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Former printer breathes life into old Pontiac garage

Kevin Schafer has worn many hats in Fairfax in recent years. He added another recently when he and his wife Kersten bought the former Marlowe Garage building in May 2021 on South Park St., the west main street.

Kevin Schafer repairs a customer’s antique Lincoln Continental in his shop formerly known as Marlowe Garage in Fairfax.

Kevin Schafer has done quite a variety of jobs in his life.

He’s been a printer, mechanic and auto body technician, took flight instruction, was a certified air vessel welder and worked for a hog barn accessorizing company, founded and published a newspaper for five years, and worked for a machine manufacturing company.

Not long after that, he began working on motor vehicles, opening for business on May 3, 2021. Among his first jobs was repairing a 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark 3.

He worked as a printing apprentice for his father at age 12.

“I started to acquire printing equipment in high school, including the purchase of a 1912 Linotype typesetter from the Fairfax Standard in 1984 after my dad borrowed me $100,” said Schafer. “I fully rebuilt it and still own it. It’s one of the oldest working Linotypes in the world.”

The interior of Kevin’s Garage is much as it was decades ago.

“I learned auto mechanics from my father. The first engines I worked on were Volkswagen and Renault,” Schafer said.

In 1987, he took flight instruction from Eldon H. Lowinske at the Sleepy Eye Airport, flying his first solo in Lowinske’s plane.

Schafer said he stopped flying at age 18 after the FAA requested he get a thorough asthma physical at the Mayo Clinic which cost $350 at the time.

“What 18-year-old has $350 lying around?” Schafer said.

Schafer said he became a certified air vessel welder 40 years ago and worked at Industrial Air in New Ulm.

Originally known as Nelson Brothers, Kevin’s Garage in downtown Fairfax opened its doors as a vehicle repair shop in Park Street.

After working as a printer in New Ulm for a number of years, he started Fairfax Printing in May 2003. Schafer served as Fairfax mayor from 2005 to 2010.

He began the weekly Eagle Extra free distribution newspaper in June 2007 and published more than 200 editions in nearly five years.

Schafer’s job printing business continued until 2016, closing due to market and demand changes.

“I still have everything. I just covered all the machinery with bed sheets,” said Schafer.

His other work includes welding for a hog barn accessory company, working on existing and new barns for about a year; working three years as an automotive mechanic in Fairfax, as an auto body technician in New Ulm for 18 months and six months at a New Ulm machine manufacturing company.

After 72 years in the motor vehicle sales and repair business, Marlowe Garage closed in 2020 when Greg Marlowe of New Ulm stopped doing mechanical work there. Several months later, it re-opened as Kevin’s Garage.

More than a century old, the building has a storied history.

The Nelson Brothers built the garage in 1914 and used it as a Studebaker dealer. It later became a dealerships for Plymouth, Kaiser Frazer, Pontiac, GMC trucks, and Oliver tractors.

Marlowe Garage began in February 1948 when Charles A. Marlowe and his son Harold opened a sales and repair business for cars, trucks and farm machinery. They sold new Pontiacs, GMC trucks, and Oliver tractors.

Harold’s son Greg studied auto mechanics at Willmar Area Vocational Technical School and began working for his father in May 1974. Greg operated a repair business in the building after his father died in 1991.

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