Ken Hobson is remaining steadfast on Springfield Road.
The Ultra Transmission owner has faced challenges with the opening of the Chief Peguis Trail extension in December 2011. The extension, which connected Henderson Highway to Lagimodiere Boulevard, split up Springfield into two sections — the western portion dead-ends after Gateway Road, and the eastern portion dead-ends west of Lagimodiere.
The latter strip of Springfield is home to Ultra Transmission (1031 Springfield Rd.), which Hobson said has had to work extra hard to bring in customers, as the bulk of those driving by without a specific destination are from outside the neighbourhood and unaware of the closure when making the turn onto Springfield.
With those challenges in mind, the 73-year-old company president is hosting a customer appreciation day on June 21 from 1 to 4 p.m. Hobson, who also owns the two neighbouring buildings housing J&W Automotive Service to the west and Auto Check Service Centre to the east, said the day will include hot dogs, classic cars, and live entertainment for those who choose to attend. As Ultra Transmission is marking its 25th year on Springfield Road, though having occupied three different buildings as it has grown, the event marks an anniversary as well.
Hobson, who grew up in East Elmwood and now resides in East St. Paul, said before the closure, he counted about 20,000 cars passing the businesses per day, a number that dropped substantially with the closure. However, after some initial shock and worry his two tenants would move, Hobson noted the companies were able to make do as they had several committed customers.
"Our longtime customers found us," Hobson explained. "We found that it really didn’t affect us too much."
After the closure, Hobson explained the business had to advertise for the first time and promoted a salesman to go on the road to help bring people down to the location.
"We had to influence more in wholesale," explained Hobson, who has worked in the automotive industry since 1957. "Wholesale is easier for us, because when you’re selling wholesale, all you need is an address."
In order to minimize the closure’s effects, Hobson had initially proposed a merge onto Springfield from Chief Peguis in order to avoid dead-ending, and with that request denied, is now working to place signage on Lagimodiere Boulevard to direct drivers to the automotive strip along this section of the road.