Service center makes supersize repairs

Gilbert Chavez of Clovis, a certified caterpillar technician, checks the anti freeze level on a truck during a general inspection Monday at R&D Service Center. Chavez has been employed there for 5 years. CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Ever since Ronald Dickson and Don Reid started the R&D Service Center in 1973, a mystery has existed.

“Is it Reid and Dickson, or Ronald and Don?” Dickson said Monday from R&D’s new location on Mabry Drive. “I still don’t know.”

What Dickson does know is bigger is better.

He now spends his working day where he’s wanted to be for years, in a 30,000-square-foot building on the outskirts of Clovis.

Raised on a dairy farm in Causey, Dickson started working as a mechanic after he was finished with high school. In 1973, he started the service center with Reed. He bought his partner out about 18 months later.

The business later moved to 1100 E. Brady. With location changes, there have been changes in the people it serves as well.

“The customer base has changed quite a bit,” Dickson said. “We used to specialize in cattle haulers, livestock haulers. The cattle market crashed and I learned to diversify, focus on other things.”

Now, the business has a stake in the well-being of cross-country truck drivers. The store front has standard supplies — driving logs, replacement headlights and miscellaneous parts and cleaners — and a large garage that does everything except body work.

With an abundance of space, the building also has a waiting room with a television, games and cartoon DVDs for children and magazines adorned with yellow address labels typical of any person or business that recently changed an address.

If drivers need them, there is a courtesy phone and a free shower available as well.

“Most of the things that we may fix are things we can’t do in less than an hour,” said Dickson, who noted that truckers can also go to the adjacent Cook’s Restaurant — a neighbor he said he’s glad to have.

Dickson said he’s wanted to move to Mabry for nearly two decades, but it’s only been in the last two years that he’s had the capital to make that happen — he purchased the land in October 2004 and jokes that the bank owns the building and he merely works at R&D.

Whether he calls himself the owner or the president, Dickson can’t deny it’s a family business. His daughter, Phobie Privett, works wherever she is needed in the store, and son Coby has spent the last 10 years as a mechanic.

“I really like being part of the same business I grew up in,” Coby said in sign language — he was born deaf. “I enjoy learning about the business and helping dad out.”

Even the employees who aren’t relatives are longtime employees.

“We’ve been excited about this for a long time,” said Benny Cordova, in his 20th year as a mechanic for R&D. “Ron’s been talking about it for several years. It’s exceeded (expectations), in my opinion.”

Cordova said he enjoys the ample space and better lighting in the new building.
“It was just too small,” Cordova said of the shop on Brady St. “The trucks today have gotten so much bigger than what that old shop was designed for.”

With the size come changes, and Dickson said the move is about 80 percent complete. He said a new oil change facility is a few weeks away and a truck wash should be added by the middle of 2007.