Roles changing for guys at Frank's Small Engine Repairs

Nothing different except the paperwork

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STERLING – After more than 40 years as the owner of a small engine repair shop, Frank Thayer Sr. wants to go fishing.

More accurately, he wants to go fishing more often. That’s why he’s selling his business, Frank’s Small Engine Repair, to his part-time employee and good friend Josh Willman.

The only real change, though, they say, is the legal paperwork and who is listed as the owner.

Thayer still will be at the shop most days doing what he loves to do, but now he will have more time to do another thing he loves, which is to get out on the water with rod in hand and fish on his mind.

“My dad died young. He retired and went home and sat. I won’t do that,” Thayer said. “You’ve got to keep moving, and I love to fish.”

One of his best catches ever may have been about 8 years ago. He threw out a line of sorts one day to a guy who often came into the shop getting parts for his own side business fixing lawn mowers, snowblowers and other small engine equipment.

That guy was Willman, 47, who had a relationship with Thayer from his many visits to the shop. That day, he decided to make the relationship even stronger.

“He had a couple of employees leave and he was kind of in a spot, so he asked me if I wanted to help, and I’ve been here ever since,” Willman said. “It’s worked out real good. I got to get out of my garage, and we have a real good relationship.”

That won’t change any even though Willman technically will be the boss and Thayer now will be just a regular employee. They both laughed at the role reversal and Thayer said he’s looking forward to just doing the repair work and that’s it.

“I wanted to get away from all the paperwork. I’ll be 70, so I’m slowing down,” he said. “But we jump all over the place here helping each other out so we can keep things running smoothly. We get along just fine.”

Willman described it as more than just fine.

“His oldest son is a pharmacist, so he’s not picking up a wrench anytime soon. He’s treated me like a son and someone to pass on the business to,” Willman said. “It’s a real good relationship.”

Willman still is a full-time firefighter for the Sterling Fire Department and works at Frank’s on his off days. The two have talked about transferring ownership for the business, which specializes in repairs for lawn mowers, snowblowers and chainsaws among others, for about 2 years and didn’t know whether they wanted to make that public, but then the rumor mill kicked in so they decided to clear everything up.

“Nothing will change. He’s not leaving. He just doesn’t want to worry about paying the bills anymore,” Willman said. “The nicest thing is him staying and being a part of the big decisions that are made.

“Now he’ll still be able to work here, but also leave to go fishing.”

That is, if he asks the boss really nicely.

Thayer had to stop and think really hard to remember the last time he truly had a vacation.

“I think it was back in the ‘80s when we had a drought,” he said with a laugh.

But he loves what he does, and has ever since he started out in the business with his father-in-law back in the ‘70s, he said.

“I always wanted to find a job doing what I liked to do and try to stay in good health.”