Auto Value celebrates 25 years in Rush City

Jeff Haugrud, one of the longest retail owners in town, is big on customer service and parts for many needs

Store owner Jeff Haugrud and employee Rob Johnson, an ASE-certified technician, pictured with the many auto part products and accessories found at Auto Value in Rush City. Photo by Jon Tatting
Store owner Jeff Haugrud and employee Rob Johnson, an ASE-certified technician, pictured with the many auto part products and accessories found at Auto Value in Rush City. Photo by Jon Tatting

Auto Value is celebrating its 25th anniversary as one of the longest retailers in Rush City.

Customers in need of vehicle repair or maintenance often count on this complete auto service center for its professional services, products and know-how through the Automobile Parts Specialists or ASE-certified technicians on staff. Auto Value is located at 105 W. Fourth St., about a block west of Forest Boulevard and the Grant House Hotel and Eatery.

“It’s a milestone for me,” said owner Jeff Haugrud of the anniversary. “I grew up two houses down, and I never thought in high school I’d own an auto parts business down on the corner. It’s a good feeling to be a part of the community.”

Haugrud takes pride in a team of three full-time and two part-time staff who keep abreast of the latest in auto parts services and products through attending training seminars and achieving various certifications on a regular basis. Most, if not all, have backgrounds in mechanics or a similar field.

“I always try to treat customers the way I would like to be treated,” Haugrud noted. “We have knowledgeable staff with not much turnover, and we’re known for having hard-to-find parts. Knowledge of the products we’re selling is huge. It’s a level of service that differentiates us from others.”

Haugrud understands the needs and demands of the local market from growing up in Rush City. It was during his high school years that he got his start in the auto parts business when he worked at the old Texaco station, which is now East Central Tire, across from the mill in Rush City.

He graduated from Rush City High in 1974.

Following high school, he took business and marketing classes in college with the idea of earning a degree and owning an auto parts store in Rush City, which lacked such a business at the time.

Plans changed, however, in 1975 when he was approached by Clifford Erhart, owner of the Pine City General Trading Company. “You don’t have to go back to school. I’ll teach you this business,” Haugrud remembered the successful businessman telling him.

He was promoted to manager within a year, and he worked there for 10 years with many valuable lessons learned along the way.

“I learned of other resources for parts in order to not say ‘no’ to the customer,” Haugrud recalled. “You need repeat business in a small town or you won’t survive.”

Around 1985, he took on a partner and opened a new store, Carquest, in North Branch. It was the first time on his own, and John Bistodeau was his business partner.

Back in Rush City, a few years later, the NAPA Auto Parts store was up for sale, and the partners were looking to expand. Haugrud seized the opportunity.

“We had good business in North Branch with a good base from Rush City,” Haugrud noted. “When (the NAPA store) came up for sale, I told the owner, Arlie Hagman, that I’d be interested in taking over ownership. That was 1988, and here I am.”

So Haugrud moved and became the new owner of the Rush City store, which became Carquest Auto Parts and then Auto Value with an affiliation with the Bumper to Bumper brand in 2006. Bistodeau, meantime, continued operating Carquest in North Branch.

“For a short time, we had two stores until we bought each other out in 1989,” Haugrud said. “It was a mutual, amicable split.”


Keeping up on the times

Over the years, Auto Value has kept atop of the auto parts industry out of convenience for the customer. An example of this is the store’s twice-a-day delivery service, Haugrud said.

The retailer also has kept up with technology, as items from cars to equipment have become highly computerized. That and the overall supply of such goods has grown.

“Technology has been the biggest change over the years,” Haugrud said. “There are so many models of vehicles, so the demand for parts is that much more. We’ve gone from offering 10-12 fuel filters to 50-60. We have space in the store to stock everything. We’re packed with parts.”

Auto Value offers free 24-point inspections, 12-month or 12,000-mile part and labor warranties and services ranging from alignment, towing and lock-out, and driveline and suspension. As for products, staff can access a wide array of supplies on an in-store computer.

With a heating and air conditioner specialist and a certified state and emissions control inspection station, Auto Value assists with preventative maintenance and tune-ups, computer diagnostics and drivability and complete brake service. The business services imports, sells tires, stocks AutoBody Master and offers $10 off any service of $50 or more with coupons.

Further, the technicians install exhaust systems, turn drums and rotors, test starters, alternators and batteries. Offered, too, are machine shop services, paint and body supplies, marine parts, heavy duty and truck parts, high-performance truck accessories and ag parts.

From making hydraulic hoses to accommodating for small engine lawn and garden needs, Auto Value offers a range of services in the Rush City area.

Rush City Auto Value can be reached at 320-358-3651. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The store is closed Sundays.

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