Almost thirty years ago, Lowell Smith decided to “buy himself a job.” What he did back in June of 1990 was purchase the chainsaw and small engine/mower repair business owned by Frank Lewis and then employ himself for the next thirty years. His business, called Montana Saws, was located on the Stevensville Cut-Off Road where Tire-Rama is located today.
Smith operated the business in that location for about three years and then moved it to his home/shop on Middle Burnt Fork Road. There he made a reputation for himself for being especially capable, knowledgeable, and innovative at keeping old machinery functioning. But he could also give you an honest and fair appraisal of when repairing the darn thing was going to end up costing you more than it was worth. At that point of course, he would offer to sell you a new one. Either way, he would certainly stand behind the deal.
As he approached retirement age, Smith said he began to think about doing what Frank Lewis did back in 1990 and put the business up for sale. But what he didn’t have to go with the business was a shop, so he decided to build one. He bought a piece of property on the south end of Stevensville with frontage on the Eastside Highway. He designed the shop not only to accommodate his current business in a neat and efficient manner, but also to accommodate future growth. He moved the business out there, got it set up and running and then put it up for sale.
It caught the attention of young Justin Nodi. Nodi was raised in Stevensville and was a 2002 graduate of Stevensville High School. He has worked at Les Schwab Tires for the last thirteen years, first in Stevensville and then in Missoula. He and his wife Jamie and their two children live southeast of Stevensville.
Nodi, who took over the business at the beginning of the month, has been training at the shop in his off time since July. Smith will continue working for another month before truly retiring. Nodi is obviously excited about his prospects.
“He went to school with my daughter,” said Smith. “Now I think he’s kind of like me when I started up. He just said to himself one day, it’s time to buy myself a job. Working for yourself is always better than working for someone else.”
Nodi said that he had no plans to change anything about the business. He said Steven Jessop would be staying on. He said the Smiths have built a good business.
“They have done a lot for people around here and we want to continue that,” he said. “This is a much-needed service.”