‘Everyone loves Steve:’ Firsdon and son retire from Pemberville auto business | News

PEMBERVILLE — After 45 years in the automotive business, it was inevitable that Steve Firsdon would receive a nickname — or two — from his loyal customers.

Firsdon, who retired on January 1, said he prided himself on the quick work, spending no more than two days on most vehicles before returning them to their owners.

“My goal was to keep the parking lot clear,” he said. “They called me ‘Zippy’ because I was fast.”

The other tagline tells how adored Firsdon is: “Everybody loves Steve.”

“It was beautiful. … I’m grateful to the whole community,” Firsdon said. “There are so many memories, it’s amazing.”

Firsdon recounted how he went from an outsider, who was reluctantly accepted as his business began to flourish, to a famous city dweller.

He moved to Pemberville in 1975; he grew up on a farm just outside of town. Firsdon had a reputation for successfully running petrol stations and was asked to take on a struggling one in the village.

He agreed and Steve’s Sohio – later Steve’s BP, then still later Steve’s Car Care – on Bierley Avenue opened in May 1976.

It took about two years to turn the company around and about as long to gain acceptance, Firsdon said. Steve’s Car Care offered gas, towing, and major and minor vehicle repairs.

Word quickly spread about the excellent service. Firsdon picked up your car for you, leaving his vehicle on the curb and driving yours to the station for service.

He even let customers run a tab for gas, paying the bill at the end of the month.

“I’m old school. My station was old school and everyone loved it.

Firsdon has developed a special relationship with the residents of Otterbein Portage Valley, picking up their cars for service and returning them.

“I treated them very special, I got their cars,” he said. “It just started with one, a long time ago. They said next person and next person.

Firsdon has also donated to the community. He was involved in the Pemberville Free Fair, specifically the Auto Show.

“Over the years, I’ve coached girls and boys (baseball, softball, soccer). I have always been associated with the free fair and car shows. We have four car shows a year,” he said.

He stepped in to coach his daughter’s team when no one else would, even though he had no idea how the game was playing.

“I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about football and I accepted it and we were first in the league,” Firsdon said. “I have no idea (why they did so well). I just got down to their level. I didn’t dictate to them. I wasn’t hard on them.

The Eastwood High School graduate took two years of business management courses at Bowling Green State University. The rest of his training came from growing up on a farm,

“I was basically living by the Golden Rule,” Firsdon said. “The key is to listen and have good help.”

He had the best help from his son, Tony, who left the company with him on January 1. They hope to take a vacation together – their first since 1990 – because if one was absent, the other would cover.

“He’s 3/4 of why we’ve been successful all these years,” Firsdon said of Tony. “When I announced in October that I was retiring, he immediately had six offers.”

He said technology got the better of him. They didn’t have a computer in the store. Chips aren’t something he wanted to learn.

“That’s part of the reason I retired. I’m 72,” Firsdon said. “I have other things I want to do besides going up and down with the elevator.”

He enjoys walking around his rural home in Bowling Green, wearing his favorite sweatshirt that reads “God put me on earth to do a number of things. Right now I’m so far behind that I’ll never die.

He plans to spend time with Tony and his daughter, Stephanie, who lives in Kent, her four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He also wants to travel with his five siblings.

“I have a farm. Dad died in 1997 and the barn still contains stuff from 20 years before his death.

Firsdon didn’t want anyone worrying about his retirement. But on the last day, a contingent from the village came to the company to declare December 31 “Steve Firsdon Day” in Pemberville.

He didn’t quite put the key down either. It helps the new managerial transition.

“I entered slowly, I leave slowly.”

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