It’s been almost three weeks since Expert Automotive Solutions sustained extensive damage to its building at 106 Pirate Dr. following an accidental fire Monday, Jan 15.
But although the situation is dire, employees have not given up — choosing instead to operate the business out of a back shop located at 2000 Supply Ln.
“We had expanded in August and added the building at 2000 Supply Lane and that's where we're doing most of our heavy line,” Josiah Nebhut, store manager, told the HCN. “We've got a full list of everything to operate in as a shop, so when we lost (our main shop), we were closed Monday and Tuesday, of course, and then we opened up Wednesday, (Jan. 17), and we've been running and gunning ever since.”
At approximately 11 a.m. Jan. 15, Granbury Volunteer Fire Department, Tolar Volunteer Fire Department, North Hood County Fire Department and Hood County Station 70 were dispatched to Expert Automotive Solutions for reports of a structure fire.
Upon arrival, first responders encountered heavy fire and smoke. According to the GFVD, multiple explosions occurred due to flammable materials stored inside the shop.
According to a news release from the city of Granbury, the fire destroyed the building along with three cars inside. Additionally, the quick response and coordinated efforts of the local fire departments — along with city of Granbury electric crews — resulted in the containment of the blaze about an hour after it began.
“This was a well-advanced and technical structure fire. I appreciate the fast response by all departments and their solid work on scene,” Granbury Volunteer Fire Department Chief Matt Hohon previously told the HCN.
Nebhut said according to investigators, there was no known cause of the fire and that a “fluke” is what set it off.
“It was me and one other coworker in the building and we made it out all right and everything, but we’re trying to get our guys’ tools recovered,” he said. “We had three techs who lost tools and three customers who lost vehicles, so we’re trying to get that stuff recovered, and we’re hungry for work.”
As the “face” of the shop is gone, Nebhut said he is worried that many customers believe that they’re closed for good.
"I've noticed a huge difference in my walk-in customers because of that building burning down and I'm just trying to get the word out there because we're trying to recover,” he said. “We do have insurance, but it takes a while for insurance to recover (everything). We want the work, we want to get our customers taken care of, and we want to let them know we're still here."
Expert Automotive Solutions first opened in August 2022 by owners Dale Prince, Samuel Canes and Justin Knoll, who all previously worked for mobile companies like Aztec Mobile Mechanic and Mobile Elite Auto.
They originally started their own mobile automobile business in the Dallas/Fort Worth area before moving their ground zero operation to Granbury.
"They're looking to open up stores all over the state of Texas, but we kind of took a hit and right now we're just trying to recover,” Nebhut said.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the customers recover their vehicles and the technicians recover their tools.
“This is the techs’ livelihood,” he said. “I mean, some of these guys are out $20,000 to $30,000.”
The GoFundMe link can be found on the Expert Automotive Solutions Facebook page. The fundraising goal is currently set at $250,000.
Nebhut added that the owners and employees are just looking for the opportunity to serve the people in the community and stressed that they are not looking for a handout.
"The more work we get, the happier we are,” he said.
Expert Automotive Solutions is open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday at its secondary back shop, located at 2000 Supply Ln. Services include everything from electrical diagnostics to maintenance.
"I just want to get us out there and just try to get (the news) spread to as many people as I can,” Nebhut added. “These owners are good, God-fearing people and they deserve the success. These techs work hard every day, and they deserve success. I just don't want to see that take a step back. It kills my soul.”