Charlie Skinner will join the ranks of St. Maries businessmen like his father and grandfather before him as he takes over ownership and operation of Fleet Parts this month.

He purchased the business from his parents, Bob and Kelly Skinner, who have owned and operated the business since 1989 when Bob took over for his father.

“I grew up in the business,” Bob said. “Mom and Dad both worked there pretty much full time and couldn’t afford a sitter or daycare so they just brought us along. Then when we hit school age we’d head to the shop after school throw on some coveralls and go to work.”

Grandfather Skinner started the truck repair shop with a friend in the brick building at the corner of 2nd Street and College Avenue.

After graduating from high school Bob went away to college, but after a year returned home and went to work full-time for the family business.

In the mid-80s the company expanded and purchased what used to be the Midway Bar and Grill across the street and created what is now the auto parts store.

“I worked side by side with dad until 1989 when he passed, and then I took it over,” Bob said.

Charlie worked for his dad through high school and then went off to college and started a career in broadcasting. After some time, he returned to St. Maries to join his parents in the family business.

Charlie said he was not really interested in taking on the family business at first, but discussions with one of his dad’s employees along with some deep consideration of the future led him to change course.

“After working at channel 6 for five years and with a college degree I was only making $15 per an hour,” he said. “I wasn’t seeing any opportunities to advance in my career unless I moved to a big city like Portland or Seattle, and I definitely didn’t want to do that.”

Charlie saw opportunity for a future in the family business.

His plan was to return home where he could work for $15 per hour for his parents and potentially end up owning the business. When he shared the idea with his folks they all agreed that they were not sure that Charlie knew enough about the business to be successful doing that but that they’d give him a shot at working there for a while and then reassess his suitability to business ownership after some time had passed.

He’s now been back for eight years.

“You don’t make a lot of money in our business, but it’s not a big deal when you live in St. Maries because there are a lot of other advantages,” Charlie said.

Bob and Kelly said they will still be around to help out but are looking forward to having a little more freedom in their schedule.

“We are in our 60s and we want to do a little traveling and not be so tied down,” Bob said. “If I decided I don’t want to go in early, but that I’d rather sit on the porch and drink my coffee, then I want to have the freedom to do that.”

Mr. and Mrs. Skinner plan to continue to be very involved in the business.

“We are turning the business over to Charlie, but we will still have a hand in it because it is so hard to get help and he is going to need help,” Bob said. “I’m lucky enough to have a son that is willing to take it over, so we are just going to pile it on him. I just hope he doesn’t burn my desk.”

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