Diesel engine service shop fits well with pair's other ventures

Janet Koester thinks she knows why her husband bought a diesel engine service shop out of receivership in the midst of a recession.

"Because he's crazy," she said.

Truth is, Jim Koester figured there were at least three good reasons to buy the shop, which he renamed Advanced Diesel Performance, in 2009.

First, he said, the business "kind of ties in with" his two other enterprises — A-Plus Auto and Truck Repair and A-Plus Trucking.

Second, he liked the skills of Ernesto Sosa, who'd been the chief technician for the previous owner and now fills that role for him.

Third and most important, he felt there was a need for a place outside of dealerships where people could get diesel engines serviced.

"I just felt there was a need for a place where people could bring in their fuel injectors and injection pumps," he said. "It's kind of a specialized area."

People continue to express surprise that the shop reopened or existed in the first place, Janet Koester said. Construction companies, dealerships and individuals make up most of their business.

The shop also works on drivability issues for Dodge, Ford, GM and construction industrial equipment.

Koester started his first business, Jim's Automotive, on Baehr Street in the 1970s. He moved to an 11,000-square-foot shop on West Street and renamed it A-Plus 20 years ago. It employs 11 people. Advanced Diesel, with three employees, is a few blocks away.

His trucking company specializes in hauling rock and sand for highway construction. It has 40 trucks and can employ as many drivers at times. A-Plus keeps the trucks running, which means it also has "the big equipment to work on bigger equipment" for outside customers, Koester said.

Koester said he's seen quite a few changes in his various lines of work, including the computerization of vehicle repair shops. Along with that, he said, are fewer qualified young workers "who want to get their hands dirty."

"They seem to be more interested in the computers than in the actual wrenching," he said.

Longer vehicle warranties have been another challenge, since they make people more likely to visit a dealership than an independent repair shop. "It's important to maintain the customers you've established in the past," Koester said.