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Wilhelm Automotive

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Photo courtesy Keith Alstrin

SHOP: Wilhelm Automotive  LOCATION: Peoria, Ariz. OWNER: Chris Garman SIZE: 11,750 square feet

1) Each of Wilhelm Automotive’s seven locations features a lobby that resembles a living room. According to owner Chris Garman, the tradition began with his grandmother, who ran the front office and decorated the lobby when the family purchased the shops in the late 1970s.

The lobby features a warm, red-brick wall, antique furniture and mementos that tell the story of the 86-year-old business. Garman says the shop is diligent about replicating the look in each location.

“It’s our brand. It’s who we are,” he says. “We want to make sure our customers come in and feel comfortable immediately.”

2Among those mementos is the company’s first computer, an old Mac that Garman’s grandfather used for all the bookkeeping.

3The computer sits on top of the company’s first safe, which Garman says is used to lock up the cash drawers.

“It’s not only historic, it’s still functional,” he says.

4) Old pictures from the shop and the city of Peoria line the brick wall.

“The Peoria facility was our original location, so we have pictures of significant things that have happened in Peoria’s history,” Garman says. “A water tower that burned down, the hardware store, historical pictures of our corner.”

Captions underneath the pictures explain the story behind the pictures.

5Garman selected a rounded front counter for two reasons: It allows his staff to help more people at once and looks more inviting to customers walking in the shop.

6Behind the front counter are two desks, where the service advisor and customer support person sit. “We don’t have any back offices,” Garman says. “All of it is intended to be out in the open.”

That way, staff is able to see customers walk in and customers are able to see staff right away. In addition, Garman says the set-up allows staff to take ownership of the lobby.

“Our staff works in that area, so they want a nice, neat, organized desk and space,” he says. “It helps keep the lobby clean and nice.”

7The shop’s community involvement is displayed above the front counter through numerous plaques, pictures and awards. Garman says those plaques are for that location only, and makes sure each of the seven locations has a dedicated space to displaying community involvement for that particular location. 

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