The automotive parts and accessories business on McKenzie Street, in Ceduna, was originally a service station, motel and garage started by Jack Cooper in 1959. At the time, it was the town’s only 24-hour truck-stop.
Less than a decade later, in 1967, the Nicholls family acquired the business and this month are celebrating 50 years of ownership.
Len and Gwen were the first generation of the Nicholls family to operate the service, and it soon became known as Nicholls Service Station and Lubritorium.
“We were a 24-hour truck stop with restaurant and some motel rooms,” Andrew Nicholls, a grandson of Len and Gwen and the current managing director, said.
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Nine years later Len and Gwen’s sons, Ray and Jim, bought the business from them, with Ray and his wife Marie operating it solely since 1984.
“We stopped being 24-hour, knocked down the original servo, restaurant and motel rooms and built the new building, which became Ceduna Mitsubishi – a car dealership and mechanical workshop, with the servo still attached, but only 10.5-hour days instead of 24-hours,” Andrew said.
“We also became dealers for Massey Ferguson, headers and other farm machinery; Horwood Bagshaw headers and other farm machinery; Silvan, sprayers for farms mostly; and Yamaha motorbikes, jet skis, and generators. We hired out four-wheel motorbikes and jet-skis for a while.”
In 1988, the Nicholls added Ceduna Independent Tyre Service to the business, which continued operating until 2009. In 1997, the service station became Autopro Ceduna and everything else other than the servo and tyres ended then, if not before.
It was around this time that the workshop closed, though the team had only been doing tyres and basics for a few years at that stage.
For more than 30 years, Autopro Ceduna was a freight delivery agent for Mayne Nickless or Mayne Logistics, Wards Skyroads, Security Express, Toll Priority, Toll Ipec, Northern Kope, Stateliner, and Dave Tyler, to name a few; and was also a bagged ice manufacturer, supplying most of the town and surrounding areas.
“I spent many, many, many afternoons after school and weekends bagging ice,” Andrew said. “It really sucked in winter, but it was a cool job in summer.”
Andrew, Ray’s son, first became involved in the business as a kid in 1989, helping out his mother and father when needed, and stepped up his involvement as the years went on.
“I’ve been working here on and off since I was 11 and have been running the business since Dad was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in October 2012,” he said.
“I’ve owned the business since March 2014, when Dad passed.”
The team at Autopro Ceduna is now made up of three employees, as well as Andrew. “Alicia has been with us for 5 years, starting off running the freight and car rental office,”Andrew said.
“We were agents for Ceduna Rent-a-Car briefly. Thomas has been working here after school since October last year. And Toby has been here for two months.”
The local team recently held a one-day sale to celebrate 20 years of operating as Autopro Ceduna and would like to thank everyone for their support on the day.
The event involved a display from the Vintage and Dirt Circuit car clubs; a sausage sizzle from Ian Macgowan and helpers; a car detailing demo from Travis and Todd at Bunda’s Gardening and Car Cleaning; and face painting by Mel Trewartha.
Management extended its appreciation to the customers and staff who have made the last 20 as Autopro Ceduna and 50 years of Nicholls ownership not only possible, but also great.