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Tuning up the business: Oil isn’t the only thing Valvoline is changing

Valvoline Express Care at 1112 Jackson Ave. in Detroit Lakes has a new manager and part-owner who is raising the bar. DL NEWSPAPERS/Paula Quam

There’s one thing that’s for sure about small towns — everybody knows your business.

So when a local business gets a less-than stellar reputation, they know that as well.

When Damon Sigman moved into the area in February and became part owner of Valvoline Express Care in Detroit Lakes, he knew he was buying into a challenge.

“I’ve had a lot of work to do to turn this place around — a lot of work,” said Sigman, “and we’re not done yet.”

Fixin’ to own

Damon Sigman was born on the Iron Range in town called Hoyt Lake.

After high school, he jetted off to the Navy where he would serve as a jet mechanic for six years.

After that, he did an apprenticeship with Midas and Firestone as a mechanic in California before switching back over to working on heavy equipment and hydraulics for a number of years.

He was just wrapping up getting his degree in business management when he came to Detroit Lakes in 2011.

He spent a few months managing Valvoline before heading back towards the iron range to manage a construction company there.

According to Sigman, when he left Detroit Lakes, Valvoline was doing pretty well.

“We were averaging around 30 cars a day,” said Sigman.

“But when I came back in February of this year, they were down to an average of eight a day.”

Sigman says the owner of the building and business had a string of bad luck with managers – four within only a few years.

“And I think they’ve all taken their shot at not doing their job,” said Sigman, bluntly.

So by the time Sigman was looking to get back to the Detroit Lakes area, Valvoline’s owner, Jim Knoll, was looking for an entrepreneurial-minded manager ready to “put some skin in the game.”

Sigman was his guy.

Armed with military service, experience in the industry and a degree in business management, Sigman bought into the business fully determined to turn it around.

On Feb. 26, he entered the shop as part owner and manager.

His first order of business was to “clean house” both literally and figuratively.

“There was a lot of clutter lying around here that we’ve been cleaning up,” said Sigman, who also revamped his staff.

With personnel being the big issue, Sigman would re-rack much of the employee lineup, settling for nothing less than experience and quality performance. In fact, Valvoline remains slightly shorthanded while Sigman remains choosy about who he hires.

Audubon native Joe Ronning met that standard as the new assistant manager.

Ronning, who started two weeks ago, has been in the industry since 2001 both at Walmart in Detroit Lakes and Norseman’s Motor.

“I’m just excited to get all the old customers back in here,” said Ronning.

“I know this used to be a trusted place to come, and I’m just excited to get that back and become known as the best place in town to get your oil changed.”

And new customers are beginning to filter in as well. Sigman says their daily car count has been driven up and improvements and expansion plans continue to be made.

Although Valvoline has offered some light service work in the past, Sigman says they now have the capability to offer enhanced, quality work with professionals who know what they’re doing.

“We really do want to be that one-stop-shop,” said Sigman, who says while they’re obviously efficient at quick-lube oil changes that’ll “get you in and out in 10 to 15 minutes,” they are now much more.

“If you have a problem with your tires or brakes, we can do that; if you have a problem with your suspension, we can do that, too,” said Sigman.

The no-appointment-necessary-kind of a shop deals with 100 percent Valvoline oil and products and is also quick to offer the deals.

In addition to lady’s day and senior’s day, the Navy veteran has also added a discount to military veterans every day of the week.

“It’s our way of saying ‘thank you’ to the men and women who have served our country,” said Sigman.

“I did it myself, and I know there isn’t very many discounts for veterans out there, active duty or veterans, so if I can help them in anyway and show my appreciation, I will.”

The shop, which will continue to be a U-Haul dealer as well, also now has slightly expanded hours of Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Paula Quam

Paula Quam is the editor for Forum Communications Co. newspapers in Detroit Lakes, Perham and Wadena, all in Minnesota.

(218) 844-1466