The East Phoenix Valley is replete with LDS pioneer heritage. The names of pioneer families adorn our streets, buildings and schools. We often casually pass by a geographic location without considering the history of the family for which the location was named, or why the family name was used. The inquiring minds of Arizona Beehive readers want to know! In each issue we now present the history of one “famous” Mormon family name. We hope you enjoy learning about these families, and encourage you to reach out to The Arizona Beehive with ideas for families to feature in the series.
Within the old-school buildings and downtown streets of Mesa, visitors will come across a sight on Center Street near University that’s been familiar to local residents for over 40 years. A blue-painted building that has never been anything but an auto repair shop, with hand painted red letters spelling out Hefners Auto Repair. Ask the current owner, Gary Hefner, and he’ll point out the shoe prints he made on the ceiling when it was first put up. He was eighteen at the time.
“I would step on the boards,” he’ll explain with a small grin as he gives a tour of the old building, “and would flip them over when nailing them into the beams. We didn’t see the prints until it was too late.” The wood had come from an old gas station they had come across.
He’ll also tell you how his father, Frank Hefner, got in automotive repairs while in the military, started at a former gas station for his automotive repair service in 1962, and had his son Gary work around cars since he was 12 years old. Out of his many siblings, Gary was the one to inherit and run the business, as he father formally retired over twenty years ago.
Hefner’s doesn’t do everything, though; most people can’t. The shop doesn’t do bodywork, windshields or most European cars. However, they do their best. Gary and his crew, all of whom have journeyman experience, are honest and straightforward mechanics in an age when many car repair businesses will nickel and dime unknowing customers with items that are irrelevant or not even broken.
From work ethic to business dealings, Hefner’s prides itself on fairness. Quality is everything to them. 40 years brings lots of experience and tools collected, and Gary pointed out all the old and new tools needed to get the work done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
One might see his toy cars occasionally there; Gary has had his share over his lifetime. One is a restored El Camino, currently in California. He’ll admit that the temptation to fly down almost any road can be hard to resist.
The cars have come and gone for him, but the experience and memories still hold true and well at the long-standing auto shop.
It’s an old-fashioned and family-oriented repair shop, there to get the job done. Here, service includes the customer all the way through, plain and simple. It’s very much worth stopping in to have your vehicle checked, and be sure to ask about the footprints—they really are there!
Hefners Auto Repair is located at 502 N Center Street, Mesa, AZ 85201, (480) 969-8291. hefnersauto.com