It all began pretty simply for Nat Herrera. Working his way through college at Modesto Junior College, he was employed with the automotive department at Montgomery Wards. Beginning in tires, he was eventually promoted to other areas. In time the business closed down and Herrera found himself looking for a fresh start.
By chance, a former co-worker had been offered a job with Oakdale Garage, so Herrera also inquired about that possibility. He officially started in January of 2002, some 21 years ago.
In April of this past year, Herrera and former owner Carey Gregg began the official turnover of Herrera taking over the business. A feat which may have been a bit bittersweet as the Gregg family has held name to the business for the past 100 years.
“There’s conflicting years,” Herrera stated. “Carey says 1922 is what he has stories on. On our Facebook page it says (19)24.”
He continued that a misprint in some shop signage may also be confusing. But be it 1922 or 1924 there is no question that Gregg’s Oakdale Garage has been a longtime standing staple in the community.
As an OHS 1994 alum, Herrera has a passion for the industry, as well as the clients.
“I enjoy the diagnostic side of it,” he said. “I went to school here in Oakdale, in the automotive section. Mr. Dyer, Bill Dyer was a big influence on me. From there I worked at Montgomery Wards while going to MJC.”
Herrera shared he and Gregg first began talks of the transition to ownership in 2008, which was delayed by a declining economy. They revisited the changeover again in 2020 just before COVID started.
While the current East F Street location is not the same as when the business was first founded, it seems to fit the needs of the business perfectly.
Oakdale Garage was first started where Wells Fargo Bank is currently. A move to Yosemite Avenue proved to be at the demise of the business as they experienced a fire, which then brought them to the current location; the building which once belonged to Haidlen Ford.
According to Herrera, Carey Gregg was always big on education and as the current owner, he has chosen to follow suit in that area.
“If you’re not educating yourself, you’re falling behind. Especially in today’s world. Technology just goes, goes, goes,” Herrera said.
To that end, the shop offers their team members the opportunity to attend in person classes as well as online classes.
“I just enjoy the industry,” Herrera added. “I enjoy the customers that we have. Most of them are very, very good. I just enjoy it.”
As testament to Gregg’s commitment to continued training, he paid for Herrera to attend several classes in Los Angeles and Baltimore to help prepare him for the day-to-day routine of running a business.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Herrera said of the training and the knowledge he gained.
Oakdale Garage is also an AAA approved shop and, among its honors, was named a 2020 West Coast Top Shop out of five states.
As a family-run operation, Herrera shared he also tries to work with his staff in terms of being accommodating and providing time off.
“I also think I lead by example. I don’t just delegate.” he said. “We’re kind of a big family. We joke and work together to get things done.”
He believes in his crew and as a result, there is not much turnover.
“I think we have the greatest clients here,” he continued. “We know them all by their first names.”
They also offer van service for clients who might need a ride while work is being done on their vehicle.
“We get to know them. We have conversations with them. Our customers are great.”
Herrera and his team also take pride in keeping a good reputation.
“I’m happy working on cars. Oakdale’s great because they have such a wonderful blue collar trade program,” Herrera stated.