Leif Lundeen was working at an auto repair shop in Lindstrom when he got a call from an acquaintance. The transmission shop in Scandia was for sale.
As luck would have it, he and his wife, Emmy, had purchased a house in Scandia just months before. Still, when he went home and broached the possibility of opening his own shop, he expected Emmy to bring him back to Earth.
“She’s usually the one who keeps me level headed and says, ‘Honey, you shouldn’t be doing this right now,’” Lundeen explained.
Instead she said, “Let’s try it.”
“Here we are a year and a half later,” Lundeen said, “and it’s been incredible.”
Because Lundeen does general automotive work, from oil changes and tires to motors and transmissions, he changed the business name from The Tranny Shop to Scandia Auto.
Emmy keeps the business’s books and remains an active volunteer in the Chisago Lakes community. The couple also has four children, who they’re raising in the Scandia home Emmy (née Kral) grew up in.
For Lundeen, whose love of cars started early, running his own shop seems like a calling.
“I’ve been a mechanic pretty much all my life,” Lundeen said. “I loved to take stuff apart when I was a kid. My mom and dad hated it because I couldn’t always get things back together. I swore I bought vehicles when I knew they were going to break so I had something to fix right away.”
Lundeen set his tools aside for about a decade to pursue sales in car parts and the motor sports industry. Although the work gave him valuable experience in customer service, he wanted something more.
“I missed being dirty,” he said. “I missed having cut hands.”
He returned to the shop floor and, five years later, he reports that many customers have become friends.
“It’s really important when people are trusting you with their cars, to be able to have that trust in your mechanic,” he said. “I definitely pride myself in being very honest in my work, doing the best work I can. Making sure my guys do the best work they can.
“I have very high expectations. The smallest job can be life or death working on cars. You forget one nut or bolt and it can go catastrophic. I take it very serious.”
Lundeen notes he’s willing look at just about any car.
“I work on foreign and domestic,” he said. “I’m not picky on what they are. We’ll fix ‘em either way.”
It’s that attitude, perhaps, that has made it hard to find a place to park in the lot at Scandia Auto. Lundeen, who had customers follow him from Lindstrom and has grown a client base in Scandia, sees it as a good sign.
“I’m very fortunate,” he smiled, “that in a year and a half my parking lot looks the way it does.”
Willing to get dirty?
To young people who share Leif Lundeen’s love for cars, he offered a few words of encouragement.
“Definitely go for it. Blue-collar careers are really lacking. There are so many people in technology, if you’re willing to get dirty in the trades I think it’s excellent.
“It’s a great job, especially if you like to know how things work. Those are the people I’ve always looked for to hire, people who want to find the answers to those questions themselves. They’re very inquisitive. No two jobs are ever the same for us.”
Lundeen believes technical school is important for general knowledge: how air conditioning works, reading voltage and amperage.
“I would like to see kids go and get the basic knowledge in school, the common understanding, but I wish they’d put in more in the shop to see how it really happens. That’s how I was trained.”