Claremore Daily Progress

August 31, 2010

 

Local business owner once had his own radio show:             Larry Banzet is the Auto Guy

Joy Hampton
Staff Reporter

 

CLAREMORE — Automobiles and auto repair are Larry Banzet's life. And the business has been very, very good to him. Not only does Banzet own and operate a successful and growing local business, Boomer Auto Repair, LLC in Claremore, his automotive expertise is at least partly responsible for his happy love life. Banzet grew up in Kansas and graduated from Labette County High School. He found his first love – automotive repair – at the votech where he received his initial formal training. But Banzet had worked on and operated machinery and motor vehicles all of his life. He was raised on a large farm.

His wife, Carla (Ratliff) Banzet, was a graduate of Coffeyville, Kan. The couple met when Carla had a flat.
"She had a flat tire and I changed her spare and I've been changing it ever since," he said.

The couple has two daughters, three grandchildren, and another grandchild on the way. Carla is an assistant manager of the Walmart in Owasso. They live in Chelsea and have resided there for years.

While Banzet's auto expertise is considered exceptional by his customers, there are at least two other really exceptional things about him.  For starters, even though he and Carla lived in Chelsea, Okla., for years, they owned and operated Coffeyville Tire and Auto in Kansas. Daily, Banzet made the long drive across the state line to run his business and then back home again.

During the time he operated his shop in Kansas, Banzet was also a popular radio personality on the local air waves. Larry Banzet was "the Auto Guy". "I hosted a radio program on AM 690 KGGF," said Banzet. "It was called ‘On the Road with Larry.' People would call in with automotive questions." Radio station KGGF broadcasts a news talk format and serves Joplin, Mo. in addition to Coffeyville.
 

Banzet said there are people living in Claremore who actually used to listen to his show on the radio.
Some of those people found him after he opened his business here and had him work on their cars.
On the radio show, Banzet gave folks advice on all things automotive.

 

Some callers were very entertaining.

"‘My check engine light keeps coming on and every time I get out and check, the engine is in there,' one woman told me," said Banzet. "And she was serious." That one was hard to believe. "I thought it was a joke, but it was serious," he said.

 

Most of the questions he dealt with were more practical in nature however. The station had a wide listening audience. Banzet knew that, but he wasn't aware of just how far the station reached at time.
Station KGGF went well beyond its expected broadcast range at least one clear evening. "We did that show for about five years," said Banzet. "We did receive a call from a man in Chicago one time. He was a regular listener in Coffeyville and he was on the road. He called and said he was picking up the show in Chicago clear as a bell."

Banzet also remembers people being very concerned their cars would have problems when the year changed from 1999 to 2000. "People thought the Y2K problem was going to shut their cars down," he said.

Today, he's still handing out free advice at his shop. Banzet suggests people do their research before purchasing a vehicle. One way buyers can protect themselves is through obtaining a reliability report.
Banzet will look at vehicles for customers who are considering buying them and will run a reliability report on the make and model.
 

"We have some great used car dealers here, but they don't always catch everything," he said. "It pays to have cars checked out before buying them." One program Banzet uses is Identafix. The Identafix site posts repair success stories and more. It's a paid subscription site Banzet subscribes to in order to better serve his customers.

Once, when Banzet figured out a low cost way to make a repair on a Toyota Camry that would normally cost thousands but only cost a couple of hundred dollars using his method, he shared that information on Identafix. That idea sharing site allows mechanics and garages to exchange the best of their ideas in order to improve customer satisfaction. Banzet's post on the Camry repair won his garage the Repair of the Month award. More importantly, a customer who could not afford to pay thousands was able to afford the necessary repair to get his car back on the road.

To Banzet, it's all about helping people get the most for their money and to drive away with their automotive problems solved, he said.

Times have changed since the days on the farm. "I grew up in an era where if it broke, you fixed it," Banzet said. He still likes fixing things, but these days that means computers and software and advanced diagnostics. Banzet stays ahead of the game by investing in new equipment and the latest in sophisticated software required to fix many of today's vehicles.

Since opening his shop in Claremore, Banzet has won the Readers Choice Award for Rogers County Best Auto repair for the past three years.

"There are a lot of good, qualified shops here in Claremore, and we're very pleased that people choose to do business with us," said Banzet. He said he has a good relationship with the dealers and other shops in town.
Banzet attributes much of his success to loyal customers and his talented staff of mechanics. But while he may not have a radio show in Rogers County, most folks who know him would still agree that Banzet is "the Auto Guy".

 

 


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