It was January 1st, 1969, in the middle of a snowstorm when Pete Harksell, Sr. took over an Enco service station on the northeast corner of the I-5 and Portal Way interchange. 50 years later, both Harksell and the station are gone but his family continues his legacy in the automotive business and the name, “Pete’s Auto Repair,” remains emblazoned on the repair shop he built in 1991.
According to Pete, Sr.’s son, Pete Harksell, Jr.,
Dad took over operation of his service station on January 1st, 1969. His first day in business was in a snow storm and [I] remember him commenting on this and wondering what in the world he had gotten into as there were no customers coming in.
Fortunately, the station proved popular to locals and travelers, eventually changing it’s name to Pete’s Ferndale Exxon. Senior ran the service station at Portal Way from 1969 to the end of 1991, at which time he retired.
Junior pointed out that by the time Senior had taken over the service station Senior had already been working in the automotive industry a long time.
Before opening his own business, [Senior] worked at Jewell Motors, Portrey’s Axton Road Mobile and Harkleroad’s Service. He also owned and operated a small station in downtown Ferndale on the northeast corner of Third Avenue and Vista Drive.
Pete, Sr. built a new repair shop a few blocks north of the Portal Way service station early in 1991. The shop opened on July 1st, 1991, with Pete, Jr. and his wife Nita taking over as owners when the business moved it to the new location, keeping the tow truck Senior had purchased for the service station for a few years with Larry Honkala as the main driver. Karl Hepler, a long time employee at the station, helped Senior run the service station until its closing.
Pete Harksell, Sr., a graduate of Ferndale High School died at the age of 79 in 2015.
Much like Senior was, Junior, also a graduate of Ferndale High School, is very active in local community service including Ferndale Kiwanis, Whatcom County Old Settlers Association, Ferndale Chamber of Commerce and the City of Ferndale Parks and Recreation Board.
Since Pete’s Auto Repair has been under Pete, Jr.’s and Nita’s ownership, it has been rated a “Top Shop” by AAA, Ferndale Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year in 2009 and Pete, Jr. has been recognized with “Technician of the Year” by NAPA/ASE 3 times.
Not only has Pete, Jr. continued the family legacy in the automotive industry, but his son, Peter III, is developing a reputation within the industry for the work he is doing at Pure Vision Design in Simi Valley, California where he makes one-of-a-kind custom automobiles. Peter’s projects have been featured in Hot Rod Magazine as well as in a recent television episode of Motor Trend’s “Hand-Built Hot Rods.”
And, at only 2-and-a-half-years-old, Peter IV is demonstrating an interest in cars just like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
The community is invited to stop by and check out a display of photos and memorabilia Pete, Jr. and Nita Harksell have on display at Pete’s Auto Repair, 6209 Portal Way, during January.