Treat Them Like Family
When Patrick Weidman says that his shop is a family business, he truly means it. Originally, he started Grove Street Auto Repair with his brother, Bobby, after working in another shop with their uncle. Since its inauguration, just about every one of their immediate family members has had a stint at the Franklin, Mass.-based shop.
“There are six of us altogether,” Weidman says of his siblings. “All but one have worked here.”
Some have only stayed for a short time, like when Weidman’s older brother who helped drive a tow truck or when his little sister did bookkeeping before going off to college. But, others have stuck around.
In 2005, Patrick and Bobby hired their sister, Jean, to the front counter. She is now an integral part of the team, and runs some of the shop’s marketing and social media accounts. Their now 84-year-old father, Bob—who, Weidman says with a laugh, is on his third retirement—came aboard in 2000 to help out, and has worked at the shop in various capacities since then.
“He makes us look good,” Weidman says.
This family unit has made for a business model that is rooted in dependability, trust and overall care for one another.
“I’ve been lucky because I know there are a lot of family businesses that struggle internally with direction,” Weidman says.
This is something that Grove Street has never really had an issue with, even when former co-owner Bobby decided that the shop life was no longer for him.
“I was fortunate that my brother let me steer the ship, and then he just got burnt out and didn’t want to do it anymore,” Weidman continues. “Three years ago, we came together, made an agreement, and I bought him out. Everything has been great.”
This attitude of positivity doesn’t end within the confines of Weidman’s own family. It continues into the relationships Grove Street cultivates with its customers.
Build a Loyal Following
Weidman and his staff look out for their community, and it comes out of the goodness of their hearts. One of their main takeaways is simply the joy of helping out where they are able. They don’t give back to their community with the intention of getting much in return, but their customers end up showing their appreciation regardless. Their customers like the idea of putting their money toward a shop that they not only trust, but they know has good values. The clientele of Grove Street is not made up of one-off repair jobs.
“Our retention rate is very high,” Says Weidman. “We service between 70 and 80 cars per week and new customers make up less than 10 percent of those cars.”
New customers are important, this is true. But there is also something to be said of a shop that maintains a solid customer base populated by familiar faces walking through the door. Grove Street’s retention adds to the family atmosphere that they have been curating ever since it opened.
For as long as Weidman can remember, he knew the importance of staying humble and helping others. This mindset did not go away when it came to running a repair shop.
“We have been giving back to the community since we opened,” Weidman says. “I guess it was something our parents instilled in us; to help out when asked.”
If someone asks Grove Street for charitable funds, there is no hesitation. Weidman says that if a member of their community comes along asking for donations under $250, the shop automatically donates. They do larger donations too, of course, but they don’t commit to those right away because larger amounts of money take more planning. Weidman says they will check into the source, make sure it is reputable and ensure that they have the means to support it.
They tend to make larger donations to charities that are closer to home. A couple of their favorites are Brakes for Breasts; the Pan-Mass Challenge, which is a bike-a-thon for cancer research; and the Santa Foundation, which is a non-profit located in Franklin. It provides families in need with gifts during the holiday season.
“Our tagline is, ‘Your family depends on our family,’” Weidman says. “That’s how we treat all our customers and everybody we interact with.”
For the staff of Grove Street, this means taking community engagement one step further. It’s not just interacting with customers on a surface level, it is contributing to and giving back to the community that the shop is a part of and doing so by catering to certain demographics within that population.
“I’m very fortunate because we’ve had a ton of support from the community,” Weidman says. “So we try and give back in anyway that we can.”
Grove Street sponsors kid’s sports teams, gives to the local food pantry, and raises money for various local charities every year.
“This year, we’ll probably give $12,000 to charity,” Weidman says.
Grove Street furthers their family-oriented approach by doing things in a personalized way, which shifts depending on who in the community they are interacting with. For example, for local women, they do a “Ladies Night,” which is marketed by Jean.
“We put a car up on the lift, all the techs stay and donate their time and we have different stations. We try to educate them on things like what a brake rotor is, what an oxygen sensor is, a bad tire...then we take questions and answers at the end and we have giveaways,” Weidman says.
They usually try to keep events like this small, limiting the registration to about 20 people. The goal is to educate in a more focused setting. For giveaways, they often give out shirts, pamphlets, or—in the case of their most recent ladies night—cupcakes. It’s an approach that relays important information, but also makes a genuine effort to appeal to the audience.
Weidman also takes time to visit driver’s education courses.
“I try to go once per session,” Weidman says. “I tell the kids what to do when their check engine light goes on. I go through all the lights and what they mean. I show them how to change and tire and check the oil.”
His visits are reminiscent of a father teaching his kid about a car, and his guidance comes from a truly caring place. Aside from giving the younger crowd mechanical advice, Weidman also instills in them the importance of distraction-free driving.
”The shop is unique because we do towing for the police, so we see a lot of the aftermath of distracted driving,” Weidman says. “So, sometimes, I’ll bring slides.”
Weidman believes that bringing in visuals really drives the point home and makes an impact on impressionable young drivers. The goal, after all, is to keep everyone safe.
Make an Impact
There is no getting around it; Weidman’s shop is more than a repair shop. It is a member of the community, and this has proven to be absolutely integral to the way their business is run.
Grove Street has its own approach to community involvement and giving back, but it can be implemented in any existing shop in a variety of ways.
“Every community could use help,” Weidman says. “There will always be a need, and any repair shop could have the opportunity to fill it in a similar vein to Grove Street.”
The heart of the matter is simple: Give back and show that you care about the community that you service. Offer your support and expertise, just like you would when helping out a family member. These are the strategies that Grove Street has implemented, and it has defined their customer relations. Weidman encourages other shop owners to look for their own ways of getting involved.
“Any community has these things,” Weidman says. “You just have to go out and find it, whether it be large or small.”