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MGryczan

Baker Auto on Alpine Avenue NW is closed, for sale

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For many do-it-yourselfers and teens growing up in Grand Rapids, Baker Auto Parts was a godsend when it came to finding door handles, starter motors and tail light lenses to get their late model cars and trucks running again. 

No more.  Baker Auto has closed, and its some 22 acres of property straddling several blocks along Alpine Avenue NW is up for sale. It will be worthwhile to watch what happens to the property, which rests amid a jumble of industrial, commercial and retail properties on the west side of the 2000 block of Alpine.

As an auto salvage yard, Baker Auto Parts could never be described as pretty.  But it was a piece of heaven and rite of passage for backyard mechanics and teens who were learning the ropes of how to fix a car on a shoestring. It served as their first introduction to the world of grease, oil and ratchet wrenches. 

The parts guru behind the counter was Roger C. Zeinstra, a tall, lanky and soft spoken man that showed infinite patience with helping young knuckleheads find parts they held in their hands but couldn’t name. He’d ask for make, model and year, flip through grimy, thumbworn catalogues and exploded diagrams, then miraculously locate the part among a mountain of car and truck carcasses. Roger reminded me of Abe Lincoln physically, and he was as honest. 

Established in 1925 before Walker was even a city, the business was owned and operated for many years by Roger’s father, Cecil “Bob” Zeinstra, who died in 1994 according to his obituary. Roger passed away last year, and local business owners said that the family decided to sell the property rather than keep it going. Certainly much has changed in the industry: inquires to the Baker Auto website are redirected to a nationwide site with 175 million parts. 

The city of Walker honored Baker Auto for its community service in 2011 for providing vehicles to the Walker fire/rescue department for practice in extracting people from traffic accidents. Characteristically, Roger said what his company did “is no big deal” and they were glad to help. Let's hope the next owner of the property has a similar community spirit.

Baker Auto Resized.jpg

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There were some family issues prior to his death. The Turner Ave property was bought by Padnos after it was cleared of the cars. A concrete recycler is moving into the part of the property south of Ann and east of Alpine - the old bumper plant property. "Renovations" started a few days ago.

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