Reporter's Notebook: Support Your Local Businesses

How do you support your friends and their businesses?

The right answer is to patronize them. It is easy to do. Need your car repaired, your friend will take care of you. Same thing with automotive retail, computer repair, marketing, restaurants, and so forth. 

Let me focus on a few people in my life who I root for in their respective businesses. Two of which had a recent Grand Opening and Open House each. 

John Wayne Pha is known as the one of the nicest and most generous people in the Twin Cities’ car culture. He does things on a high level because he and will. 

I met him years ago when he only had one shop: Budget Auto Repair in New Brighton, Minnesota. It was a shop that focused on general repairs and maintenance, which is fine. However, Pha had a dream to elevate car culture with a shop that’s focused on serving them right. 

That dream was realized this year with the opening of J.W.P. Automotive. The new Saint Paul shop is focused on servicing and modifying higher end vehicles and elevating the experience for each of their customers. 

The building that J.W.P. opened up in a space that began life as a foundry built before World War II in the Union Park neighborhood near Snelling Avenue. The industrial area is right up against some housing and Concordia University. 

However, you can sense that magic will happen on that old foundry site. If not, already. That magic starts from Pha and his wife Paige with the crew he assembled to work in the large shop. 

Recently, I attended J.W.P.’s Open House. So did a huge number of folks from the area’s car culture. It was as I expected from my previous visit there – lots of bays with lifts, the coolest rides in the areas, and a cross-section of practically everything you’ll find inside. Of course, there’s a good number of Acura NSXs inside – Pha’s preferred ride. 

Being there was not just a welcoming atmosphere – as welcoming as John and Paige were. The bonus to that day was seeing old friends again, such as photographer Adam Cha and his wife Pa. Pa and I go back almost a decade. I do miss them, now they’re in the Phoenix/Valley of The Sun area. 

Much love and respect to those I’ve seen at J.W.P. that day!

Prior to J.W.P.’s Open House, automotive retailer Richard Herod III finally had his Grand Opening for The Bear Lot in Mounds View, Minnesota. This is his second location under the Bear Autos group, including White Bear Mitsubishi

The Bear Lot consists of a combination of automotive retail services. You have both used vehicles, along with new Suzuki motorcycles and powersports. There is a robust service department for all brands, along with an on-site car wash, and a reconditioning center. Just like the Mitsubishi store in White Bear Lake, the Mounds View site was a former Saturn retail site. 

The grand opening event featured local officials and chamber of commerce representatives. Herod and his marketing teams also brought in sports mascots, such as T.C. from the Minnesota Twins, Mudonna from the St. Paul Saints (AAA affiliate of the Twins), and Goldy Gopher from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. They joined The Bear Lot/White Bear Mitsubishi own cuddly mascot for the event. 

After a year of soft openings and actual operations in the face of this pandemic, it was good that Herod and his team were able to cut the ribbon to the new location. The pride Richard has in the businesses he leads is infectious. I am glad we struck a connection nine years ago over a political campaign to working with each other creating stories for this and other outlets. 

I mention these two businesses is because of the experience I had with them, and the people involved with them. In this business, you must have a great relationship with the people you are working with. That includes people at the manufacturers, suppliers, public relations and advertising agencies. 

Given the nature of some of my relationships, the criticism I get is that I am too localized for my own good. Granted, Victory & Reseda and two other outlets are based in this market. I also write for a local/regional publication. Yes, my material is read nationally – even internationally – why can’t I establish relationships locally?

The Twin Cities used to manufacture automobiles. Yet, this region still has a strong automotive community and car culture that needs to be fed. It makes sense to cultivate a base with local businesses and individuals who do fantastic work in the community. I also feel compelled to represent them whenever I am away from my home base. That way, I make sure that they are represented and connected to what I do elsewhere. You always know when you come home that your people and community will always be there. 

“Think globally; act locally” should be the theme here. That is why I’m giving them their flowers – that hip term that signifies a mention of an influential and important entity in one’s life and work. 

And, it’s not just automotive businesses that should be recognized here. 

I need to give my friend Gary Ezell and his wife Anna a shout out in here. He is now working to enhance the menus of a group of restaurants in the Twin Cities. One of which has been known as the “clubhouse” for Victory & Reseda – Joey Nova’s Pizzeria in Tonka Bay, Minnesota. 

Why is it a “clubhouse?” Imagine the days of the late Brock Yates where car culture went into hyperspace from the Lock, Stock, and Barrel restaurant in Darien, Connecticut or, rather, the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California. I’ll even add the Siebken’s Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. In a sense, you had a chunk of the Twin Cities’ car enthusiast crowd who have made their presence known at this pizza place near the shore of Lake Minnetonka. 

Joey Nova’s have won their share of awards. Their food backs up these awards. The atmosphere is down home. Well…down home for the Lake Minnetonka area. Still, you do not take time out of your day or evening to drive almost a half-hour for a half-hearted attempt at food. 

These days, you will rarely see Ezell at Joey Nova’s. He’s got other restaurants he’s working with to elevate their profiles. Nonetheless, he is a friend who does more than just slinging food at his clientele. 

You want your friends to succeed in business and in life. Pha, Herod, and Ezell are among those whom I root for daily towards achieving greater success. Even when things are out of their control, their work challenges them to work smarter towards getting through these rough waters. 

If you have a friend in business – any business – support them. Tell them they’re doing a great job. Promote them on your social media channels. Invite your friends to check them out sometime!

Consider this your invitation to check out J.W.P. Automotive, The Bear Lot, and Joey Nova’s. 

All photos by Randy Stern

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