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Haver’s Auto Repair: All In The Family

Haver’s Auto Repair has been a fixture in Omaha, Nebraska, since 1957, when Lee Haver opened Haver’s Conoco Service at the tender age of 19. “The first location was meant to provide the community with quality auto services and Conoco gasoline,” the shop’s website explains. Back then, gasoline averaged 30 cents per gallon, and a brake job could be done for about $25.

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Haver got married in September 1958. Between 1959 and 1973, Lee and Eloise “Dugan” Haver had five children: four boys and one girl. Today, three of their sons – Joel, Jeff and Jim – are the co-owners of the business, which has expanded to three locations in Greater Omaha. The shops proudly fly the Auto Value Certified Service Center flag as part of the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance Inc.

Early on, Lee established a commitment to go above and beyond for his customers, staying open seven days a week. Today – even though the shops aren’t open seven days a week anymore – that commitment to the customer remains fundamental to the identity of the shops.

Omaha – North 90 location

A big reason for that, Joel explains, is that Haver’s Auto Repair truly is a family-owned and family-operated business. Jim runs the Elkhorn location; Joel runs the Omaha – West Center location; and Jim’s daughter, Abby Garcia, runs the Omaha – North 90 location. Jeff handles “the business side of the business” – payroll, accounts receivable, IT and other important functions.

“That’s one thing that really separates us from everybody,” Joel says. “Our name’s on the building, so we go the extra mile to make sure our reputation is good, no matter what.”

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Haver’s Auto Repair

  • Owners: Joel Haver, Jeff Haver, Jim Haver
  • Location: Three locations in Greater Omaha, Nebraska
  • Hours of Operation: Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Founded: 1957
  • Number of Employees: 19
  • Square Footage: 5,000, 5,000 and 4,500
  • Bay Count: 18 (six each)
  • Average Daily Car Count: 45 cars a day (average for all three)
  • Business Affiliations: Auto Value Certified Service Center, Midwest Auto Care Alliance
  • WD: The Merrill Co./Arnold Motor Supply

When it comes to customer service, the shops’ 19 employees follow a simple philosophy: They treat customers how they’d like to be treated themselves. And as the Haver’s website explains, they “strive to take all the stress out of [customers’] auto repair and maintenance.”

“We’re very fortunate to have very good service advisors who aren’t paid on commission,” Joel adds. “They’re there to make sure the customers’ needs are taken care of. That’s our goal: to take care of the customers’ needs first.

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“And unfortunately we’re fixing their car, but we’re also taking care of them too – that’s sometimes the tough part. Fixing the car is the easy part.”

Six of the shop’s nine technicians are ASE-certified. They’re paid by the hour, so they’re never pressured to rush or cut corners, Joel explains. Haver’s also takes pride in never pressuring customers to commit to more services than they need.

“We’re not going to push them into anything. We’re not going to give them a dealer printout of a tree of every little thing that needs to be done,” Joel says. “That’s why customers just keep coming back; that’s why we have a good reputation. We’re not trying to flush their wallets.”

Haver’s offers a wide range of maintenance and repair services, and many of them are backed by the 24-month/24,000-mile Confidence Plus North American Warranty. The warranty is one of the key benefits of being an Auto Value Certified Service Center (CSC), Joel says. The shop’s co-owners especially appreciate the “peace of mind” that comes from knowing that if a customer’s vehicle breaks down while they are out of state, they’ll be taken care of by a network of more than 35,000 service centers throughout North America.

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The shops’ warehouse distributor, The Merrill Co./Arnold Motor Supply, ensures that replacement parts aren’t a bottleneck in the repair process. As part of the Spencer, Iowa-based Arnold Group of Companies, The Merrill Co./Arnold Motor Supply is a powerful partner, with two distribution centers covering five states in the Midwest. The Arnold Group’s nearly 300 delivery vehicles drive more than 7 million miles per year, and the company services more than 10,000 wholesale customers every day, according to the company.

Founded in 1927 by E.P. Arnold, The Arnold Group has been aligned with Auto Value since 1983.

“Our working relationship is awesome, because they have the same values that we have,” Joel says of The Merrill Co./Arnold Motor Supply. “They still truly care about the customer. And our salesman will bend over backwards for us.”

A Family Affair

From a young age, Joel recalls tagging along with his dad and his siblings on weekends at the shop. “As young as 10 years old, we all were working at the shop, cleaning shelves and mopping floors,” he says.

In 1979, Haver’s Conoco Service moved to 2410 S. 120th St., where Lee added a convenience store. In 1980, Lee’s oldest son – Jim – joined the business after finishing high school. Soon after, Lee decided to stop selling gasoline so the shop could focus on auto repair.

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In 1992, the business moved to 2343 S. 156th Circle, under the name Haver’s Service Center.

“Lee’s first goal was to not break ties that he had with Conoco for 35 years, so Haver’s still uses Conoco oil and lubricants today,” the website explains. That said, the new location was “an auto repair technician’s dream” – boasting three hoists, enough space to work on seven cars simultaneously “and most of all, AIR CONDITIONING in the shop.”

Lee Haver’s youngest son, Joel, joined the business in 1997, after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree in mechanized systems management. Another Haver brother – Jeff – joined the business in 2000, setting the stage for the three brothers to buy out their father in 2003, incorporating under the name Haver Bros. Inc.

That same year, the Havers added vehicle sales to their umbrella of services. Today, the used-car business mainly serves as a feeder system for its loaner fleet. If a customer’s vehicle needs intensive repair – and the owner would rather junk it than fix it – the shops’ dealership status makes it easier to take ownership of the vehicle. “We don’t have to jump titles,” Joel explains.

In theory, Haver’s can sell the vehicle after making it drivable again. But “probably 95% of the cars we buy we put into our loaner fleet,” Joel says.

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Early in 2004, the Haver brothers added a second location, marking a new chapter for the business. The two-bay facility in Elkhorn, a neighborhood on the western edge of Omaha, was a success from the start, prompting the Havers to find a bigger facility nearby. With the move to the bigger, five-bay facility, the Havers added a technician and a service advisor, and built a new office and waiting area.

In 2012, the Havers moved their existing shop on 156th Circle to a former Phillips 66 gas station four blocks away, and they remodeled and expanded the facility. The seven-bay shop on the southeast corner of 160th and Center “offers a very modern and new customer waiting area and offices,” according to the Haver’s website. And of course, it features air conditioning.

They added a third location in 2014, buying an existing facility near midtown Omaha. The remodeled building has six bays, a comfortable waiting room and, of course, air conditioning. Jim’s daughter, Abby, joined the shop’s team in 2017 as a service advisor.

Unlike Lee Haver’s first shop, Haver’s Auto Repair is open Monday through Friday only. Part of the reasoning behind that is to make Haver’s a more attractive place to work for technicians – who are in high demand – and the rest of the staff (hence the shop’s emphasis on air conditioning). But work-life balance is just as important to the shop’s owners.

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That’s why the Havers are content to stand pat with three locations right now.

“My brother Jim has no more children to come back into it,” Joel explains. “But my brother Jeff has one in college, and I have one in college and one in high school. If one of [our kids] wanted to come back to the business someday, we could definitely make room and maybe expand again.

“But as of right now, we have enough on our plate with our outside lives. We all have hobbies, and we like to spend time with our families and friends, so we still want to have a life outside of work.”

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