A historic Centerville property serves a new generationSep 02, 2022 10:34AM ● By Peri Kinder
When Fred Steinfels’ son opened Russell’s Main Street Garage in June 2022, the history buff in him began investigating the property. He knew it had a historic significance in Centerville, but didn’t realize it had a 125-year legacy.
The garage at 346 S. Main Street is the latest in a series of businesses that started in 1885 when Samuel Smith and Anson Call formed a partnership to start Davis County Nursery. Smith was a polygamist who moved his second wife, Mercy, and her small children, to a home on Calls’s property near the nursery.
“He also brought his four sons with him,” Steinfels said. “Rosetta, his first wife, remained in Logan. Anson soon withdrew from the business leaving Samuel and his four sons as owners and operators of the nursery.”
In 1891 Smith built a three-room home on the west side of the nursery for his first wife, Rosetta. Two years later, while working on a kitchen expansion, Smith fell off the scaffolding, broke his neck and died.
Smith’s four sons inherited the property and founded the Smith Brothers Nursery and constructed several new buildings which are still used today. In 1912, Charles Smith bought out his brothers’ shares in the business and brought in his three sons.
“During the first 25 or 35 years, Charles was the salesman traveling throughout Utah on horseback, in a cart or on a bicycle,” Steinfels said. “He stayed in the homes of his clients as a welcome guest. He gained the nickname ‘Peach Tree Charlie’.”
As automobiles started to become more common, Arthur Pettit leased one of the nursery buildings in 1925 and became the first person to use the site as an auto repair shop.
In 1948, Charles sold the nursery property to his nephew, Carl Smith, who had a home relocated to the northeast corner of the property. He added a concrete building on the east side of the nursery to use as a service station which he ran until he retired in 1970. Charles’ daughter, Luana Smith, married Blair Barton who purchased the property from Carl and operated the auto repair shop until 1985, when he passed away. The property then passed to Roggery Cranney.
“Apparently, Roger used the property as a furniture manufacturing business,” Steinfels said. “Roger was interested in auto racing and refurbishing vintage automobiles, and may have used the garage for that purpose. The history is a little vague at this point.”
Michael Randall rented the auto shop in 2001 and opened Michael’s Main Street Garage. He later purchased the property and operated the shop until his death in 2017. In 2022, the Steinfels added their name to the legacy of this property when Russell opened the business under the name of Russell’s Main Street Garage.
“Russell used to come and work for Mike and got to be good friends with him. He wasn’t aware of any of this [history] until his dad got interested,” Steinfels said.
Russell and his twin sister, Rebecca, graduated from Viewmont High School in 1998. During high school, Russell flipped burgers at McDonald’s and found an internship at Davis Complete Auto where he learned the tricks of the trade.
“If he wanted something, he would work hard to get it,” Rebecca said.
“It’s been his dream to have his own business,” Steinfels said. “I call it the resurrection of the Main Street Garage.” λw