For the shade-tree mechanic, an admittedly vanishing breed, there is a valuable resource in the person of Kyle Conroy, behind the counter at Kohl's Auto Parts, 906 West C Street.
Conroy, who started working for Barry Kohl during his senior year at McCook Senior High School, is busily amassing a variety of certifications, increasing his knowledge and his ability to provide customer service to Kohl's clientele.
In November, Kyle obtained his Automotive Service Excellence certification and his Elite Parts Force certification and in February will travel to Chicago to take the Dupont Paint Finishing certification course.
"Troubleshooting is part of the job virtually every day," Conroy explained. "The certification process assures our customers that I have the knowledge to back up the diagnosis."
Kyle was enrolled in the automotive program at MHS while Ron Barger was the instructor.
"Mr. Barger really helped get me started," he said, expressing his disappointment that the automotive program is no longer part of the curriculum. "Working on my own vehicles is kind of a hobby and Ron was great. It's becoming a lost art of sorts," he added, noting that the newer vehicles and do-it-yourselfers are not always a good fit.
Kyle likes working with the do-it-yourselfers though, finding them to be kindred spirits. "I'm a little stubborn, too, and want to keep my vehicles out of the shop if at all possible."
The high school program is at least partially responsible for Kyle's eight years of service at Kohl's. "I'd come into Kohl's for parts for the project and one thing just kind of lead to another and here I am."
It seems to be a good match. Kyle's favorite thing about the job is the daily variety. "Every day is a little different, with different problems to solve." His least favorite thing is inventory. "Nuts and bolts, ugh!"
The pride Kyle takes in his work is evident and his commitment to customer satisfaction is revealed each time he walks out to the parking lot with a customer, part in hand, making sure everything is right or demonstrating how to install wiper blades or battery cables to the uninitiated.
"We have a lot of clients that come in from Wauneta, Palisade, even Imperial," he said. "You want to be sure you send them on the way with the right part the first time." He admits they don't always get it right, but returns are rare, and "we do our best."
Kyle, who is engaged to be married, doesn't see any other big changes coming.
"You never stop learning in the automotive business," he said, "and my customers become my friends. I've developed too many good relationships to even think about leaving."