Morning Journal/ Mary Ann Greier Richard and Laurie Fast stand outside their popular longtime Salem busine
SALEM — Parting is such sweet sorrow, but for Richard and Laurie Fast, it’s also exciting as they close the Muffler Man and The Little Red Hen and head for the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“I’m really ready for a new adventure,” Laurie said Wednesday.
Her husband, Richard, who’s been known as the Muffler Man for 40 years, said he’s “just going to be a regular guy” when they move to Hendersonville, N.C.
He officially closed the garage doors last week after nearly 50 years of F.A.S.T.’s Muffler Man, a business started by his dad, Paul, in the early 1970s after retiring from the Salem Police Department.
Today is the last for The Little Red Hen, the antique and gift shop opened by Laurie a decade ago next to the Muffler Man. Customers can come to catch one more sale and get in one more visit from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.
“We’re grateful to the community and our customers and our employees over the years,” she said.
They had kept their news secret from the public until just recently, with Laurie announcing on social media on June 25 that she would be closing today, saying it’s time to slow down. Her employee and friend, Barb Sheets, said she’s also retiring.
Laurie said she’s going to miss her customers and vendors, but also the building itself. She said it’s been like her second home since opening in 2011 and the main section dates back to the 1800s and used to be a chicken coop at one time.
“It’s just kind of a special place,” she said.
There were 14 vendors who had booths in the antique shop, some from the very beginning or close to it.
The history of the Muffler Man dates back to 1973 or 1974 when Richard’s dad started at the Muffler House and then started his own muffler business as the Muffler Man at West State and Benton Road. The business moved to its current location, 1264 W. State St., about 20-plus years ago after the former Salem Humane Society closed at the site.
The business had a lot of repeat customers and regulars and serviced the fleets for some entities and businesses in town, such as the hospital, even working on some vehicles for car dealerships. Over the years, Richard has made a lot of friends.
“I love my people,” he said.
His dad always taught him that “a dollar customer is just as important as a $100 customer.”
Richard said he’s very lucky and very blessed. He recalled a now retired ad rep for the Salem News who designed the logo of the Muffler Man on a rocket that’s still on T-shirts. His last employee stayed with him right to the end.
“I’ve had a lot of talented guys working for me,” he said.
He’ s excited about the move. He already has a job lined up with Henderson County as a scale operator at a transfer station starting later this month, but at the end of the day, he won’t have the weight of a business on his shoulders.
“I’m just ready to slow down a bit,” he said.
Plans call for the nearly 6-acre property to be sold at auction by Rusty Kiko at 10 a.m. Aug. 14. The property includes a house that they redid from top to bottom, The Little Red Hen building, the Muffler Man building, all the equipment and even some of the merchandise. Laurie said some of her vendors are also part of the auction with their merchandise.
She and Richard also own a house at Guilford Lake which is being auctioned at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 13, also by Kiko.
They already own a house in Hendersonville, a place where they’ve vacationed a lot and where Laurie’s sister lives with her husband. Laurie said the town is a lot like Salem and even has a clock like the one at Broadway and State. There are rooftop restaurants, too. Winters will be milder and they’ll still have four seasons, which she enjoys.
Their children are spread out in Colorado, Georgia and Maine, with a grandson in Georgia and a granddaughter on the way, also in Georgia. Richard’s mom, Bernice, who was an integral part of the Muffler Man business, retired earlier this year and lives in Columbiana.
When asked if she had a message for their customers, Laurie said “just how grateful we are.”