Roswell, New Mexico is a beautiful American town steeped in American folklore, for obvious reasons.
This town leaped into headlines in the ’50s after a supposed UFO crash in the desert near town. Since then, it has been a top destination for enthusiasts of science fiction and conspiracy theorists alike. But at its heart it’s still a small American town with small-town values.
The people of Roswell aren’t green visitors from Pluto, but normal people going about normal lives. But if there were a few little green men wandering around, where would they go to service their spacecraft’s transmissions?
American Transmission, which currently employs three technicians, and has four bays, and four lifts. The name may sound like it’s part of a chain, but is not.
“We’re independent,” Owner Laura Russo said.
Laura said that she’s only been running American Transmission for about seven years.
“Here’s the interesting part my dad started this business about 33 years ago and he ran it for 25 years, and he was ready to retire, and he asked me to move back to Roswell to work with him for a few years then retire. And I got here that July and he ended up passing away in January so I’ve had it since. July 4 will be seven years of my having it. My dad had it 25-26 years before me.” Her father’s name was Dennis Russo.
She said she grew up around the business.
“Ever since I was a kid he was in the transmission business. So I’ve been around this all my life watching my dad do it,” she said.
Laura said that the shop performs around 20-25 jobs per week, and of those about six are larger jobs like rebuilding.
Being in the desert, heat can wear on the drivetrain components of even the toughest vehicles. “Well, I imagine the heat helps. And a lot of people will be trying to get out of town with big hills on both sides and if they have a problem it usually shows its face leaving town and they have to turn around and come back.
“And then of course we’re 200 miles away from any major city. So we’re like the last stop for El Paso, Lubbock, Albuquerque, anywhere big.”
Because of its rural location, people wanting to leave Roswell should have a full tank of gas and a clean bill of vehicular health before braving the desert.
But despite being rural, Laura still manages to bring in the customers.
“I think it’s word of mouth, you know. We’re in a small town and word of mouth can make you or break you. If you do good, people tell other people, and then they come to us. I’ve had so many people tell me they’ve done business with my dad in the past and they came here because of my dad, and now they come here because of the reputation that me and the guys have carried on.
“I treat people the way I want to be treated. So when people come in the shop and they’re frustrated, they’re upset, you know, I just try to accommodate them and calm them down and take care of their needs. If they need a rental car I’ll drive them to the rental car place and if they need a hotel I’ll drive them to the hotel and I just try to help them out and you know I think that helps.
“They don’t need the added stress of someone treating them bad. I just try to be kind and help them out anyway they need.”
Most of Laura’s business comes from locals, but being that her little town is famous because of the supposed “UFO crash” in the 50s, plenty of outsiders come through town hoping to meet little green men.
“The majority of our work is local, but you know every month we get three or four tourists. We just had a group come through with a motorhome and their transmission was damaged and needed to be rebuilt, and they went on, rented a car, and when they came back the motorhome was ready. We do have that happen. During the week of the UFO festival you see a lot of volkswagens because there’s a parade and there are lots of volkswagens for some reason, and there’s a car with a big antenna on top of it – that’s a local person.
“And there’s museums downtown about the UFOs and we can always tell the tourists because they all have big green stickers on their shirts. They’re always walking around.”
Had Laura ever seen a tourist, from, let’s say, up above? No.
“Not in the sky. I’ve seen some odd people walking around but never in the sky.”
So it begs the question, if transmission shop owner one night discovers a flying saucer hovering in her bay, would the shop service the craft’s drivetrain?
“Well it would depend if it was a nice alien or a mean alien. We’re right next to a hotdog shop so maybe we’d go sit down at the hotdog shop and visit on what’s going on.”
Down here on Earth, vehicular technology is advancing so rapidly, sometimes it’s easy to mistake the latest CVT as a work of science fiction. Laura’s technicians try to stay educated so they don’t find themselves falling behind.
“My guys are always educating themselves online and reading articles and they learn hands on. They’re amazing at what they do. And if they need to find something out they’ll research it until they know how to rebuild that transmission. They’re just pretty awesome and they keep themselves up to date on the changes,” Laura said.
Laura feels that things fell into place perfectly for the shop to operate the way it does.
“I was going through a divorce and I was at a crossroads in my life and I was going to school and just at the right time my dad decided he wanted to retire. It’s like everything led me here to keep this shop open. Everything fell into place for me and my girls to come here.
It was amazing how it worked out.”
Laura was actually going to school for business management and accounting.
“If I didn’t come back to Roswell and take over the shop, I guess I’d be sitting behind a desk in some office. I am very glad that my dad gave me this opportunity to come and take over the business. I tell you, everything lined up perfectly for me to come back to Roswell and keep my dad’s business running. I’m just sorry he’s not here to see how well we are doing.”
She said she doesn’t see any of her three daughters stepping up to run the place in the future. “I don’t think it would suit them,” she said.
Her daughters are: Lacy, 33, Christy, 23 and Ashley, 19. “Lacy and Christy are in Tucson. Lacy is works in an art gallery and has a family, Christy is a student at Pima Community College and Ashley is a student a Texas Tech. I’m not sure who will run the business when I’m ready to retire. I will figure that out when the time comes,” she said.
Her three employees are Andy Tavarez, who’s ASE Certified, Chris Betancur and Beto Lopez-Padilla.
Whether her customers be terrestrial, or extraterrestrial, Laura has faith in her shop.
“We have a lot of experience and my mechanics are top rate. We stand behind our work and if there’s a problem we’ll take care of it. We’ve been around a long time and we want to stay around.”