Tucked away behind the “Suite C” door on the corner of North Tower Road and College Way, in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, you’ll find Integrity Auto & Truck Repair. For over two years, the company has been the passion project of Shannon Torvinen – a man with an infectious fascination for automotive technology. Though challenges have come-and-gone, Torvinen has built a business which has stood tall while many small businesses collapse.
Growing up, he was no stranger to competition. As the youngest of 11 brothers and sisters, standing out from the crowd was a skill necessary from day one. Family as a whole seems to be very significant. Still, in speaking with him, it’s evident his father — perhaps especially — left an indelible impression which influences his work ethic to this day.
“If it was made by man, it can be fixed by man,” Torvinen recalled his father often saying.
As a child, Torvinen says that he took his father’s ability with mechanics for granted – he was a dad, after all, it seemed only natural he could do everything. As time went on, however, it became clear that the foundation for a successful career built around putting others first was already being laid down.
“He always raised us to help people,” Torvinen said. “I’ve always wanted to be a mechanic… I like the fact that I can fix something and make somebody not be so stressed out.”
By the time he was 15, Torvinen was working for a portable building manufacturer out of Pelican Rapids, and by 17 he was a forklift operator for Hormel foods. Still, a fascination with mechanical systems hadn’t let go of him, and he recalls pressing his supervisor for a chance to take an aptitude test. He hoped to be considered for a position as a mechanic.
“I’d always pick on him about taking a millwright test,” Torvinen said. “And he always joked about giving me a test when they had [an] opening – well, they had an opening. He said, ‘Whatever, kid, you can go ahead and try it.”
The resulting score demonstrated a clear ability, and Torvinen had a job offer a short time later. Satisfying as he found the work, however, it wasn’t long before he realized his ambitions could run farther with a college degree.
While still holding down steady employment, Torvinen enrolled in classes at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton. It was a significant experience which led to lasting relationships and a deeper understanding of modern mechanics. In the booming oil fields of North Dakota, Torvinen leveraged his considerable talent and freshly-minted degree to eventually earn a management position with an area energy company. The harsh weather, challenging schedule, and dangerous conditions taught him an appreciation for life as he and a team of mechanics worked to keep a fleet of trucks running smoothly.
“It was hard work. Long hours, the regulations, the danger – I mean, there was days where I’d talk to a truck driver and the next thing you know I’m getting a phone call saying he got in a head-on collision and he was dead,” Torvinen said.
Surviving the oil fields together created a strong bond between Torvinen and his coworkers, but there was a dream he had yet to realize which had waited patiently since childhood to develop. From the time he was young, Torvinen says he wanted to operate a business. Pondering the best approach, he decided to merge a fascination with computers and technology together with his love for mechanical systems. He decided to open his own automotive repair shop. With a fond farewell, he moved back to his home and his family, even while his employers made every effort to keep him out west.
Although it was a risky undertaking, Torvinen says the community response to his business has been very positive. Of course, he does a fair share of oil changes and tire rotations, but he’s also on tap for more ambitious undertakings – like engine tuning and aftermarket upgrades. Within the last year, he and a business partner have started a second venture, manufacturing and installing aftermarket wiring harnesses and engine control units (ECUs). In all of his endeavors, he makes a point of sourcing local components, wherever possible.
“There’s no warranty better than a local warranty – a person you can actually see,” Torvinen said.
And there’s no end to his ambition in sight. Torvinen says he hopes to grow his business further and has taken steps to begin hiring a team. He hopes to assemble passionate, motivated people like himself – people with a similar commitment to helping others. Ultimately, his goal is that his business will continue to be a place where customers love to come and mechanics brag about working.
But it’s more than money. In everything he does, there’s a focus on benefiting the community as a whole, rather than personal accomplishment. In fact, it’s right there in the company name: Integrity Auto & Truck Repair.
“It’s something that society paints a picture of: being wealthy as the way of life. But I think providing happiness is a wealth much greater than money could ever provide,” Torvinen said. “Because, at the end of our lifetime, what else do we have other than the memories we’ve made?”
This article originally appeared on fergusfallsjournal.com