Silver Lake Auto Center History
Ready to serve the needs of Lake Country drivers and vehicle owners with quality, honesty, and integrity
We opened our new location in Hartland WI in January 2013. This modern facility mirrors our Oconomowoc location and is equipped with the best and latest equipment, to ensure we are able to perform any repair on how the vehicles manufacture intended and as our technicians have been trained.
In 1965, sixteen year-old Walter “Wally” Garlock sought an opportunity to go to work. There were plenty of part-time positions in Milwaukee for the willing and able, and Wally met the criteria. After looking into various job possibilities, the service station business presented a challenge. It wasn’t the $1.15 per hour wage that offered the incentive for spending hours pumping gas, pushing a broom and shuffling in oil-dry. It was the outlook of a future for Wally in the automotive repair business.
Some years passed, during which Wally served two years of military duty and, upon returning home, resumed employment at the same service station under new ownership. Wally’s position went from part-time to full-time with added responsibilities, an occasional pay raise, and was a learning experience that prepared Wally for his own business venture. So on November 15, 1973, with $2000 he had saved, another $2000 from his parents and the same amount in inventory borrowed from Warren Oil Company, Wally Garlock’s new Silver Lake Shell was open for business at 224 E. Wisconsin Avenue in Oconomowoc. The soul proprietorship consisted of a service station with a two-pump island and a two-bay repair shop, selling Shell branded gasoline, motor oil, and offering minor automotive repairs.
The business experienced substantial growth during its first year, which ended in Wally’s paying back all the monies that helped him open up his business. Wally even turned the “gas shortage” situation into a positive opportunity to establish roots for long-term community relations by having gasoline allocations to serve his new clientèle. Growth continued and in July of 1975, with the purchase of a tow truck, the business expanded into the fiercely competitive Oconomowoc area towing market.
Over the next ten years, the business changed little physically, but Silver Lake Shell became a fixture in the automotive service community. Never stagnant, though, Walter opened a second station at the inter-section of I-94 and State Hwy 26 on March 15, 1986. Johnson Creek Mobil was a similar operation, primarily intended to serve the gas, diesel, oil, repair, and towing needs of interstate travelers. This location did not, however, generate all the expected revenues that would justify the required operating expenses or the substantial amount of Wally’s time away from the home base in Oconomowoc. Rather than risk a long-term financial setback, Walter decided to close Johnson Creek Mobil in November of 1989 after three and one-half years of only moderate success.
The New Location
With reinforced drive to build on his proven success with Silver Lake Shell, Wally made an important decision that he knows, yet today, was the right one. On October 1st of 1990, the business restructuring and conversion of all assets and liabilities resulted in the new Silver Lake Shell, Incorporated. At the same time, discussions with his Shell supplier Scott Oil Company (formerly Warren Oil) revealed no plans on their part for the growth or rebuilding of an aging facility. So Wally went in search of a new location and in December, 1990 began negotiations with Mart Olson for the leasing of the facility at 36355 E. Wisconsin Avenue in the Village of Oconomowoc Lake. By February 15, 1991, the lease was signed and preparations for relocation began.
At the onset, the new property housed multiple automotive related businesses in addition to its newest tenant. Olson Car & Truck sub-leased an office and lot space in order to continue used vehicle sales. A lease of a second building was also retained with Lakeland Oldsmobile for their use as an auto body repair shop. Nonetheless, the overall property was perfect for Wally’s current needs, as well as for his potential growth. Originally built in the 1960s as a Chrysler dealership, it contained nine service bays and a parts room, a showroom, cashier area, and sales offices. The next thirty days involved extensive cleaning, equipment restoration, building, and workspace improvements. On March 15, 1991, the property at 224 E. Wisconsin was closed and Walter, along with all his equipment and inventory headed east to 36355 to reopen on the following Monday as Silver Lake Auto Center (SLAC).
Expansion and Change
The new business realized immediate growth beyond projections. Sales doubled, and so did the staff, leaping from two full and three part-time employees to a total of ten within the first year. This growth continued over ensuing years, necessitating further physical accommodations. In the fall of 1997, Wally purchased the business property from Mart Olson, and in 1998, the assets of C&J Towing from Ralph Schmidt, and then merged that business into Silver Lake Shell, Inc. The vacant lot east of Silver Lake Auto Center was also acquired a year later.
In March of 2005, SLAC took over the used car sales portion of the business from Mart Olson specializing in late model light trucks and SUVs.No longer in the gas pumping trade, but providing quality comprehensive automotive service and sales, a corporate name change was in order. So that same month of March, 2005, the name Silver Lake Shell, Inc. was changed to Silver Lake Auto Center, Inc., a name much more definitive of its present existence. Today, forty years of learning, progress, and hard work have culminated into Oconomowoc’s most experienced and consummate automotive service center. Employing ASE master and multi-area certified technicians, SLAC applies state-of-the-art technology to provide guaranteed service under the company’s, as well as various manufacturers’ and service affiliates’ warranties. In addition to its local Better Business Bureau standing, SLAC holds memberships with the nation’s foremost automotive aftermarket leaders, including ASE, American Car Care Centers, AAA, and more. SLAC is also Oconomowoc’s and Hartland’s top dealer in the most popular name brand tires.
Where We are Today
Walter G. Garlock as president of Silver Lake Auto Center, Inc., is teamed with his sons Dan, who is the general manager overseeing the corporation, and Darren, service manager in Hartland. Together, they are ready to serve the needs of lake-county area drivers and vehicle owners with quality, honesty, and integrity.