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In a two-bay garage in 1986, Tom Schoenmann and his wife, Lisa, opened Tom’s Auto Center with the dream of providing quality maintenance and repairs for their neighbor’s vehicles. Soon after, they expanded to the back of a body shop on Terminal Drive before building their 12-bay garage in 2000. In that time, the shop has hired additional technicians and service advisors to keep up with demand. 

In 2018, Tom partnered with Tom Sumwalt, a technician who worked at the shop for more than 15 years. Tom Sumwalt will be the full owner in the next 5 years, allowing the original Tom and Lisa to enjoy a well-earned retirement.  

Little Town Feel, Big Time Service

Tom’s Auto Center focuses on a “little town feel with big time service,” providing a trusted and reliable shop for the greater McFarland area. Technicians are available for maintenance, repair, and tire installation for automobiles and light trucks.  

“We’re here for our neighbors and the community really focusing on helping them maintain their vehicles to the level they want, and when they do have a break down, we can efficiently and effectively fix the issues,” said Mr. Sumwalt. “We pride ourselves on our service and taking care of your whole vehicle, and keeping it in the ideal condition for a long time.” 

Mr. Sumwalt is particularly proud of the Tom’s Auto team because of the way they handle nuances and updates in the automobile industry’s computer technology. Each vehicle, even those of the same make, operate 15-30 computers at a time, with updates coming out consistently. Technicians and service advisors at Tom’s Auto are committed to continued learning so they can provide the most accurate and efficient diagnoses for customers.  

“We make sure that we present every repair in a way that you can understand and know what costs are upfront,” Mr. Sumwalt said, adding that he wants his customers and neighbors to know that mechanics are not “out to get you,” and only want to help you and your vehicle run safely and efficiently. “The idea that the shop is out to take your money is not true. I want to change that stereotype and show that we’re here to help our customers, guide them and assist them in taking care of their vehicle to the best level.” 

For example, as the life of an oil change extends from 3,000 miles to 5,000 miles, Mr. Sumwalt said he’s seen a lot of clients come in with low levels in the engine, which could cause larger issues. He said that while engines and oil become more efficient, it is still important to check levels regularly. Tom’s Auto offers free top offs for anyone who stops by to get their levels checked. 

Moving Forward

Mr. Sumwalt said while the shop did slow down during the height of the pandemic, he is grateful to have been able to keep the shop fully staffed. Since January of 2021, he said, the bays have been full, business has been busy, and he is now looking to expand the team once more. 

Additionally, Mr. Sumwalt said he wants to continue supporting the future of the auto repair industry, and the McFarland community as well. They partner with McFarland High School’s youth apprenticeship program and help develop the auto mechanics curriculum for Madison Area Technical College. Mr. Sumwalt said he enjoys being able to give back to the community food banks and participate in local fundraisers and car shows as well.  

The shop has been a staple in the McFarland community for 35 years, with no plans of slowing down once Tom and Lisa pass the torch to Mr. Sumwalt – keeping Tom at Tom’s Auto Center.