Jan. 29, 2021—Shop owner Glen Schlickenmeyer was just about to head out on a bike ride when he got a call from the local police. He'd better get down to his shop, they said.
As it turned out, a pickup truck had smashed into the corner of his business, Smithfield Fast Lube in Smithfield, Va. Schlickenmeyer tells NOLN that the driver was at the car wash next door and needed to back up out of the tunnel. Instead, the driver slammed on the gas and crashed in reverse into the shop.
“The manager of the 7-11 that has the car wash said that he was squealing tires, coming up over the embankments into my shop,” Schlickenmeyer says.
The shop was closed that day, and no one was on site. He says the driver was released to his family after a checkup at the scene. But Schlickenmeyer had a problem. The next day was Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, which is among the busiest of the year.
Jumping to Action
Schlickenmeyer says that he has a lot of "thank-yous" to pass around, and the first went to the local fire department. Training that prepares firefighters for work in unstable burning buildings meant they were well-prepared to deal with an unstable structure that wasn't on fire.
“When they saw that, they didn't want to pull the truck out of the wall until they secured the roof, because they were thinking the truck was holding up the whole corner of the building," Schlickenmeyer says. "Once they secured the roof and kept it from caving in, then they pulled the truck out.”
The fire crew came equipped with support beams to prop up things in case the corner of the building failed. It was stable but needed work.
What happened next was a stroke of luck. There was a man gassing up his vehicle at the nearby 7-11. Schlickenmeyer says that the man was a customer who also happened to be a commercial contractor.
“He had a crew out here on Sunday afternoon to seal up the building, and on Monday morning he had three crews out here, got to work, reinforced the structure,” Schlickenmeyer says.
A building inspector gave the work the OK, and Smithfield Fast Lube was taking customers on Wednesday.
Schlickenmeyer says that he's glad nobody was hurt, which is the first reminder that the situation could have been worse. He does have work to do yet on his building, and it could be months before it's fully repaired.
Schlickenmeyer lost two days of business, including the busy holiday. When he opened back up, he was down to one and a half bays. His shop has two double-length bays, so customers had to back out from one side after service.
The crash also knocked down an inventory shelf inside the shop, and it fell onto his 1966 Ford Galaxie police cruiser, which had just been detailed in preparation for future car shows.
"All in all, it can be fixed," he says.
Schlickenmeyer is more focused on the swift response he saw from first responders, community members and his staff. The event shows that quick thinking and key community partners can make a big difference in a tough time.
“My employees have been great. The community has been great. So I cant complain, all things considered," he says.
Image: Smithfield Fast Lube / Facebook