JAQ’S Garage was established in 1982 by Jeffrey Quam, who is still managing and involved with the daily operations today. In the mid 1970s Jeff was employed at the local VW/Audi dealership as a technician. He had first completed a VW technical training course and had worked two years as a technician, cutting his teeth on Beetles and then the “new” Rabbit. Jeff knew he wouldn’t be happy just “fixing” cars for a living. It was interesting work, solving puzzles every day and seeing the fruits of his labor go out the door every day was fulfilling but he didn’t care for the fragmented work environment.
“My desire from the very beginning has been to provide better and more personalized customer service for owners of Asian or European vehicles,” – Jeff Quam
After some traveling and several other jobs Jeff began to take on car repair jobs for friends and neighbors, working in his driveway in residential Moorhead. The garage had a dirt floor and was so tiny there was little or no room to move once a car was inside. Consequently, most repair work was done “California style” right in the driveway. Jeff recalls one incident where a customer dropped by for a tune up and a few hours later because of a complication in the repair, found himself helping Jeff carry the engine down a rickety stairway into the basement where Jeff could dissect it for major repair. Fortunately the customer was a good friend and the two laugh about it to this day.
It wasn’t long before complaints from the neighbors prompted a notice from the City of Moorhead. The notice informed him that he was to cease repairing cars from his residence and that it was unlawful to store cars without tires on them in his driveway. This prompted Jeff to move his operation down the street to a friend’s house, but the garage was well off the street and he was careful not to leave any dismembered cars in the driveway.
After a few months in this back street location, he realized he enjoyed this vocation and started looking for a legitimate home for his business. In 1982, on a tip from a friend, Jeff rented a 1000 square foot section of the building he eventually bought and is operating from to this day. He moved in with a box of hand tools, a waste oil heater, a floor jack and some jack stands. ”I purchased equipment one piece at a time, adding something whenever I could afford it. Much of our equipment was purchased second hand. Notably our brake lathe and an in ground hoist are still used today. Twenty years ago it was possible to add just a piece of equipment at a time. Today, someone would have to invest thousands of dollars to make even the simplest of repairs.”
Importance of Information
Presently Jeff’s big purchases as a shop owner are in software and technical information and training. Also, the technicians have to invest thousands in hand tools to keep up with new developments. Everyone at JAQ’S Garage has made the commitment to their customers and to the future of the business to keep up with the information needed to understand the new vehicles and the software required to repair and maintain them. The shop subscribes to 3 major technical web based databases that provide 99%% or the information JAQ’S uses presently to fix cars. One of these websites, the International Automotive Technicians Network or IATN uses the experience of its tens of thousands of members to solve the real brain teaser car problems that occasionally come along.
JAQ’S has recently added a network of computers so that every employee has a computer at his or her workstation to access information. Commonly, second only to the test drive, the technician goes to one of the technical websites as his or her first step in almost any repair. This quick access to that information is paramount to a prompt and thorough repair. “The shops who don’t have that electronic information readily available will struggle with the pace of change. Technical books are obsolete before they are even off the press. Accessing digital information is the biggest factor today in staying competitive in this business,” Quam says.
Jeff started using a computerized shop management system in 1994, which was fairly novel for an independent auto service provider at the time.
Jeff recalls, “That was a critical step for me ant it was influenced by my work with the local FM Soccer organization. I was doing scheduling and program development for that group at the time”. Jeff had no previous computer experience. He enlisted the help of his younger brother and father, purchased a computer, and started scheduling, entering teams, and writing letters to coaches and administrators. He quickly realized what a powerful tool this was and started seriously considering a system that could help with his customers and inventory. As is common with this type of organization, the volunteer comes out of that experience with an unexpected benefit.
Jeff recalls having difficulty doing research on the few shop management systems available at that time. He took a leap of faith and purchased a system, Garagekeeper. It was DOS based, had been reviewed favorably in the service publications and had as its motto, “Helping Independent Service Providers Stay Independent”. Jeff, with his father’s help, pecked away at the new system until they got it to work. They spent many late nights picking through the inventory entering part numbers for hours. At that time an independent Import repair shop had to stock may of its parts because the dealerships often didn’t stock anything for cars over 6 years old and the independent parts houses often couldn’t even order parts for imports much less have them on the shelf. Now with the abundance of Asian and European cars on the road and advances in inventory management, parts are more likely to be found locally and one’s own inventory isn’t as critical, in fact that inventory sometimes a detriment-financially and space wise.
Jeff has his preference for name brand parts and knows where to find what he needs.
“I still stock a lot of the parts for the cars we repair. It’s probably more of a bad habit than sound business sense but I know which parts work and deal with suppliers that I can trust. It’s also quicker to pull the parts off the shelf than waiting for a delivery.” – Jeff Quam
Jeff, Jim and Harry are all ASE certified, Jim and Jeff in 5 categories and Harry in 6 making him a Master Technician. Harry also holds a ……
Everyone attends local clinics on technical subjects when offered, usually by a parts store or a tool manufacturer.
Another source of training is in cooperation with a statewide professional organization, The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, or AASP. Shaun and Jeff regularly attend classes and meetings coordinated for AASP members. These events are usually held in Minneapolis and offer an opportunity to share ideas and network among fellow business owners and technicians.
Shaun Rode graduated from Wahpeton State School of Science in 2001 with a ….. degree. He has recently taken business courses from St Mary’s College in Bismarck, and graduated last May with a bachelor’s business degree. He is considering continuing school.
Jeff started his college career as an engineering major but could not decide on a degree. Although he doesn’t regret his educational choices, he wishes he had obtained a better financial background. “For years I struggled financially, always paying my bills but never having a firm footing of a financial plan and a way of measuring my progress. This is quite typical, says Quam, of Independent service provider owners like himself. “The typical owner starts his career as a technician, is pretty good at fixing cars and decides to go out and hang up a shingle. He eventually discovers that the things that drive his business forward are finance, public relations and human resources—all things he wasn’t trained in and sometimes of little interest to him.” Jeff doesn’t dislike these other areas; in fact he relishes talking with the customers and feels fortunate that he was forced into greeting the public. “I was a introvert and quite shy before I started my business.” Jeff has been able to focus on the business financial reports and planning the last few years. Terry Golling has been our in house finance professional for the last two years. She has helped put the business on track by providing accurate weekly and monthly reports which makes it easy for Jeff to make adjustments in reaching profit goals or planning for the future.
Harry is the European car specialist. He and Jeff met thirty years ago when they both worked at an area dealership. Years later, after Jeff had started his business, he would call Harry for consultation on a problem car. If they couldn’t work it out on the phone, Harry would stop over that evening eager to jump in and do what he does best. Harry is a natural troubleshooter. Having grown up on a farm, he learned at an early age how to keep machinery working smoothly. During his high school years Harry received training as a machinist before moving to Fargo where he started a position in a car dealership.
Harry quickly worked himself into a full time position at JAQ’S in 1984 and has been there since. He works on most of the European cars and does the entire machine work for the shop. He has a well-equipped room with the metal fabrication machines he needs to work magic with metal.
Harry’s Special Projects
In this machine room Harry has tackled many a unique project. He has fabricated several tractors from scratch, taking parts from wildly varied vehicles, combining them with hydraulics, electrics and voile, a functioning, working vehicle. His first tractor was a small articulating front-end loader, employing a VW bug engine for power. Harry designed it around parts he had or could readily obtain, Volvo transmission, Bobcat differentials, various VW brake and steering components, kind of a “one piece at a time” vehicle. That particular tractor has seen fairly heavy use for over 15 years and is still working famously. He and his dad use these tractors at the family farm near Fergus Falls. They are not museum pieces.
Harry has worked tirelessly helping Jeff design and repair Nordic skiing grooming equipment. Jeff’s passion for skiing has sparked an interest in ski trail grooming which requires some very specialized equipment. The Catagator is a tracked vehicle Jeff purchased to pull the attachments needed to pack and rejuvenate ski trails. It had some flaws but Harry quickly updated it with a more powerful Volkswagen engine, a transmission from a rock crusher, and then replaced all the axles and widened the track. Harry’s machine expertise and his willingness to work out the problems at hand make him an invaluable part of the JAQ’S team.
James Bangs started is career as an automotive technician at JAQ’S in May of 1984. He had just completed the automotive tech class at MSTC. “I remember the day I met Jim,” says Jeff. “He walked right up to me, gave me a firm handshake, and asked for a job. I asked him just a few questions and, I believe, hired him on the spot. His straightforward demeanor impressed me and I felt he would fit into the position I had open.
The long drive in from his home in Wolverton got pretty time consuming for Jim and he eventually purchased a home in Moorhead not from the shop. He walks to and from work morning noon and night.
Jim adopted Honda as his brand of choice as well as other Asian makes but doesn’t complain if given a Volvo or Saab when the schedule dictates. He is very even tempered and with the patience of Job, focuses on the job at hand. He is also kept busy as the neighborhood bike repairman.
What’s with the Name?
There has always been confusion around the name JAQ’S and its pronunciation, even for the owner!
Jeff had a partner his first year in business. John Vosburg and they didn’t give much thought to a name for the business. They were busy fixing cars and there were a lot of them. The 1970s fuel shortage had precipitated strong sales of Asian vehicles in particular. Those Hondas, Subarus, Nissans and Mazdas were becoming 5 years old and needing service. Below is Jeff’s recollection of the origin of their name:
“I think I traded John a hydraulic jack for his share of the business and decided that it really needed a name. I thought my name too provincial for an import repair shop so with the prompting of a couple friends, we came up with my initials JAQ. We initially pronounced it “Jack’s” and copied the Garrison Keillor moniker “All tracks lead to JAQ’S”. This phrase still adorns the sign on the front of the building. This turned into a nightmare for the garage’s identity. There were several other “Jack’s” repair shops in town at the time and our customers could not differentiate us from them. We would get their calls and they ours. Especially with our import status we wanted to stand out in the crowd.”
For a short time the business flirted with “Jay Ay Que’s” Garage but that was not a good fit either. In the late 80’s the name was consistently pronounced “Jacques” with the soft j, French pronunciation. There were quite a few French cars on the road and the image of a French mechanic seemed to garner more attention and credence as an Import specialist. This was still problematic. Most of the people after hearing it pronounced would spell it Jacque’s and could not identify it as JAQ’S in a print ad. The last metamorphosis was to pronounce it “jock’s” which was like “can we finally get this right?” That is what is universally used now except for a few of the old time customers who still use Jack’s “If I had it all to do over, I would go with the provincial Jeff’s.”
Engine valve work.
Harry has a machinist background and is well qualified to perform major engine work
Mon - Fri: 8:00am - 5:15pm
I brought my car in to have an exhaust problem looked at. They identified it, told me it wasn't something they could fix, didn't charge me a dime for the service, and directed me to another shop that was able to help me. Great people. And they have the boldness and integrity to post a large anti-Trump sign right outside their business, unafraid of the potential backlash.
- Duncan Hempeck. 1/17/2020
I contacted Jaq's to find out if they could do brakes on my 2014 Range Rover Sport. I brought it in at their request to make sure they could. Not only were they able to do the work, but their price was more reasonable than the dealership. Due to an impending blizzard I brought the Rover in one day before my appointment, and they got it done before the storm hit. Matt was great to work with and everyone there is very friendly. I'll definitely be back for future needs.
- Randy Vadnais. 1/12/2020
Matt was very helpful in leading me in the right direction to get my BMW fixed. Very upstanding auto shop. 5 STAH!
- Christian Garcia. 0/13/2020
The best place to get your foreign car fixed. The staff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable.
- Matthew Eisen. 8/7/2019
I took my 99 Saab convertible in to get some issues fixed because a mouse got into my engine compartment over winter storage. They gave me a quote and said when they got into it, if they thought it would be more, they'd call. It turned out that they were very close in their original quote. :) They fixed all of my issues - 2 that my GMC dealership wouldn't even help me with. They have a cold storage building out back where they keep the vehicles overnight or if you can't get there right away to pick it up. My car was fixed quickly. My only problem is that they are all the way over in Moorhead. They are super friendly! I would recommend them to anyone and I will be bringing my Saab back to them if needed.
- Renee Vertin. 7/14/2019
JAQ's does an excellent job of listening to and understanding what their customers need and helping them find the best path for them. I have been there now with one really complex problem and again for routine maintenance on two vehicles. Communication has always been clear, pricing just as expected, and every time there is no pressure when deciding what needs to be done and the best way to get there. I'm so glad to be done with dealership service departments!!
- Melissa . 4/2/2019
Referred a friend with a 2006 Volvo xc90 they couldn't fix or tell what was wrong. charged for work they did not do. Said they have to charge to call a technician at $50. Now to a dealership. Save your money sadly they don't know what they are doing.
- Daniel . 3/17/2019
I HIGHLY recommend Jaqs! They are great communicators, I'm never surprised by my bill, rates are fair, staff is all excellent, and most importantly they do great work.
- Elizabeth Shannon. 11/15/2018
- Mark Kreps. 8/18/2018
In the late 1980's I bought my first Honda. I brought it to JAQ's on a "hunch" for servicing.
I wasn't always faithful with the oil changes and brought my car somewhere else where they told me I needed to also have a part replaced for $400. I thanked them and brought my car to JAQ's for Jeff to look at it.
I waited in the lobby, Jeff looked at my car and came out to tell me that there was a tube loose is all, he fixed it and didn't charge me anything.
As a SINGLE WOMAN, I was SO appreciative and surprised for his HONESTY (he didn't know me from Adam and I didn't have a husband, father, brothers to give me any advice) that I was happy to return for whatever my car needed.
I have moved from the FM area several times, have had 3 Honda's and now am on my 1st Toyota and just moved back to Fargo for the last time. I just made an appointment at Jaq's for my car and am SO HAPPY to be back.
I trust them.
They always call to explain what /why work needs to be done and then re-explain it to me when I pick up the car.
Jaq's still is a small shop/garage. They may not offer you free soda/bottled water/6 different kinds of cookies and coffee creamer/lap tops/fancy sliding doors/fancy furniture and slick guys in suits.
The mechanics have dirty fingernails, they work hard and know their stuff. Just how I like it.
I've never written a review for anything. I'm terrified for the day Jeff will retire, maybe close the shop.
Most women I know have their husband/brother/boyfriend handle car repairman conversations because of rampant distrust.
Jeff is smart. He knew 30 years ago that being honest was the right thing to do and in turn got my business.
- Linda Nelson. 4/10/2018
Great business. I trust these guys. Always gave me the best service. I moved or would still be going there.
- Margaret Schneider. 0/23/2018
Jaq's is the only business I would recommend to anyone who needed work done on a later model foreign automobile. They have proven by their work ethic that you will get the most honest and detailed diagnosis of your vehicles ailments.
On a special note, they are one of the only mechanics I have dealt with, (and I have been traveling and driving across this country and back for 30 years) that bring multiple positive solutions to the table. They are honest, realistic and fair with their pricing as well as their estimation of time it will take to complete the work.
Thank you so much for taking care of my 2003 Beetle "Priscilla", I know she was always in good hands.
- Titus Oneill. 11/18/2017
So much better than valley imports
- Leslie Johnson Aldrich. 10/5/2017
Knows what he is doing
- Bradley Mosher. 2/7/2017
Fixed my Jaguar for a great price. Very flexible.
- Dean Lion. 1/3/2017
100%% recommend Jaq's. We've gone there for at least 13 years with our VW, Nissan, Dodge, and Subaru vehicles ranging from mid-90s to 2009 models. Jeff (the owner) and Shaun (the service advisor) are always receptive to our needs, telling us what can safely be put off and what we can save money on by combining work. Anything I can't do myself goes to Jaq's and I trust them absolutely to give me the most accurate work for the best price.
- Kasper Kolbe. 2/4/2016
Got the job done well on a Mercedes, Audi and Toyota for us. Fair pricing and on time.
- Michael Johnson. 0/22/2016
Honest and hard working crew. Will tell you what needs to be fixed and what can wait.
- Justin Evan. 10/24/2015
Jeff and his crew are the best! Honest, friendly and open. Willing to help and, above all, very, very, good at diagnosing problems and fixing them.
- Jacqueline Crawford. 3/2/2015
Fantastic. Fair labor rate, knowledgeable staff, and rapid, accurate service.
No surprises, fast quotes and very accurate reporting on the work order.
I've only used them once so far- I WILL be a returning customer!
- Kirt Liedahl. 2/26/2015
Friendly service and easy to work with. I had to have seized pulley replaced near my timing chain. My regular mechanic was not able to diagnose the issue, but Jaq's figured it out right away.
Jaq's fixed the issue and the squeaking is gone. While they had my car taken apart, they also did the regular maintenance of replacing the water pump and timing chain.