Liberty’s Garage is Still in Good Hands
By John T. Ryan
Peru – Liberty’s Garage is a Peru institution. Jack Liberty operated the garage for 25 years. In 1995, Chazy native Jim Champagne purchased the business and successfully operated it until cancer took his life on August 31, 2016. Karen Champagne, Jim’s wife of 38 years, faced a life-changing decision. Would she continue her 22-year career as a clinic manager at Eye Care for the Adirondacks? Would she sell the business or would she become a service station operator?
Karen reflected for several weeks on her undoubtedly emotional choices. While she had her own career, she had helped Jim save money to buy the business. She knew how much he loved his business, its employees and customers. She said, “I had to decide what path I would follow. The doctors I worked for, Dr. Dahlen and Dr. Vilbert, had sold their practice. I thought about selling the garage, but I just wasn’t ready to let that part go.” On Monday morning December 12, 2016 Karen Champagne walked into Liberty’s Garage as its new operator.
Operating a service station has been an entirely new experience. Karen remarked, “Jim talked about the business at home, but there’s a big difference between talking and doing. Fortunately, the staff welcomed me with open arms. They couldn’t have been more accommodating.” Customers know that humor has always been a welcome commodity at Liberty’s. Karen commented, “There hasn’t been too much laughter with my questions. There’s been a few chuckles, especially about my notes.” Karen appreciates her staff’s patience. When it came time to take a photo for this story she said, “Let’s do our family picture.”
Liberty’s Garage has a long history of success and Karen is working hard to continue that legacy. She said, “We want to continue doing good honest work. I try to put myself in the customer’s shoes. We try to explain a bill so a customer can understand what they are paying for.” Women customers will undoubtedly appreciate Karen’s perspective. She explained, “I think we treat female customers the same as male customers when we explain a bill. I want this to be a place where everyone is comfortable.”
Liberty’s is well known for its experienced, highly trained staff. Shop Manager Robert Desotelle is a National Institute of Automotive Excellence (ASE) Certified Master Auto and Medium and Heavy Truck Technician with 12 years experience. Todd Martineau is a C.V. Tech graduate with twenty-seven years experience. Donald Westerkamp graduated from the Lincoln Technical Institute in Connecticut where he studied automotive technology. Leo Wood is the senior staff member with 17 years at Liberty’s. He is a tire expert and general purpose mechanic who enthusiastically greets almost every customer by name. Donna Downs is the staff accountant and works with Karen to schedule appointments. Gas customers appreciate Donna’s rapid service. It’s rare when any gas customer has to wait more than 30 seconds to transact a purchase.
Liberty’s Garage offers the latest technology and a wide-range of services. It subscribes to online electronics services and recently purchased a high-tech computer diagnostic machine. Tune-ups, brake, suspensions and tire work are the most common shop activities, although Liberty’s will even replace engines and transmissions.
The garage is open Monday – Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call 518-643-9016 to make an appointment.