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Omaha Magazine

History: Buchanan’s Service Centers Handle Vehicle Troubles Off-Hours

Apr 28, 2022 04:19PM ● By Sean McCarthy
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Most people can think of one Friday after work when their car wouldn’t start. Or when their battery chose to die on a Sunday just as they were planning on running a day’s worth of errands. The lucky people who have a car reliable enough to avoid those pitfalls can still find plenty of screws and nails scattered about driveways, parking lots, and streets—determined to make one’s night or weekend miserable. That’s not even mentioning the pothole situation in Omaha. 

Most auto service centers have the 8 to 5 hours worked by about 80% of America, according to the Department of Labor. Fortunately for Omaha motorists, there are two Buchanan’s Service Centers that pick up the slack when most mechanics hang up their ‘Closed’ sign. The locations—one each at 80th and Dodge streets and 50th and Dodge streets—offer general repairs, tire fixes, and oil changes until 11 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends. 

Two locations. Two shifts. Two very different days, weather-wise. 

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On a bitingly cold Thursday night in February at the 80th and Dodge location, evening service manager Brandon Minor had a relatively quiet night that included working on an early 2000s-era black Honda Accord with a misfiring cylinder. At 7:30 in the evening, Minor was the only one in the garage. Depending on the complexity of the order, Minor said he usually works on five cars a night. 

When asked what the most common repairs during the off-hours were, every mechanic at both locations said two things: tire repairs and oil changes. Because of the cold temperatures during Minor’s Thursday night shift, he had already completed two battery replacements. As the temperatures get nicer, Minor said he expected to see a lot of pothole-related repairs. Minor, who has worked at Buchanan’s for 11 years, remembered one particularly brutal season in 2019. 

“We were literally having people leave after getting a new tire, and hitting another one [pothole], and blowing a tire again,” Minor said. 

Potholes aren’t the only thing that have caused the demise of tires at Buchanan’s. Minor extracts plenty of nails and screws from vehicles on an almost daily basis. But he has found far weirder stuff inside tires.  

“We’ve found wrenches, knives…we’ve found bullets,” Minor said. “Rifle bullets…we’ve pulled two of those out the last two years. Be careful of those.”

The cold temperatures kept customers away for Minor’s Thursday shift. But as temperatures crept up later in the week, so did the activity. Three days later, at Buchanan’s 50th and Dodge street location, business was brisk on a Sunday afternoon. Though the temperatures were struggling to reach the 40s, there was a line for the car wash, and a steady stream of punctured tires and battery checks were keeping the team busy. 

Trumaine Kedelty, the Sunday manager, was busy finishing repairs to a Nissan Rogue and taking the occasional phone call, one from a stranded motorist at one of the casinos in Council Bluffs. During his shift, he received three separate calls from people who said their front left tire was wobbling. 

“After the second person, I was a little confused. And when the third person came in, I thought ‘something’s definitely going on,’” Kedelty said. 

Customer Al Thomas’ Sunday began with him forgetting that he had a piece of trim with some nails in it laying inside his garage. When he backed his Chevy pickup over the trim, he instantly knew what had happened. He got out and looked at the damage to his tire. 

“More than a couple minutes, it started going down,” Thomas said. 

He remembered Buchanan’s was open because he used to live near 50th and Dodge streets. He drove his Chevy over to the station and waited while the team worked on his tire. The team was able to save the tire by patching it. Janice Hume rung him up. It was the last hour of her shift, which began at 7 a.m. The day before, she worked a 16-hour shift. 

“I’m the go-to,” Hume laughed. “I’m the one that has nothing going on at home. All my kids are grown and out of the house.” 

Hume has been a cashier at Buchanan’s for almost two years. She picked up several extra shifts in late 2021 and early 2022 as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was spreading. On Jan. 9, Hume herself contracted COVID-19. 

Bob Fenster, owner and manager at Buchanan’s, said almost a third of his team contracted COVID-19 during the Omicron surge. Fenster said he ended up filling in for a few mechanics who were ill, including the occasional late shift.

Evenings and weekends would seem to be the time for emergency repairs, but oil changes contribute to a majority of Buchanan’s “non-business hours” service requests. One reason for this is simply because most people’s work schedules nearly overlap the hours of most mechanic shops. By offering an extra window of time, Buchanan’s can fit into most people’s schedules, Fenster said. 

“We’re a fast-paced place,” Fenster said. “We get ’em in, get ’em out, and get ’em going.” 

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This article originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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