The three men who started Relaxation Automobile Station last year in Moorhead thought they had a pretty cool idea on their hands.
“We were just thinking: We’ve been to lots of oil change places,” said Joe Day, one of the business’ three owners. “You got your greasy table with your greasy coffee cup, in a cramped area with cheap chairs. Then you got those high-pressure salespeople coming. You bring your car in, and you just get ready for an argument when they tell you everything else that’s wrong with you car.”
Auto shops were not pleasant places, not customer-focused experiences. They wanted to change that.
And what’s the most relaxing, pleasant place anyone can go?
They would turn their auto shops into something like a spa.
And so: A full-service auto shop — they service brakes and electrical and transmissions, do oil changes and air conditioning work, too — with a small adjacent used-car lot filled with economical cars.
But the big selling point: the Hair Garage, a connected hair salon with two state-of-the-art massage chairs, a treadmill, Wi-Fi and a Keurig coffee machine. They do women’s hair — including coloring — and men’s hair, manicures and pedicures, even kids’ hair.
The timing, Day would admit, was unfortunate. They had a soft opening for the Hair Garage on March 12, just as the coronavirus was shutting down American public life. Days after it opened, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order to shut down all salons and spas until at least March 27 to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re laughing, or else we’d have to cry,” Day said the other day. “We just started the salon and had a big first day. Then this hit. The coronavirus stole our thunder! But that was our soft opening. We’re going to save our grand opening for 14 or 21 days.”
As Day spoke, the salon manager piped up. She heard a rumor salons could be closed for eight weeks: “We’re praying it won’t be.”
They know it’s now a problem shared by all in American society. But they still believe in their idea, whenever it can actually be used. They believe it can be a huge success and can eventually expand.
“Think about it: You take time out of your day to get an oil change,” said the salon manager, Sandee Stall. “You’ve got to take time out of your day to get your hair done. Wouldn’t it be better to have it all in one area? When you’re getting your car done, you’re on your phone or computer. This way you kill two birds with one stone.”
Stall believes the business has a higher calling, too: to make auto shops more welcoming places for women.
“We need a place where women won’t feel so intimidated in this male-dominated field,” she said.
The hope is that, even with the coronavirus delay, the business, which is on a busy strip near Minnesota State University Moorhead, will eventually become a huge success — as soon as it gets up and going.
“No one is doing this around here at all,” Day said. “This is a new concept, and everyone’s excited about it. We knew a large percentage of people that bring vehicles in to repair are either wives in married couples or single ladies. And, heck — guys might want a haircut, too.”