Springville

The building at 305 Broadway St. in Springville has a lot of history.

The main building was made from stones scavenged from the old Springville school torn down in 1939, an expansion-using stone from Stone City—was added in 1944 to make an extension when the business wanted to be a dealership for cars. For around half a century, however, it has served as the home of Carnhan Auto Supply & Services. Steve Carnahan started the business with his brother Joe back in 1963. He worked at the old Shell station starting at 16. After three years, as Steve went out to California to visit his brother, his boss asked him to consider buying the business.

“So, I did,” Steve Carnahan said.

Working from that spot for 10 to 15 years, the building they’ve inhabited ever since became available when the owners went out of business. Over the years, generations of both cars and people have come through its doors. Carnahan said his business thrived on word of mouth with three or four generations coming into his shop, and that reputation is something he’s immensely proud of.

“We had one guy that went to a church in Cedar Rapids, and he told his pastor. His pastor started driving in from Cedar Rapids to have his work done. He told his congregation. So, we had people from his congregation coming down to work on their cars,” he said.

With that wide range of customers, Carnahan’s worked on just about everything over the years: cars, trucks and even school buses.

“If it came in the door and we could figure it out, we worked on it,” Steve said. “Chryslers came out that talked to you…Now, the computer they’ve got in the cars, you just plug into the car’s computer with the computer you’ve got in your hand, it pretty much tells you what’s wrong with the car.

“It doesn’t fix it for you, but it’ll guide you in the right way.”

One of the few exceptions early on was imports because that required metric wrenches, but that changed eventually.

“Now, our American tools are obsolete. Everything is metric now.”

It’s not just cars and customers that have brought people through the doors over the years, the building was a source of fascination as well. When the 40’ x 80’ original building was built, people at the time didn’t think that would work and would collapse. Nearly 80 years later, the building still stands. The trusses that a Chicago architect designed have been studied by other big city architects and even served as the blueprint for the fire station across the street, Carnahan said.

Carnahan’s time in the building is coming to an end as he’s made the decision to sell the building and the business, though he’ll still run the car wash just a few blocks away. In retirement, he’s looking forward to freeing up time for other projects.

“[I’ll] probably go home and start patching up things there, honey-dos around the house, do some fishing and beer drinking,” he said of his plans to take advantage of his free time. “When you’re self-employed, you’re always one call away from the job.”

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