Homer mechanic puts away his toolbox; Redline Automotive to take over space

Ensuring all the ingredients were on hand for favorite Thanksgiving recipes and anticipating a day with loved ones and friends kept many people busy last Wednesday. Not Brant “Boog” Torsen, his wife Doris and their daughter Breeanna. They spent the morning sharing hugs and tearful good-byes with customers. At noon Wednesday, Nov. 22, they closed the doors of Boog’s Automotive.

“This is definitely strumming on my heart strings doing this, but family has to come first,” said Torsen, referring to health issues behind the decision to close the business that opened on Kachemak Drive in May 2009. “Things could be different in a couple of years, but right now we’ve got to focus on our health.”

Some maybe are born with a silver spoon, but Torsen was born with a wrench and a talent for taking things apart and putting them together again. As a youngster in Oregon, he built his own go-kart. His first job was at a drag strip. Before reaching his 20s, Torsen was traveling across the country, Canada and Mexico with a team of funny cars, both alcohol- and jet-powered.

When a desire to try something new took hold, Torsen ended up in Homer, deckhanding on the Helenka B. His wrench and love of all things automotive continued calling his name, however, and Torsen became well acquainted with Homer drivers and their vehicles by working at Kachemak Automotive, Automotive Collision Experts, Precision Auto and East Road Motors.

In 2009, armed with a toolbox, a jack, a couple of jack stands and a 1,500-square-foot space, Torsen struck out on his own and opened Boog’s Automotive. Doris Torsen commandeered the business’s front desk and treated customers like friends. Breeanna, who was 12 at the time, also helped out, which meant the family had time together as the business became increasingly busy.

Within eight years, Boog’s Automotive had grown to fill three bays. The tool inventory expanded far beyond that original toolbox. A crew of mechanics numbering as many as four made it possible to meet the demands. Frequent training allowed Torsen and his team to stay current with automotive trends. The popularity of Boog’s caused Torsen’s 40-hour work week to double.

Honesty, determination and a love for the automotive trade have been a formula for success, according to Torsen.

“Nine times out of 10 when people walked through the door, they’d hand me their problem and I could call them and say it was cured. That was a big thing,” said Torsen. “That’s what made me feel good. … We did the best to our ability to make sure everyone stayed on the road safely.”

Through their business, the Torsen family has left a lasting mark on Homer and beyond. Their support of Homer High School activities raised funds for numerous events.

After an Anchor Point youngster lost both legs in a 2014 Christmas Eve automobile accident, Boog’s Automotive helped provide a van to solve the family’s transportation challenges. The Torsens’ willingness to juggle schedules to accommodate customers’ needs has been appreciated by many, including Michael Blair and Julie Olson.

“(Two) times I went to Boog’s Automotive for help. Both times they dropped what they were doing and fixed the issues. They were accommodating, friendly and very affordable,” the couple, who were living at the head of Kachemak Bay at the time, wrote in a Homer News letter to the editor.

Speaking of affordable, the story of Boog’s Automotive taking a handshake and “once, a plate of double chocolate chip cookies” as payment for services rendered made its way onto NPR, National Public Radio, and then spread across the country to radio stations in Idaho, Kansas, Texas and New Hampshire.

It’s all that and more that made Nov. 22 so emotional for the Torsens.

“We’ve helped so many people and touched so many lives and they’ve touched ours as well,” said Doris Torsen. “It’s bittersweet that we have to do what we’re doing.”

What they aren’t doing is leaving their customers in the mechanical lurch. Having purchased some of Boog’s equipment, Dimitrian White has opened Redline Automotive in the Boog’s Automotive location and is keeping Boog’s two employees, Bob Russ and John Fetrow.

“I’ve been wanting to start something for about a year or two,” said White, who graduated from AVTEC, a technical education center in Seward, in 2010. Like Torsen, White likes “taking things apart, figuring out how they work and diagnosing mechanical problems.” He has worked in Canada, and locally at Boog’s, Alyeska Tire and Scruggs Automotive. “Boog gave me this great opportunity and I figured I might as well jump on it,” he said.

Putting away the wrench and closing Boog’s Automotive hasn’t been easy for the Torsens, who have been surprised at the outpouring of emotional well-wishes they’ve received as word of the closure has spread.

“Thank you very much for letting us touch your lives,” said Torsen to the community. “This is a hard decision for us, but family comes first.”

McKibben Jackinsky is a freelance writer. She can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@gmail.com.