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Local well known family business closes in Larned
Paula and Harlie Carr, owners of Carr Auto-Electric in Larned, are pictured

LARNED — Carr Auto-Electric is now history. Owned and operated by Harlie and Paula Carr for 49 years, the last official day of business was Friday, June 28.

“It doesn’t seem like we have been there this long, but this coming April it will have been 50 years,” Paula Carr said. 

“We moved to this location in 1981. We opened our business in 1970 at 114 East 5th Street, where Conard Electric was located. For some of you Larned historians, we were located right behind the old Montgomery Ward store, which occupied the building on the corner of 5th and Broadway,” Harlie explained. 

Conard Electric had been in business for 11 years, and Smith Electric preceded Conard Electric. Smith  was across the street, where the old 1st State Bank drive in window was located. Today, that building is the Chamber of Commerce and directly behind it to the east would be where Smith Electric was doing business. Smith Electric sold to Conard who opened across the street, operating for 11 years. Then Carrs began Carr Auto-Electric at the same location. 

The business was named, “Auto-Electric” because they originally sold and repaired starters, generators, alternators, and magnetos. That brought in work from farmers and oil companies. The Radio Shack franchise was added in 1985, which led to the sales and servicing of cell phones beginning in 1992. Meeting the opportunities of a changing culture was full of surprises. 

In 1981, Carrs were eyeing another location; a larger building for their growing business. Mac’s Auto, a car dealership, located at 812 Broadway was closed, and the building was for sale. The building was sold at auction, and Mr. Ken Tate, the owner of Mr. T’s restaurant, bought the building. 

“That’s right. We hadn’t made financial arrangements, but we wanted the building. Tate had planned to put in a roller-skating rink, but soon realized that the immense cost of tearing out the floor and laying a skate floor down was too costly. He gave up his dream and sold the building to us,” Harlie said. “The rink would have had to cost 10 times the cost of the building.” 

So, 38 years ago, the Hudson Car Dealership building became Carr Auto-Electric, and it was a perfect fit for their business. But, now, after 49 years in business, it’s time for a change.

Friday, June 28 was Carr Auto-Electric’s last day, officially.

“Regular hours are over. If we’re down here working on something, we’ll turn on the open sign in case someone needs something. No sign? Guess we’re in the garden,” Paula quipped. 

“I will be here quite a lot,” she continued. “I need to spend time, going through files, sending back some inventory and selling this and that. There’s a ‘buy back’ law in Kansas so some product can be returned if the packages are intact and current. We’ll see. There’s still a lot to do. And I am in no rush.”

And now? Who is going to service our Carr Auto-Electric lawn mowers, tillers, etc? “There is a possibility that our employee, Mark Moore may still want to do this. He likes this kind of work. He is an excellent mechanic,” Paula said.

Believe it or not, they are grieving. There’s a sadness to seeing one’s life efforts in business come to an end. Paula especially is feeling the separation, although she is ready and knows that it is time to set out for other pastures. After all, she added, “I’m not 50 anymore!” Energy. That’s only a part. The rest is just no longer wanting to do the same things. And, they realize that they won’t be bored in the new lifestyle. “Oh, for sure. We’ll have plenty to do! And now we will have more time with friends and family, and each other.”

She explained, “When you are in business there are many personal things you should do, and want to do, but can’t. Your job owns you, and there’s not room to participate in much beyond the business and home. So, now, I am going to be able to do some new things, and I am ready.”

Harlie wants to restore old cars. And that’s what he’s going to do. The cars are waiting in his shop at home. “It’s not nearly as large as the store shop. It’s about 3,000 square feet and the store shop is twice that. But, it will serve the purpose” 

Closing the doors means they don’t have to keep regular hours, and be there every waking moment. Throw that schedule away! “The freedom of being able to close the door and go somewhere for a few nights without any concerns will be amazing; it’s a freedom that we haven’t had.”

Obviously, she isn’t as sad as I thought she was.

“Of course, we will miss the daily relationships and friends who have been faithful customers over the years. We hope to keep in contact with them all. “  

In the meantime, Paula and Harlie are not sailing off into the sunset, and they aren’t hopping a plane for a far-off destination; at least not yet. They will be around, probably more visible than they were in the confines of the business.