by Cora Markowitz
Though Campus Auto & Tire looks like a movie-set façade and as though it has been disused for decades, it serves as a fully functional gas station and auto repair shop.
Located just across Brooklyn Street from Lewis Residence Hall, the station has been around through many generations of Kenyon students — a one-stop shop for everything from gas to tire pump-ups to beef jerky.
The fading red and tan paint may not look as bright as it did in its heyday when it first opened in the 1960s, but inside, it’s bustling. Cars come in and out of the shop for repairs daily, and the pumps outside are open for business. One of the mechanics, Eddie, describes a usual day as “busy, with a lot of different kinds of cars coming in.”
“Though it looks run down and unused on the outside, inside there are so many kind people willing to help you,” Zoe Andris ’17 said.
Jim Lee, the fourth owner in the station’s history, reopened the shop seven-and-a-half years ago. “I was approached by the mayor and a couple of citizens about opening this place back up when it was closed,” Lee said. “I think the lease ran out on the person who had it before.”
Lee has a long history working in the automotive industry. “I worked on cars for 35 years,” he said. “I managed a couple businesses too.” Then he came to Gambier, reopened Campus Auto in mid-2006, and has been serving the surrounding community ever since. “We get Kenyon students, local people and people from out of town,” Lee said.
The station often goes unnoticed by students, hidden away on a side street just past the center of the Village. Eddie said, “A lot of kids don’t know we’re here.”
But the station can come in handy when students need it most. When Evie Kennedy ’17 needed her car jump-started, she called Campus Safety for help. They referred her to Campus Auto, who came to her rescue. “The guys there were so kind. You can tell they truly care about Kenyon students. Not only did they get my battery up and running in minutes but also when I went up to pay, the man who was helping me pumped up my tires for me for free because he noticed they were low,” she said. “They were also very understanding and amused when I struggled to put gas in my car for the first time.”
When Andris’ car also died, Safety referred her to Campus Auto for a jump-start as well. “I went there in the morning and they had a very cool automated battery, so I didn’t have to do it through another car,” she said. “This guy came out to my car and jump-started it in no time. He actually helped me learn how to do it, and he even did it for free.”
Beyond the business of Kenyon students, the station keeps busy with cars from the surrounding area. The construction of the Health Center next door has slightly damaged business because it blocks the way for trucks that used to be able to come in through the back, but in other regards, business bustles along daily, with the mechanics working hard and keeping busy.
“The station is here and it’s open seven days a week,” she said.