SHOP: Spitfire Automotive LOCATION: Oak Lawn, Ill. OWNER: Rich Malinowski SIZE: 20,000 square feet STAFF SIZE: 10 AVERAGE MONTHLY CAR COUNT: 225 ANNUAL REVENUE: $1.3 million
1. A Century of Service
Spitfire Automotive opened its doors in 1916. Since then, the shop has occupied four buildings. The current and fourth building was designed specifically for what the Malinowski family wanted. Rich Malinowski is the general manager of the shop and co-owns the shop with his brothers, Howard and Jim. Frank, another Malinowski brother, has since retired from the shop.
Rich says that when they moved into the current location in 1974, they wanted a fresh start, which included a new logo. The previous logo was a lightning bolt, but Rich wanted a change. He played around with ideas for roughly six months before he came up with the current logo, which he designed with a sign vendor: block letters with a flame above the second “i” in “Spitfire.”
2. A Stand-Out Service Department
When customers walk into Spitfire, they walk right into the service department. Upon entry, customers will have a straight-on view of the counter desk, which is at least 50 years old, and behind that, the parts department. Spitfire stores parts and also is a supplier to local stores. The counter desk has drawers that can be opened from the front that include smaller parts, like nuts and bolts. Usually, the drawers are opened from the back, but Rich says they made this adjustment to keep technicians from having to go behind the counter.
3. Community Centered
On display in the shop is a dragster that the staff created for a bed race that was thrown by the Village of Oak Lawn in cooperation with the Kiwanis Club. The staff needed to make a ‘bed’ that met specifications and race it against other shops. The team worked together and built it from scratch. Rich says they keep the dragster on display and are eagerly awaiting the next race.
4. A History Lesson
A display case in the customer waiting area has awards, photos and mementos that the shop has collected in its decade of automotive service. A few of the awards on display include the K&M Tire top shop award for 2015 and recognition from ASE for 25 years of certification. Photos of the past locations as well as promotional trinkets that the shop gave out in the '30s and '40s are also inside.
5. A Systematic Layout
Rich and the team knew exactly what they wanted when they designed their shop, particularly when it came to the shop floor. One side of the shop is dedicated to any under-vehicle work and the other side of the shop is dedicated to underhood or any type of in-car repair, which is why all of the lifts are on one side of the shop. Each of the four technicians at the shop has a number of specialities and a dedicated workstation, which means you won’t see staff crossing over from one side of the shop to the other. The shop also has a wider aisle to allow vehicles to be easily moved back and forth.