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After fire, St. Helens Les Schwab reopens in new building

Auto parts store had been operating at temporary location


by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: MARK MILLER - Terry McMahon, Les Schwab Tire Center manager, out in front of the automotive parts stores new building south of St. Helens.A little more than a year after a massive fire destroyed its former location along Highway 30 just south of St. Helens, the city’s Les Schwab Tire Center reopened Monday, Sept. 9, on the ground where the old building stood.

Store manager Terry McMahon said his employees worked hard over the weekend, both running the store at its temporary location near the Best Western Oak Meadows Inn on Saturday, Sept. 7, and moving into the new store at 58405 Columbia River Highway.

McMahon said the building’s design and layout, which make prominent use of large glass windows and natural lighting, are a new, energy-efficient design.

“This is the second one of these in the state,” McMahon said. “It’s our new prototype building that the company’s going to. So they’re going to a configuration that if you’re traveling around — say you go to a store in Denver, Colorado — you walk in, you think you’re home. Everything is in the same places. The seating arrangements are the same. So it’s just to make it more comfortable for the customer.”

The first of the new Les Schwab buildings in Oregon opened in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland last fall.

McMahon confessed he is “still trying to learn how to use” the new building.

“We’ve got so much more space in this particular building,” said McMahon. “It’s almost double in size, because the old one was a hut and this one’s a square. ... We start putting things away, and we realize we have more room.”

The new building also has more parking available to customers than the old one did, McMahon said, as well as a lounge where people can wait — and watch — while crews service their vehicles.

Les Schwab, a Bend-based company with stores all over the western United States, sells a variety of automotive parts and performs vehicle maintenance. Tires and windshield wipers, among the franchise’s most popular items, are prominently displayed inside the new store.

The Aug. 24, 2012, fire that destroyed the old Les Schwab disrupted the store’s business, even though it was able to relocate to the temporary location closer to the center of St. Helens, McMahon said.

“Believe it or not, even up until last week, people didn’t know we were there,” said McMahon. He said he is “glad to be back” at the 58405 Columbia River Highway address.

Business was “excellent” on Monday, the first day that the new Les Schwab was open, McMahon said.

A grand opening will be held Oct. 12.