,” he said, laughing. “I plan to stay.”
An expert at his craft, Napier says regular maintenance is the life of a lawnmower — or any other device with an engine for that matter.
“You need to change the oil and filters at least once a year, keep the blade sharp, and keep the mowing deck clean.” Doesn’t sound too complicated, but it’s those who don’t follow the suggestions — or just don’t want to do the work themselves — who keep Napier in business.
Really busy now
“Now’s when it really gets busy,” he said. “It would be better if folks brought their mowers in for service in the winter, but they tend to put it off and wait until the grass shoots up — and the mower won’t start.”
Napier has more than seat-of-the-pants training, having been to classes at Briggs and Stratton, Lawn Boy and Lawn Chief.
“I treat my customers fair,” he said. “I’ve found it’s better to charge by the job rather than the hour. Sometimes the hours I may put in fixing something add up to more than the machine is worth. And I will tell them its useable life is over.
“If you take care of them, they’ll last a long time. It’s better to take care of them and save money than having to keep getting new ones.”
Napier says he’s found most people are honest and he enjoys dealing with them. “I have a pretty good bunch of customers.”
His number is 502-875-3184 and his hours are 7 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.