It was the smell of oil, the love of getting dirty and the passion for serving others that brought two friends together to open Minot's newest oil change center, Lightning Lube.
Shop owners Michael Piispanen and Joe Roberts are used to serving others they are both military veterans who served in Iraq.
Piispanen, a senior airman, did convoy security from March to October 2005 while Roberts, an Army corporal, was part of the infantry that stormed the palace during the initial fighting in March 2003.
After serving their country for four years, both retired from military service and now spend their days oil-covered, servicing the cars of area residents.
Located at 1516 S. Broadway, Lightning Lube offers oil changes, radiator and transmission flushes, filter changes and minor maintenance services that include replacing wiperblades, spark plugs and light bulbs. As a complimentary service, they also offer car window washing and vacuuming services.
Unlike many business stories, the sour economy actually helped charge Lightning Lube's oil-soaked birth.
on Lightning Lube
What: Oil change, transmission and radiator flush, other minor maintenance services
Where: 1516 S. Broadway
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday noon to 6 p.m.
"We had kicked the idea (of starting a business together) around for four years, but when Mike went back home last year I didn't think we'd ever do it," Robert said.
Piispanen left Minot in June 2008 to return to his home state of Washington, but the trip was short-lived.
"There were no jobs in Washington nothing," he said. "It got to the point that I went to apply at Wal-Mart. There were two positions available and there were four people behind me in line (to interview) who all had four-year degrees. It's nuts out there."
With minimal job prospects, Piispanen packed his bags and made the 1,300-mile trip back to Minot where he met up with Roberts and the two moved forward with their plan to start a business.
"Opening a lube shop was one of the first ideas we had, and we were driving around one day and saw that this space was open so we went for it," Roberts said. "Everything just seemed to kind of fall into place from there."
While the business plan seemed effortless, the building itself was not.
"The building was dilapidated. The owner said it was a season away from possibly being demolished or turned into a salon," Piispanen said. "It was to the point where it could have gone either way."
Over the course of one month, Roberts and Piispanen cleaned up the place by adding a fresh coat of paint, new guardrails and pans, a new furnace and had the basement rewired all out of pocket.
The first day of business, Sept. 1, the two made a friendly lunch bet as to how many oil changes they would do that day. The bet turned into a stalemate as both underestimated business.
"Our first day went surprisingly well," Roberts said. "We did 15 the first day, which I think is a pretty good start."
They hope the trend continues.
"Our speed and convenience makes us different, but I think the bigger fact is that you have the owners personally providing care and service to your car," Piispanen said. "I find it really hard to turn someone loose on a vehicle. I'm paranoid about making sure everything is right because this is my income, my life.....we want people to come back and trust us to do the best job in town."