When Carl Regan was 14 he left school without permission and started working at a local garage.
It was a move that would take him on a journey that embraced his love of cars but would also throw up some challenges along the way.
And the latest leg of that journey has seen him take on a major investment project.
There aren’t many people that would invest £300,000 in a business in the middle of a pandemic. But Carl Regan has a brave streak.
Owner of Arnold Garage, Carl says that he just always knew he wanted to work with cars. He said: “I loved cars, fixing bikes… that sort of thing”.
Now 44 years old, he recalls of when he started out: “The boss asked me ‘do you want a job or a career’, I said I wanted a career so he put me through college and I loved it. I became the college geek”.
Having gained the knowledge and experience, and with the drive to succeed, Carl worked his way up, had stints at other garages, was offered jobs with the likes of Porsche and even trained to become a part-time firefighter. It was at the point he had to make a decision.
Carl says: “I came to a fork in my life. Did I become a full-time firefighter or continue working in a garage? I chose the garage.
Today, Arnold Garage is run and owned by Carl. Having been established for 22 years, it’s a business that he believes in, and has just stunk £300k into, despite the pandemic.
The plan was to expand the garage and MOT centre by creating a brand new workshop at the site in Brookfield Road.
Having gained planning permission in January 2020, Carl was one of many people to have had their plans scuppered by the time March arrived. Covid threw the country into panic and into lockdown.
“I went cold on the idea”, admits Carl. “By that time [the beginning of March] I had everything in place bar the builder but then lockdown came.
“In August 2020, things started to ease up, but it was horrendous [trying to get everything organised] . I’m normally in control of everything, you have to be as the boss, but we couldn’t get materials… we had stuff stuck on a boat in the Suez Canal, labour had to be socially distanced, the only thing that was on our side was the weather.”
They finally broke ground on the site and in September around 700 tons of earth was removed so that the new building could be sunk into the ground (800mm at the front and 1.5m at the back) to allow class 7 ramps to be installed. Steels finally arrived in October and installation quickly followed.
Financially he was still paying rent of the old place with a mortgage on the new.
The project that was expected to take 12 weeks was finally finished in just over a year.
But finished it is and today Arnold Garage has a shiny new home with state of the art ramps, rubber flooring… “We’ve gone from a traditional garage to a clean, family-run business with art on the walls.”
Carl’s partner Stacey Wibberley works in the reception and even Carl’s son helps out occasionally.
Now with capacity for another member of staff on the mechanics’ team, Carl is recruiting too.
“Customers have been amazed at the new garage,” he said. “If you’d seen where we came from…”
So, what’s next? Carl said he has a 10-year plan for the garage then he hopes to embark on his next challenge. “I’ve been in the garage business since I was 14. I’d like to give it another 10 years then I want to live abroad”, he said. “I love this country but I want to sample life in a different country too for bit.”