ST. ALBANS –– Rick Lapan was 10 when he started his life in grease, tearing apart lawnmowers and tinkering on cars with his dad.
“I like the satisfaction of fixing something,” said Rick, at Rick Lapan’s Automotive, the auto shop he owns in St. Albans, across from the Vermont Federal Credit Union, on Rte. 7 South.
Rick Lapan’s Automotive is the owner’s first business; he opened it in November 2012, in its existing location, after working at the Handy Toyota dealership on St. Albans’ Main Street, for 25 years.
“I had a great run, there, but I thought it was time for some variety, and to have closer relationships with my customers,” said Rick, 45, explaining his career move.
Rick Lapan’s Automotive provides general auto repairs and maintenance, inspections, and tire service on new and older vehicles in about 1,100 square feet of space that features two vehicle lifts.
Rick can dig deep into transmissions and engines, too. He is a certified master auto technician, a designation that requires candidates to work five years before they can begin the required course work and testing.
Rick is certified in all eight possible categories: engine repair; automatic transmission; manual drive and axles; suspension and steering; brakes; electrical systems; heating and air conditioning; and engine performance.
“I’m not saying being a certified master technician makes you better than the next guy,” Rick said, “but you don’t get one handed to you.”
Rick doesn’t have employees. His wife of 23 years, Tammy, is the bookkeeper, and she works in human resources at Smugglers Notch Resort. Their daughter, Kali, who is entering her senior year at Castleton State College, helps Rick with administrative duties during breaks from school.
Rick’s uncle, Larry, helps Rick in the shop, “just for the enjoyment.”
“I would just like to grow to the point where I need an administrative assistant,” Rick said. Then he laughed: “That’s what everyone tells me I need!”
Rick grew up on Swanton Village’s Pine Street, as part of a large clan. His paternal grandmother had 22 children, and the men in the family veered heavily toward mechanical work, or driving trucks, Rick said. Rick’s father, Norm “Fuzzy” Lapan, owns Lapan’s Trucking, in Highgate.
Rick worked at Cota’s Service Station in Swanton and studied mechanics while in high school. He graduated from Missisquoi Valley Union (MVU) in 1987 and started his long tenure at Handy Toyota a year later.
Retirement is not part of Rick’s plan. His wife and daughter note that he often works past his posted business hours, for his customers’ sake.
“My father is 70, and he won’t retire, either,” Rick said. “As long as I’m able, I’ll keep working.”