A fire in January of this year destroyed Salinas Auto Repair in Blooming Prairie, but now the shop is looking to reopen by the end of September. Herald file photo.

Archived Story

BP auto shop will rise from its ashes

Published 6:55pm Saturday, September 1, 2012

In January, Robert Salinas’ auto repair shop mysteriously went up in flames. Now, he’s getting ready to open it up again.

In the months following the sudden destruction of his car shop, Salinas, owner of Salinas Auto Repair, worked out of a storage building behind where the old Salinas Auto Repair used to be, doing basic car maintenance. Because the storage building did not have the expensive tools used for car maintenance in it, any work that normally would take place under the vehicles could not be done.

The new garage for Salinas Auto Repair is moved to its new location in Blooming Prairie. Photo provided

“We were actually working out of this building,” Salinas said. “We weren’t doing much, but we were doing what we could.”

Then in July he thought up a way to reopen shop with all his old services: move the storage building to the old shop’s lot.

“I took the building from the back to the front,” he said. “We’re putting it together. You could see big progress compared to what it was before.”

Now Salinas is preparing to put the strain of January’s fire behind him and open his business back up, in a way far more cost-effective than rebuilding could have been.

“If I would have put the same thing back up, what I had, it would have cost me $229,000,” he said.

That’s in part because of the $15,000 it would take to put water and sewer utilities into the storage building. But the estimate doesn’t include the expensive tools that the shop needs to do its work.

Salinas said his previous shop had $208,000 worth of tools, but only the insurance to cover $32,000.

The fire was a big hit for him financially.

Everything inside the shop was lost in the fire, including seven cars that were there to be serviced. Salinas said two of the cars are family-owned and five were customer-owned.


Insurance payments brought Salinas back some of the value from the destroyed building, but couldn’t quite stretch to cover the customers’ vehicles. Some customers had to bring their own insurance into play to cover part of what they lost in the fire, he said.

The Blooming Prairie community pitched in to help. The Knights of Columbus decided to help Salinas out, since he was an active member of the organization.

“The Knights put up a benefit for us,” he said.

At first he was against it, but then they convinced him he should not be embarrassed people were helping him out. The community, joined by people from Austin, Owatonna, Rochester and the Twin Cities, all donated. Ultimately, they raised more than $10,300.

Out of appreciation for the community, Salinas had the parking lot paved with a new black top to replaced the old crushed rock surface. He said it would be easier on elderly customers getting out of their cars to walk on a flat surface and would make visiting his shop more enjoyable for everyone.

“I wanted to give something back to the city of Blooming Prairie,” Salinas said.

As for the cause of the fire, Salinas said it only took a day or two until the fire marshall threw his hands up in the air.

The insurance company hired a private investigator, who Salinas said dug around for a while and asked him and his coworkers a number of questions. He answered them readily, wanting himself to figure out what happened to his business, but there was no conclusion.

“I wanted to know myself,” he said. “Nobody was able to help me with how it happened, or why it happened.”

While Salinas Auto Repair will still have the same three mechanics on staff plus a person at the desk, the new building won’t quite be the same as the old one.

Salinas said the last structure was too big, and he only used about 3/4 of the space. The new one will be a more appropriate size.

“I actually built it a little better now,” he said.

If all goes according to plan, Salinas is targeted the end of September for a grand opening.

“This has been the biggest headache that I’ve ever had in my life,” he said.


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