When Josh Riffell decided to open his own independent automotive repair shop four years ago, he knew offering quality repairs was a given. He also knew that he wanted to make a great first impression when customers walked into the shop. And he’s done just that with a unique, one-of-a-kind retro decor, complete with 1950s-era jukebox.
“We went with more of a vintage-style approach for the appearance of the shop,” Josh explains. “We like to combine the old with the new, and we wanted to make the waiting area feel comfortable and inviting.”
Customers at Speed Wrench Garage in Sandwich, IL, a Bumper to Bumper certified service center, certainly appreciate the attention to detail, whether it’s the authentic Texaco Motor Oil sign, or the reclaimed hubcaps adorning the wall.
“Josh has a really creative mind, and he’s always going to antique stores and swap meets,” Office Manager Kyla Gibb says. “He enjoys creating things out of what he finds. He’ll take a part from an old car and create something unique. He wants customers to feel comfortable when they have to sit and wait for their vehicle.”
And customers can’t help but notice the centerpiece of it all, an old pickup truck front repurposed into an artful front desk, serving as an anchor for all the antique charm. Pulling it all together is a logo with a clear nod to the ’50s.
“When we advertise,” Josh says, “we push the name and logo as much as possible. We also participate in local giveaways, raffles and charity events.”
Local Chamber Participation
Participating in local events helps to set the shop apart in their small town.
“Participating in Sandwich Chamber of Commerce events is just another way to get our name out there,” Kyla says. “They also allow people to get to know Josh and me, so that they’re more comfortable giving us their business.”
Speed Wrench Garage is also a sponsor of a variety of downtown events, from a trick-or-treat walk, to a Festival of Trees Christmas event, to an annual golf outing.
The Sandwich Chamber of Commerce has also taken note of the participation and steady growth of Speed Wrench Garage, honoring Josh and his staff with the 2017 Business of the Year award.
“They really help get your business seen and heard,” Josh says. “We’ve gained a lot of customers from the chamber alone.”
The local chamber also offers Lead Groups as a way to help business owners connect and help each other in a spirit of collaboration. The purpose of the groups is to network, share resources and customer referrals in order to grow and expand member businesses. A “no compete” policy also helps to encourage teamwork.
“We really do try to help each other with every aspect of business,” Kyla says. “Someone might need help with troubleshooting a management issue, or someone else might need input on how to better advertise.”
But shop appearance and local marketing efforts are only part of the equation for success. Offering quality repairs, and often being willing to tackle repairs or modifications that other shops aren’t willing to take on, has helped Speed Wrench Garage become the shop to turn to in town.
“We do a lot of custom work,” Josh explains. “There are a lot of other shops that aren’t willing to do things like diagnosing wiring issues or custom fabrication.”
Custom exhaust, suspension and other unique custom metal fabrications are met and made to order.
“We also do aftermarket remote start systems, install alarm systems, wire strobe lights for fleet trucks,” Kyla continues.
Both techs at Speed Wrench Garage are ASE-certified, and they also participate in training throughout the year. Kyla says they take advantage of classes offered by various parts suppliers, such as NGK and Walker.
The staff also attends the Auto Value & Bumper to Bumper Tech Expo each year, where the technicians can pick and choose what classes to attend to increase their knowledge base. In addition, Kyla says the classes she attends are invaluable in helping her to learn new ways to let customers know what’s wrong with their vehicle.
“Being part of the Bumper to Bumper program also allows us to provide a warranty if anything goes wrong, including paying for a tow if necessary,” she says. “They stand behind their parts.”
At the end of the day, the reason customers come to Speed Wrench Garage is that they trust the staff to provide a quality repair at a reasonable price. Josh says that is the reason he decided to open his shop, not only so that he could be his own boss, but so that he could take care of customers in the best way possible.
“We value being honest, trustworthy and affordable,” he says. “If there’s a situation where something doesn’t go right, maybe a part fails, we will do whatever we can to make it right.”
Kyla says she reinforces that commitment to quality repairs by making it a point to follow up with customers.
“I always give them a call a week later just to see how their car is running,” she says, “especially for big jobs.”
Just one look at the shop’s Facebook page shows that customers love the atmosphere and the service they receive. The social media platform allows Josh to share what’s going on with the shop and staff, keeping the shop top of mind and continuing to build trust.
“Trust is the biggest key to running a successful shop today,” he concludes. “People have to trust what you’re telling them is wrong with their vehicle. Trust that you’re going to take care of it. Trust that you’re going to charge them fairly.”
Add to that a clean, fun environment and a friendly staff and you have a recipe for success for many years to come.