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Closing of Harrison is the end of an era

It didn't matter what time of night it was - to Rick Johnson, — the doors of Harrison Parts Co., were always open.

Johnson, 57, owner of the auto parts store on East Main — Street said if someone needed a part, he would head to his store - be — it at 10 p.m. or 2 in the morning.

"When those doors are closed, I can't service anybody's — needs," Johnson said. "When I open, I feel I'm responsible for every issue — that happens and I need to be here."

Last winter, Johnson received a call from the state police — at 2 a.m. A man had cut himself while trying to change his fuel pump on — the Siskiyou Summit during a snow storm and was at Ashland Community Hospital. — He needed a water pump, but didn't have enough money.

Johnson headed down to the hospital and gave the man, — who was with his wife and three children, the part. He gave the man his — business card and asked him to send a check.

"I can't leave his wife and his three little kids stranded," — he said. "I thought to myself, 'Well, I got a clear conscience, at least — we helped somebody.' Four days later, here came the check with a note. — Isn't that what it's about?"

76 years of parts, service

After being open since 1928, Harrison parts will close — in about 60 days and Johnson's late night auto parts service will come — to an end.

Last month, Johnson sold the building to Bob Kendrick — of Ashland, Madeline Hill and David Scheiber. Kendrick has said they plan — to use the building as mixed-use project that will include commercial — and condo space. This will include a new building in the Harrison parking — lot on Lithia Way. Harrison Auto Parts first opened on the Plaza in 1928 — and moved a short distance away to its current location on East Main Street — in 1932.

Johnson said he still plans to be an auto parts consultant — and hopes to still work with many of his customers out in the field once — the store closes.

He said it just felt like it was time to try other pursuits.

"When it came down to selling this place I thought of — everyone else," he said. "And it was all positive and it was positive — for me, too. We wish the best of the new people with whatever they do — with the good old girl. We couldn't have done it with better people."

Johnson came to work at Harrison as a high school senior — in 1965, eventually buying the business in 1984 with his wife of nearly — 34 years, Linea Johnson, and longtime friend Clyde Nelson.

Rex Bounds, owner of Bounds 66 Service on Highway 66, — has shopped at Harrison for more than 40 years.

"No matter what I asked, he went after the parts I wanted — and found them no matter what," he said.

Bounds said it's sad to know the business will no longer — be around.

He recalled many times when Johnson would stop by at 11 — p.m. or at midnight to drop off a part.

"Things change, people retire," Bounds said. "I hate to — see it happen, and I hate to see Rick go. He's been a good friend besides — a supplier."

Johnson said it helps to run the business with those he — knows and trusts - his wife and Nelson, an airline pilot based in San — Diego who has been best friends with him since they were both 8 years — old.

Even then, they were in business together, doing things — such as mowing lawns and picking berries, Johnson recalled.

Feeling at Home

Any given day, Johnson said people will just stop by his — office in the shop to say hello, catch up on news, or buy a part. And — many make themselves at home, Johnson said. Many customers know how to — use the store computer in back and will be seen in the employee section — searching for a part.

"That's why a lot of our people come in here and they'll — just come into the office and sit down," he said. "And I'll come into — the office and suddenly there'll be someone sitting in my chair, or her — chair and I'll go 'hey ... how're you doing?' To me, they're family and — it's their house."

Johnson said he's sad to realize that when Harrison Parts — is gone, there'll be no more furniture, hardware or auto repair stores — in downtown Ashland like there once were.

"When this is gone, it will be totally obsolete," he said

Linea Johnson agreed.

"It will have a huge impact," she said. "And I don't think — a lot of people who moved here in the last 12 to 15 years realize what — an impact the store has had on this community. It's a closing of an era."