Moving hasn’t hurt Kinney’s business

TRAVERSE CITY – In October, after almost 35 years, Kinney's Pioneer Service moved from the corner of State and Union in downtown Traverse to a new location on U.S. 31 South, near Grawn. The only other owner of the landmark station, the Rennie Oil Co., opened its doors in 1919. At the time, it was the first independent auto repair facility and gas station north of Grand Rapids.

"The state highway use to come right down Veteran's Drive, then down Union Street. So, the station was on the main highway in 1919," owner Lon Kinney reminisced. "We bought it in 1971, when my dad (Clint Kinney) and I went into business together. My dad worked for Rennie Oil Co. from 1946 until we bought the business, since Rennie Oil called it the 'pioneer station of the north,' we wanted to keep pioneer in the name."

In 1983, Kinney's Pioneer Service stopped selling gasoline and went to full auto repair. They started selling 'previously owned' four-wheel drive vehicles downtown, moved that business to another site and, when they relocated, put everything together in the new facility.

"We were in the midst of all the automobile dealerships at one time, but they have all moved out of downtown now. In all honesty, that's why we're not downtown anymore," Kinney pointed out. "The new facility is larger, more storage and parking is available and being on a main highway, U.S. 31 South, has more visibility." Kinney relocated the whole staff to the new facility.

They didn't know for sure before they moved how their customers would respond to the new location.

"It's been fantastic," Kinney said. "Last Tuesday, we had in the waiting room old customers from out on the Peninsula, from the other side of Lake Leelanau, from Willamsburg, and a customer came down from Charlevoix, whose been with us forever, they passed a lot of other shops to get to us."

Kinney's Pioneer Service has actually been busier in their new location.

"The only thing we did different was we went high tech, better equipment, more training for the guys, and working on being more efficient," Kinney explained. "As far as the business itself, we're doing more, like installing remote starts, more electrical repair, suspension lifts in four-wheel drives. Downtown we were so crowded, it was really tough to do anything new or extra."

The move to the new location was good for the future of Kinney's Pioneer Service. "We look at it as a third generation business with two of my children working here," Kinney said.

His daughter, Jenny, is the office manager and his son, Mat, is the service manager. Kinney's can be reached at 946-7180. BN