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2021 Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Award Winner: Matt Lachowitzer

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Matt Lachowitzer

For Matt Lachowitzer, a full-fledged auto repair group wasn’t exactly part of the plan, but he’s no stranger to rolling with the punches. He’s always had faith that trusting his gut to do what he knows is right would lead him in the best direction.

The Herman, Minn., native was set to attend the University of Minnesota to study law on a football scholarship when a crushing knee injury set him on a new path. Soon after, with just one semester in diesel mechanics under his belt, his sister discovered a grapefruit-sized brain tumor. As the oldest of his six, he left school to help out as she underwent surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and recovery. “There was no question about it. It was just the right thing to do,” he says.

Years later, he was working at a Chevy dealership when the 2008 recession hit and he watched as five experienced, hardworking, loyal technicians were let go to make way for twice as many auto school grads on much smaller salaries.

“That’s the moment I got a bad taste in my mouth and I just couldn’t buy into what was happening,” he says. “I didn’t have a clue as to what I was going to do next, but I knew I had to leave.”

The scrappy entrepreneur launched his own operation with just one lift, a toolbox, and $5,000 in the bank. As business picked up, he tapped his network for help and learned of a local Meineke technician who’d been fired after telling his manager he was hoping to go back to school.

“Why would you turn away someone who wants to keep learning and growing? That just didn’t sit with me. He started with me the next day as my first employee,” says Lachowitzer.

That technician not only helped Lachowitzer grow the business in those early days (expanding from a two-bay rental shop to a four-bay full building buyout in just eight months), he later became a trusted manager as Lachowitzer added store after store.

Today, Lachowitzer shows no sign of slowing down. Guided by that innate drive to do what’s right, he’s built his operation to five repair shops and a loyal team of 47. “When we expanded that first shop I thought I’d made it. I never thought I’d be here, but now that we have this full Matt’s Auto family that’s helping people every day, the more we grow the more we can make an impact.”

Matt's Auto in The Making

1996 - Begins work as a technician 

2008 - Leaves Chevy dealership

2009 - Opens first location in rented Moorhead, Minn. space with two bays

2010 - Buys out building to expand to four bays

2012 - Buys out an existing shop in Fargo, ND and opens first Fargo location(5 bays)

2013 - Surrounding land is bought for additional expansion to eight service bays

2015 - Buys and remodels a Fargo, N.D. nightclub

2016 - Moved existing Fargo shop into remodeled club as second permanent location with 10 service bays

2018 - Acquisition and remodel into Matt's Automotive & Collision Center

2018 - Purchase and remodel of a new South Fargo, N.D. shop

2019 - Purchase and remodel of a new South Moorhead, Minn. shop

2019 - Roof collapses at original Moorhead shop

2020 - A newly-rebuilt shop opens at the site of original Moorhead shop

2021 - Matt's Auto is currently working on four potential acquisitions and hopes to open two new stores each year to reach a total of 15 shops

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