By Alex Gallacher
Right at the corner of Water Street and Prince Street stands one of Minden’s most iconic buildings. Founded originally as a Ford dealership, it then became a Texaco gas station. Dave and Corinne Howell took over the property in 1985, eventually growing it into one of the most respected garages in the county.
However, as the Howells got older they looked to sell the business and retire. In came Dave’s apprentice Dennis Pennie, who along with his wife Lori, took over the business of Minden Auto Care a handful of years ago and since then have taken the shop to a next level.
“I worked for Dave for about a year-and-a-half as an apprentice,” Pennie said. “He had the place for sale and I asked him if he wanted to hire a mechanic, he said no right away. A couple of days later he called me and asked me if I was interested in buying the shop. I was interested but it was the wrong time. He hired me after that, took me under his wing and a year later Lori and I bought the shop.”
When Pennie bought the shop from Howell, Howell had prepared Pennie to take over. He introduced him to all the customers and got him known in the community. When Howell sadly passed away from cancer, Pennie felt a sense of pride that he was able to carry on Howell’s legacy while forging one for himself.
Prior to coming to Minden, Pennie was no slouch in the automotive world. Running his own mechanic shop in the Barrie area, he specialized in European imports such as Audi, VW, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
“Before coming here we were in Alcona,” Pennie continued. “We were there for 20 years and I owned my own shop called Alcona Car Care right downtown. We had that specific shop for around 10 years. Before that I had a shop called European Tech Automotive in Barrie. My background is in the European models, but with the team here, we work on every make and model you can think of.”
Out front of the shop you can find everything being worked on, from vintage MGs, to modern VW Jettas and Chevy Cobalts. Pennie’s passion for cars is one of the things that has kept him going strong all these years in each business venture he has. Having experienced everything from heavy machinery repair to luxury car service, after Pennie finished school the world was his oyster.
Since coming here to Minden, Pennie fell in love with the community. Coming here was one of the best decisions he has made and he doesn’t regret it one bit — the people, the atmosphere and most importantly the great living environment makes this a prime spot to build a life.
“I love the people here,” Pennie said. “Down south it was very busy all the time. You didn’t have as polite a people as you do here. Everyone is easy going, easy to please, it’s just a very nice small town and we fit in. We both grew up in smaller communities and it’s just what we know. This is more our speed and when we bought the place we had so much support from all the locals who were willing to help us. We went from a big house to a small apartment above the shop, so everyone came together to help us out and it’s much appreciated.”
Minden Auto Car is a full service shop. That means they work on everything, with three additional licensed mechanics who all have their own specialties to help diversify the shop’s offerings. They are family and pet-friendly, and with the scenic location by the Riverwalk, it makes it easy for patrons to take their furry friends and go for a stroll while waiting for their car to be done.
Pennie plans to grow Minden Auto Care, doing his best to bring back some of the things the shop used to do back in the day. Living his dream along with his wife by his side, Pennie has been prepping his new apprentice Adam Judd to hopefully take over after Dennis is gone.
“My plan is to sell cars out of here,” Pennie concluded. “Dave was one of the only used car dealers in the county and I plan on continuing that in the near future. I’m going to step back on the actual mechanic side to focus more on my customers and the actual selling of cars. Our lead tech Adam is who I’m hoping will take over in the future. I want to expand, but we’ve still got a long ways to go before that happens.”
With the strong foundation that has been built already, the future of Minden Auto Car looks very bright and very sustainable.