No matter where you are from, walking into Southland Auto and Diesel in Spring Valley, MN, is like walking into any auto repair shop in your hometown. The new facility in the Spring Valley Industrial Park is the second home for the business in the last ten years, recently expanding from a smaller shop in town. The building may be new, but the original small town, friendly atmosphere, complete with a canine greeter named “Jet”, makes you realize that this isn’t just a business; it’s an integral part of the community.
For owner Isaac Hurst, that’s precisely the way it should be! Growing up in a small town in Tennessee, he will tell you that the “small-town community feel” is part of what makes Spring Valley the perfect place to live and work. “I can drive around town and wave to everyone I pass on the street because they are part of our community. I know most of my customers and their families because we build those relationships. The goal is to gain a customer for life,” he says, then adding with a smile, “or at least until they move too far away to come back.”
Founded in 2010, Hurst started out with one goal, to sell used cars. With a background in auto repair, Hurst explains that his plan was to buy vehicles, fix them and sell them; that was it. Luckily for Hurst, it didn’t stay that simple. “People started asking if I could work on their other vehicles,” says Hurst, “and 10 years later, here we are.”
Southland Auto and Diesel continues to grow and expand its’ services. Asked if Southland Auto and Diesel has a specialty, Hurst admits that his team has a pretty broad skill set. The shop currently offers services on anything from electrical diagnostics and oil changes to advanced projects like aftermarket intakes, exhausts and, more recently, suspension systems as a Rough Country Suspension System authorized dealer. He adds that the shop has also started to take on more custom work, including older vehicles. A quick glance out the office window reveals a conspicuously bright yellow 1967 Pontiac Firebird sitting in a line of cars and trucks. When asked about it, Hurst grins, saying, “yeah, we’re gonna do some work on that. It hasn’t run in 20 years. I am sure it has some sort of built motor in it the way it looks.”
Faced with the need to expand several years ago, Hurst admits that he never considered leaving Spring Valley. “The Spring Valley community has treated us well and taken care of us. Our kids are in school here. I volunteer on the Fire Department,” adding that, “We have always tried to give back to the community, and in turn, the community has helped us succeed.” Talking about the business environment, he states that the Spring Valley City Council and Spring Valley EDA have always been welcoming, open to new ideas, and willing to work with the business as it grows.
When asked what makes Spring Valley special, Hurst says, “Spring Valley is a place where people are willing to invest their time and energy on community activities and events that a lot of other towns don’t have,” giving examples like the annual Fins and Films, festival and Spring Valley’s Ag Days, the annual week-long celebration each July. As a business owner, he understands that having a successful business is important and acknowledges that money isn’t everything. “Being able to contribute to the lives of my employees and help them grow and succeed has been rewarding.”
As for the future of Southland Auto & Diesel, it looks bright. “We just keep growing every year,” says Hurst. Southland Auto and Diesel currently employs 4 full-time mechanics (and one canine greeter) and admits that he will need to hire an additional mechanic sooner than later.
Asked what he would tell businesses looking to move or expand to Spring Valley, he offers his success along with other local businesses as proof that the Spring Valley community is inviting to new businesses and ideas. “You don’t need to leave Spring Valley for things like groceries, auto repair, hardware, and other services,” he says. “We have a lot of good job opportunities for all skill sets, from retail to manufacturing and others.”
For Isaac Hurst and Southland Auto and Diesel, it really is all about Community!