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The Auto Shop is Steve Rennison's Legacy of Love and Learning After the co-founder’s sudden passing, his wife and children keep the family business thriving – and training. It seems fitting that Steve Rennison met his future wife, Marie, on the school bus, as he dedicated the next four decades to continuing education – for himself, for his children, and for all the technicians at the family business, The Auto Shop NAPA AutoCare Center in Carbondale, Ill. Although he passed away on March 12, 2019, his legacy lives on as three generations of Rennisons continue building both the business and their collective knowledge of how to bring the best to their customers every day. ‘He could fix anything’ For the first dozen years of their marriage, Rennison worked for a radiator repair company that eventually closed its doors, leaving him searching for his next career move. “He would apply for jobs, and come home and say, ‘Marie, I can’t work for them,’” Marie Rennison recalled. “We did a lot of praying about it, and he felt the calling to open his own business. Back in the days when everyone fixed their own vehicles, Steve used to help his father, who had been a mechanic in the Air Force. He could fix anything, and once he stopped fighting the idea of being a mechanic, we opened the shop on February 1, 1992.” By then, the Rennison family had grown to include four children, ranging in age from 14 years down to 10 months old – and another soon joined the crew. “We named the business The Auto Shop because Steve would say to the kids, ‘We’re going to go down to the shop!’,” she explained with a laugh. “We’d bring them down on the weekends. Steve gave them an old lawn mower. I made them little uniforms to look like their dad. They got ingrained early!” A year after opening, The Auto Shop became the first NAPA AutoCare Center in Carbondale. “NAPA came to us, and we were willing to hear what they had to say,” Marie Rennison remembered. “It made sense.
We serve a college community, including students from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, so we like the nationwide warranties and the familiar signage. Digital inspections have been a great addition. Customers appreciate NAPA EasyPay and the instant savings and rebates. We told NAPA it would be our first call, and we’ve abided by that. They’re good to work with.” ‘He had a teacher’s heart’ Of course, a key selling point for Steve Rennison was NAPA’s extensive opportunities for training. “His shop was always doing training, always wanting more training, for anything and everything NAPA had to offer,” recalled Josh Stroud, District Sales Manager at the NAPA AUTO PARTS store in Carbondale, who met the Rennisons through NAPA in the early 2000s. “He was the reason we started our Business Development Group, long before it was something everyone was doing.” After Rennison earned his ASE Master Certified Technician certification, he continued training to ensure that he and all his technicians kept up with the evolving industry.