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Night or day, he found the part

A community will miss Rick Johnson's help when Harrison Parts store in Ashland closes

ASHLAND ' 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 after-hours, 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 state police at 2 a.m. A man had cut himself while trying to change his fuel pump on the Siskiyou Summit during a snowstorm and was at Ashland Community Hospital. He needed the part, but didn't have enough money.

Johnson headed down to the hospital and gave the part to the man, who was with his wife and three children. 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?

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 develop the building as a 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 to its current location on East Main Street in 1932.

Johnson still plans to be an auto parts consultant and hopes to continue working with many of his customers 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 for 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 his best friend since they were both 8 years old.

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

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.

Rick Johnson looks out the rear of Harrison Auto Parts onto Lithia Way while working on an engine part.