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North Hills Automotive

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Photo by Davey Morgan

SHOP: North Hills Automotive  LOCATION: Greenville, S.C. OWNER: Ken Gamble SIZE: 4,400 square feet
STAFF: 7  (3 techs, 2 managers, 1 owner, 1 general manager)  MONTHLY CAR COUNT: 300  ANNUAL REVENUE: $1 million

1) After 20 years in its Greenville, S.C., location, the old North Hills Automotive building was in need of a facelift. Owner Ken Gamble and his son, general manager Jacob Gamble, were feeling ambitious with its redesign.

After leveling the building, they set out to create a shop that matched the historic, homey and residential feel of the surrounding neighborhood. They wanted it to look and feel more like a house than a commercial shop.

The building uses materials and inspiration from homes in the area. The bricks on the outside of the building were reclaimed from a local demolished home, while trim and windows were made to match the style of nearby houses.

2) Cleanliness is a major goal for North Hills, which has roughly 80 percent female customers.

“We wanted to make a place where [women] could come and feel safe and comfortable; and where they could bring their children and be comfortable putting them on the floor if they want,” Jacob says.

In the lobby, a sink in a granite-topped, custom-made cabinet allows managers to quickly wash up after helping customers with quick tasks on their cars.

3) A viewing window on the left side of the lobby provides a view directly into the shop floor. Cleanliness is still important, even in the shop, so a floor drain was placed in each bay with an oil separator underground. The shop floor can quickly be cleaned and squeegeed so it looks nice through the lobby window.

4) A one-way viewing window provides a view from the back office to the lobby. Managers can get paperwork done while also keeping an eye on customers to make sure they are helped in a timely manner, and do not seem annoyed by wait times.

5) It’s the small touches that keep customers coming in consistently. The shop offers a Keurig coffee maker with 12 different coffees, to-go cups and a TV over a fireplace. Gamble says those touches bring community members in for their daily coffee, even without needing repairs.

“If you can create an atmosphere where people want to be there even when they don’t need your services, then I think the rest of the relationship will be really easy,” he says.

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