SHOP STATS: Xtreme Performance Location: North Ridgeville, Ohio Operator: Steve Ali Average Monthly Car Count: 280 Staff Size: 10 Shop Size: 14,600 sq ft Annual Revenue: $1.7 million
Steve Ali says his heart has always been under the hood of a car. Or, more specifically, under the hood of a Corvette. One of his first memories is tinkering in his garage at five years old. Whether it was the allure of improvement, the rush of possibilities, or general curiosity, he says, “I got the bite, you know.” He has always been driven by the idea of improvement; for Ali, settling has never been an option.
Ali went to trade school at Ohio Technical College and graduated at the top of his class. He worked at LTE Steel for 11 years until he decided to take a risk. He walked away from a steady job that paid him well to pursue his passion and take control of his own destiny by purchasing his own shop.
A few decades and leaps of faith later, Xtreme Performance out of North Ridgeville, Ohio, is growing in size and in reputation. Ali started from a three-bay Sinoco gas station and is now the go-to repairman for all things fast. One thing that hasn’t changed? His strive to be the very best.
Consistently the first one in and the last one out of the shop, it’s not necessity, but passion, that keeps Ali working so hard. And, that shines through to his customers. From attending industry events to networking with customers in the shop, Ali always looks to make an impression on the community and has created a friendly face for the industry.
Ali has experienced success, but also realizes that there are many areas that the industry as a whole—along with his shop—need to improve. He is dedicated to finding qualified technicians and looks forward to a future where he can take a step back and put his head back under the hood more full-time.
I am in the shop by 7:30 each morning. I brew the coffee, pop the popcorn, and outline what needs to be done for the day, as far as deadlines go. Shortly after that, everyone starts filing in and we go over our goals, so all in all, pretty standard stuff. Our steadfast goals are efficiency and accuracy. We take a test drive with each customer who brings their car into the shop. I want to make sure that I hear the sound that you hear or experience the same issue you’ve been dealing with, so we cover all of our bases.
Most of our business comes from your everyday compact cars and SUVs, but what people know us best for is our work on muscle cars. I have always been a lead foot and been able to modify just about anything. In the summertime, our inventory is about an even split with 60 percent of business coming from everyday cars and 40 percent from the muscle cars. As winter rolls in, the hot rods roll out so it’s the everyday cars that pay the bills.
Usually by 9 a.m., the dust has settled and I’m on my second cup of coffee. Most of my mornings are swirling with paperwork, but I make it a point to get into the cwaiting room and talk with customers. I want to suit up and work on the hot rods, but I also want to shake the hands and kiss the babies. In an industry like this, people want to know they’re getting the best care and not being taken for a ride. That’s one thing that sets our shop apart: Everyone knows me. Whether I’ve worked on their car or not, I always introduce myself, ask about their day—just spark some conversation. I really try to make an impression that way, so that, when something does go wrong, they feel like they have a friendly face in the industry.
By lunchtime, we are rocking and rolling. The bays are all full, the shop is loud, and I am happy. I usually work on the hot rods, but I can’t afford to get knee deep in projects because I get pulled away so frequently. Being an owner is mostly putting out fires. I do a little bit of everything, which I know is uncommon for an owner, but I’ve always been a hands-on type of guy.
Depending on the week, I’ll have to leave the shop to attend industry meetings. Whether it’s Rotary Club, chamber of commerce, or the Fraternal Order of Police, I’m always talking about Xtreme. If you do a good job in the shop, word-of-mouth is the best advertiser. Our marketing strategy is about as grassroots as it gets. To drum up business for the everyday cars we knock on doors, send out mailing lists, and sponsor car shows when we can. Hot rods are easy marketing—it’s like show and tell. My corvette is the best billboard money could buy.
People around this area know me and they know that I know cars. When I go to car shows in town, people treat me like a rock star; they are all just waiting for Xtreme Performance to show up. I have worked on about half the cars at each of the local car shows, so it’s like old friends getting together.
As stable as Xtreme is, we are not without our struggles. Finding capable technicians is getting harder and harder. I’ve recently put out a bounty for anyone who can bring me a decent technician—that’s how hard it is to find one right now.
We close at 6 p.m., but some nights, I am here until midnight. I stay until the very last car is done. It’s really important to me to live up to my promises, so if I tell you it’s going to be done by a certain time, then hell or high water, it’ll get done.
In a perfect world, I would work on Corvettes all day. But there’s only one Steve and I’m needed in so many areas of the shop. One day, I would love for my manager to run the show and I can be under a hood all day. We hope to eventually add a second building dedicated entirely to the hot rods. But for now, I’m making as many Steve clones as I can and tweaking every muscle car I can get my hands on.