Longest-running family business continues legacy
By Rachel Madison
It’s hard not to notice the 1950s Oldsmobile parked on the corner of Loop 332 in downtown Liberty Hill at the four-way stop. It’s become a bit of an icon for Quick Service Garage, which has operated on that corner since 1964 and in Liberty Hill since 1927.
The 90-plus-year-old business was started by the Canady family, and has remained a part of the family since. Now, the garage will be entering a new era when fourth generation family member, 19-year-old Paige Canady, eventually takes over the business.
“The shop has been open for 90-plus years, and we’ve persevered as a business through deaths, depressions and the change from Liberty Hill being rural to urban,” said Kathy Canady, current owner of the garage, who took the business over after her husband, Charles, passed away in 2014 from renal cell carcinoma.
Quick Service Garage originally started on the other end of Liberty Hill in 1927 and was opened by Melvin Canady, Charles’ grandfather. Charles’ father, Joe Ed Canady, was born in 1935 and when he was old enough, he joined his father at the garage and it officially became a family business.
Quick Service Garage then moved to its current location at 100 Loop 332 in 1964. Charles began working at the garage full time in 1979 and bought his grandfather’s interest in the business in 1981. Charles and Joe Ed then worked together until 1997, when Charles officially took over the business and began running it with his wife, whom he married in 1992. Kathy worked as a hay baler when she met Charles in the early 1990s.
“Charles’ dad, Joe Ed, would work on my equipment when I needed it, but one time when my hay equipment broke down he made Charles come help me,” she said. “That’s how we met in a nutshell.”
Charles bought out his father’s interest in the business in 2002, Kathy said. In 2005, Charles got electrocuted in the back of the head by two 220s in a kitchen remodeling accident. He never regained feeling on the left side of his body after the accident.
“With the damage he had he never fully recovered, but he was still pretty damn good at getting jobs done,” Kathy said, citing his time serving on the Liberty Hill City Council for 13 years, including serving nine years as Mayor Pro Tem.
In 2012, Charles was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. He was given four and a half months to live, but he fought through treatments and lived for another two and a half years, Kathy said.
“He and I had plans to be empty nesters and do all that good stuff, and we didn’t get to,” she added. “But it is what it is. He passed in 2014.”
When Charles became really ill, the only work they did was what he could tell his wife to do.
“At the end of his life, I had to be his hands,” Kathy said. “He did several jobs even though he couldn’t walk. I’d put him in his wheelchair and he’d tell me what to do. He wanted the business to keep going even though he knew he probably wasn’t going to make it. He found a way to keep things moving even though it wasn’t on the level he wanted. Our intention is to continue that. We’re a stubborn business and we intend to be here for 100 more years.”
After Charles passed away, Kathy wasn’t sure how she was going to keep Quick Service Garage up and running. But right around the same time, she met someone who made it possible.
Glenn Heimbigner, now the lead mechanic, moved to Liberty Hill with his wife after retiring in Corpus Christi four years ago. He brought his vintage cars in to Quick Service Garage for an inspection before a car show and noticed all the vintage vehicles sitting around the property.
“Kathy told me her story about her husband getting sick, and I told her I just retired and happened to be a mechanic,” he said. “We started talking and I came and saw her again and next thing you know I started working here. That was four years ago.”
Heimbigner served five years in the US Navy, and then 33 years in the US Army as a DoD civilian where he worked as a mechanic on every kind of helicopter the armed forces have.
“I’ve always loved cars, from the time I was five or six years old, and they’ve always been a hobby,” he added.
Kathy said she couldn’t have found a better person to work at her garage than Heimbigner.
“We were able to reopen back as a full-service garage when we hired him on,” she added.
In addition to being the lead mechanic, Heimbigner is also teaching Paige everything he knows.
“She pays attention, she’s very bright and I’m trying to give her as much info about general mechanic work as I can,” he said. “I’m showing her what to look for, how to troubleshoot, and of course being ex-military, safety is a big deal. I’m showing her how to make sure the job is done well and safely. She recently did the rear brakes in a truck and I just looked it over and made sure it was right. Her dad would be proud of her.”
Paige is the youngest of Kathy and Charles’ four children. She’s been a part of Quick Service Garage her whole life. When she was a child, she’d watch her dad work and would help him with a few simple things here and there. She even had a 1971 Ford that her dad gave her and he’d let her drive it around on their family ranch when she was about 11. That was the first time she drove a stick shift.
“He’d let me drive it and we’d work on it, and he’d let me do the minor stuff,” she said. “I’d watch him do the bigger stuff. That truck never got finished because he passed away, but Glenn eventually finished my dad’s project and I sold it because I needed something more reliable. I regret not having it now.”
As a child, Paige remembers taking everything apart that she could. She would sneak into the shop and find a screwdriver and then take whatever she could find apart. Sometimes she could put things back together, and sometimes she couldn’t.
Paige said there’s something about seeing a vehicle come into the shop broken and being able to troubleshoot and figure out what’s wrong.
“It’ll come in and it sounds awful and then we get under the hood and start working and then the next thing you know you turn it on and it’s running, and it sounds good,” she said.
Kathy said initially, she and her husband were disappointed none of their children wanted to carry the business on, but at the time, Paige was still too young to know what she wanted to do with her life. Fortunately, before he passed away, he and Paige were able to talk about her desire to become a mechanic.
“Sometimes I’ll be working on something and I get really stuck, and all of a sudden I’ll just figure it out,” Paige said. “I feel like that’s my dad shining a light on what I need to do. After I get something done, I always think about him and think, ‘Man, if dad could see that, I know he’d be proud.’”
Currently, Paige works in the shop a couple of days a week, and she plans on getting her inspector’s license soon. In the spring, she plans to attend Central Texas College to earn a master mechanic certification.
Kathy believes it’s important for people to know that Paige has had a rough life, because of how much she’s persevered at such a young age.
“She had some bad things happen to her and her dad didn’t get to be there for her for a long time,” Kathy said. “She got lost in the shuffle being the youngest child. We didn’t see things we should have seen, but she’s overcome all that. She’s been sober for 18 months now, and previous to that she had been trying to get sober for four years. You can grow and change from your mistakes. She’s got a long way to go. She’s only 19, but it’s a testimony to her wanting to better herself. She’s a tough person who has persevered in spite of us.”
Although Paige’s life hasn’t been easy, she said she is grateful for the hardships she’s had.
“I probably wouldn’t have wanted to come back to the shop if I hadn’t gone through the things in my life I did,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had an interest. My sobriety is a big part of me being here.”
Paige said her vision for the future of Quick Service Garage is to be like her dad.
“This place is like the heart of Liberty Hill,” she said. “You never know who is going to come in. I just want to be in the middle of it. I see this place having a long future.”
Charles’ great love was old cars. He rebuilt his first car, a ‘53 Chevy, when he was just 13 years old.
“He loved vintage cars and our dream was always to get more into vintage restoration work, but it didn’t work out that way,” Kathy said.
The Canadys have had to adjust their business over the last several decades as Liberty Hill has changed from a rural to more urban setting, she added. The business used to spend a lot more time working on baling equipment and tractors, but now because it’s not needed much anymore, they mainly work on automobiles. The garage can do anything when it comes to automotive repair, from brakes and AC repairs to safety inspections and body work.
Kathy said her husband was big on taking care of customers and trying to do as much as he could to help them.
“We try to follow through with that,” she said. “It’s a little harder now a days because it’s a different world now and the community has changed. There are a lot of new people, but we still try to have that small-town customer service feeling because it’s the right thing to do.”
Paige added that her father was the type of person who would fix someone’s car and let them pay him later on when they could afford to. From day one, Charles was very public oriented, Kathy said, and that’s how Heimbigner is now.
“If we don’t do something right and we have to fix it, we will fix it,” she said.
Heimbigner echoed similar sentiments.
“I love the older cars, but we work on everything and I’m honest with everybody all the time,” he said. “I’m not here to get rich. I’m here to get you a good quality repair job at a decent price. We’re trying to continually build a good business.”
Kathy and Paige plan on Quick Service Garage being around for the long haul.
“I’ve been on this corner since 1992,” Kathy said. “It’s really not that long, but it’s a lot of my life. I want to be here until I’m obnoxious. When you’re self-employed you don’t get to retire, so I would like to be here until Paige finds a way to get rid of me.”
“I want to be sitting in [my mom’s office] chair and she’ll be on a cruise or something and I can’t figure something out so I’ll be like, ‘Crap, I’ve got to call mom,’” Paige added.
Quick Service Garage is located at 1100 Loop 332 and is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.