Vashon Auto Parts closes due to cash crunch

Vashon Auto Parts closed unexpectedly and without fanfare on Feb. 4, just hours after owner Stu Luhr found out his business did not receive a “gap loan” he’d been counting on.

Luhr said he hopes to revamp his shop’s operating model and re-open with a smaller plan, but he’s unsure if or when that will be possible.

“The business model that we have now does not make money, so we’re loooking for a way that will. That essentially means get smaller,” Luhr said.

He said a smaller shop, with less on-hand inventory and fewer employees, could reduce the store’s operating and overhead costs and perhaps make it more profitable.

The loan Luhr was expecting was similar to temporary loans he’d gotten before from his bank, he said. But upon finding out Monday morning he hadn’t been approved for the loan, he “just couldn’t operate.”

He informed his eight employees that day that the store was closing indefinitely that afternoon, and at 2 p.m. the small shop shut its doors.

With a “fairly balanced” ledger between money owed and money in the coffers, Luhr closed the doors of Vashon Auto Parts on Monday in a good-faith gesture to his bank, he said.

“The deal I have with them is that I couldn’t sell any more inventory because they didn’t want to diminish that asset,” he said.

But as the Island’s only automotive supply store, the business is an asset to the community that some will miss, and they’re hoping Luhr will be successful in his bid to reopen his store.

Shortly after Vashon Auto Parts closed last week, Islanders posted a cardboard sign at the business’s front entrance, and several wrote messages to Luhr in the following days.

“Say it ain’t so,” one note was scrawled; “Hang in there! We need you!” another well-wisher had jotted down.

Several Island mechanics regularly ordered parts through Vashon Auto Parts, but now have to do all their business with companies from the mainland.

“It’s very disappointing; they’re Island guys and an Island business,” said Diana Stanley, office manager at Doug’s Auto Repair, which often ordered parts through Luhr. “In this day and age, we’re really trying to support Island businesses, and now we have to go off-Island for basically everything we do.”

She said she’s unsure if the closure of the business in Vashon Plaza will cause delays in automotive repairs at Doug’s.

“We really don’t know the impact it’s going to have,” Stanley said.

“The first week it was very crazy here, but we’ve got vendors from off-Island, Baxters and NAPA,” that will fill Doug’s parts needs, she added.

Stanley and others are rooting for Luhr, who has owned the auto parts business for more than three years.

To quote a large, Sharpie-scribbled note on cardboard, “Don’t go. We like you guys.”

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