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Driving home

It may have been the sunshine that lured John Dickess to Florida but it was the economy that brought him back to Lawrence County. And so far, it’s a decision he’s happy with.

Dickess grew up in Coal Grove and graduated from what is now the Collins Career Center. When he turned 19, he moved to Florida, where for 18 years he owned and operated his own automotive repair business.

Now, at the site of a former quick oil change, Dickess has set up Dickess Auto Repair, a full-service auto repair shop at the corner of Park Avenue and Sixth Street.

He came back to the Ironton area because he says he likes “the slower pace,” he said. “And the economy is much better here than in Florida. The recession has hit there a lot more than this area. Now (Florida), it’s a vacation spot more.”

His Ironton business offers engine diagnostic work, brakes, oil changes and front end work such as alignment, tires, shocks and struts.

“I grew up working on cars and motorcycles. It is kind of in the blood, that mechanical part,” Dickess said. “(At the shop) we do everything. We have the automotive excellence certification.”

With gas at such outrageous prices, Dickess advises keeping a car in top condition as a way to stretch fuel dollars.

“People need to make sure their tire pressure is correct and their car is properly tuned, plugs are new,” he said.

Right now, Dickess is joined by a fellow mechanic, Larry Childers.

He agrees an individual has a challenging time competing with larger businesses.

“It is harder for small businesses to make it,” Dickess said. “You have to compete with other chains. For two weeks we’ve been doing pretty decent.”

The shop is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. He wants to keep Saturday and Sunday for family time.

“We want to spend time with family on weekends,” Dickess said. “One of our goals is to try five days a week and see if we can do that. I’m happy to be back. Things have changed quite a bit and there is growth.”