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RBC | For more than two decades Bart and Sarah Nielsen have been serving Rangely in a variety of capacities and as the owners of Rangely Conoco Auto and Tire they find themselves wearing many hats. The occupations of mechanic, tow truck driver, tire work and even all around handyman can easily be used to describe the enterprising family.
Both Bart and his wife Sarah (Hume) grew up in Rangely. They also both came from families of self employed entrepreneurs and family businesses. Bart comes from a ranching family and Sarah’s father, Bill Hume, is the owner of Rangely’s Nichols store. In the mid 1990s, following a short career at the coal mine, Bart decided to hold true to the family tradition and opened up his own mechanic shop. Opening its doors in 1995, Poor Boy Garage specialized in lube, detailing, tires and repairs. Then in 1997, his only tire competition in town, Conoco, went up for sale. Bart knew purchasing the Rangely Conoco would make good business sense and allow him to expand his business.
For Bart mechanic work was always a natural fit. “I love my job,” he said. He describes the work as a challenge, like solving a puzzle. The fix-it fanatic has even been known to answer calls to help with roofing projects. If it needs fixed, he’s interested. “I love fixing stuff. I’ll even work on cell phones, tablets, whatever.”
Maintaining a small business in Rangely’s boom and bust economy and culture of out of town shopping isn’t always easy. Bart attributes his success to good customer service. “People can go anywhere for an oil change and tires. We’ll be the best in customer service though. I think that’s why I’m still in business,” he said. As an example of small town service, Rangely Conoco offers vehicle pick up and delivery for work such as oil changes. And if there is something they can’t fix, Bart says they’ll haul it to someone who can.
One of the primary challenges Conoco faces is a story you can hear repeated up and down Main Street: competition with out-of-town chain stores and dealers. “People automatically think that you either don’t offer the service or it will be too expensive,” Bart said. “But that’s simply not true.”
Because of this the Nielsens feel very strongly about supporting both local businesses and the community at large. As a family of business owners they know that shopping locally can keep the community and economy growing. “I wish people would check in town, see if they can get it here, before heading to Vernal or Grand Junction. It makes such a difference to our town and the families who support Rangely,” he said.
Both Bart and Sarah strive to give back as much to the community as possible. “When a local business donates time or money, that comes directly from their potential income. Main Street and Mom and Pop shops sacrifice the most for the community,” Bart said. The couple lives out this ideal with involvement in numerous organizations including the Rangely Development Agency, sports and coaching and regular volunteering in the classrooms where their three boys, ages 16, nine and three, attend.
For 22 years the Nielsen’s have been striving to provide value to the community. Whether they are keeping engines running and wheels spinning or putting their time and coin into supporting the town, this family works hard to serve Rangely.