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Liberty’s Garage is Still in Good Hands

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L-R Todd Martineau, Leo Wood, Karen Champagne, Donna Downs, Robert Desotelle, Donald Westerkamp

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.

Comments

Comment from Donna Pearce
Time April 5, 2017 at 7:13 pm

Thank you for the wonderful article on Liberty’s Garage and all the wonderful people who work there. Nice to see all get recognition.

Comment from Jodi Currier
Time April 6, 2017 at 6:44 am

I’m originally from Peru, I’ve lived in Saranac for 36 years. I worked at CFA Insurance and did most of my errands in Peru. I needed my vehicle inspected, decided to use Liberty’s and I was hooked! I dropped my car off in the morning and was amazed at their customer service, they delivered my car to me at work!! Nobody does that kind customer service anymore!! I no longer work in Peru, but I still go to Liberty’s for my inspections! All of the Liberty employees “family” are always very pleasant and accommodating!! Jim had a high standard of customer service that is still being carried on! I’m confident that he is looking down with that great smile he had!

Sincerely,
Jodi Currier

Comment from Dave KELLAS
Time April 6, 2017 at 9:07 am

I had the pleasure of working for Jack Liberty for a couple of years while in high school. He was a heck of a man. I was there in 71 or early 72 when the fire leveled the old Service Station. In 24 hours the old station was bulldozed over the bank and we were still serving gas customers out of a plywood structure as the plans for the current building were formed and it was built. I entered the US Airforce.in March of 72 sure hated to leave that job but with the experience learned in those couple of years enabled me to bypass Airforce Mechanics School and go on to a Direct Duty assignment for On The Job Training as a Heavy Equipment Mechanic for my 4 year Air Force Career at Limestone AFB in Maine. To this day when I visit Peru I have fond memories of Jack and Liberty’s Garage.

Comment from Jan Foster
Time April 11, 2017 at 7:51 am

I recently moved back to Peru, after a 30+ year absence. I was so glad to see Liberty garage and realize that they had full service, which I really appreciate now at my advanced age.
I met Karen, Donna and all the guys last week, when I went to get gas at Liberty’s. I shall continue to be a regular customer and now that it is getting warmer, I am sure they will see more of me, as my faithful old tin lizzie needs service. I think I found just the right place.

When I lived in Town, my family owned and operated the Peru Tavern until 1964 when my growing family made it necessary to move from the apartment we had upstairs, into a regular house. Some people wanted to buy, so we reluctantly sold the building and built a home on the Lake Shore Rd.

Anyone who remembers (you have to be old) will remember the fire that took what was a longtime, regular local meeting place and a historic landmark, out of commission. We had organizations, like the Lions Club and others meet there on a regular basis. Our patrons were like family. The fire station was right next door and in the block were Howard Marsha’s Pharmacy, the Red Front Market and a Laundromat. Upstairs we had a hotel, with several rooms and apartments. There is a Park there now, but I can still recall the logs from the Mason’s Lumber Mill floating down the river behind the building. Dick Liberty lived right across the river in a red brick house.
I still have fond memories of the days we lived there and the friends we made.
I am so glad that Karen decided to keep the garage and I am sure that a lot of other people are too. Like someone commented here “No one does that kind customer service anymore.”

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