Shops that Serve

Dec. 1, 2014
From fighting breast cancer and homelessness to giving single mothers and abuse survivors renewed hope, we take a look at the shop operators whose community impact reaches far outside their shop walls

It’s time for the industry’s reputation to change, Charlie Marcotte states flatly. And that can change “with each customer, each day.”

“It’s not about being a successful business that does well,” he adds. “it’s about being a business that does good.”

Marcotte is a Ratchet+Wrench All-Star Award winner, multiple-shop operator and the founder of Family Service Day, a nationwide initiative to provide struggling families with the vehicle repairs they need to get their cars on the road and their lives on track.

And he’s one of many throughout this industry that have proved that no business is too small to make an enormous impact. And there are “so many in this industry doing just that,” Marcotte says. “It’s time that became what we’re known for.”

Giving Back

Dennis Houska and his Fort Collins, Colo., family-run business, Houska Automotive, have worked for more than 25 years to raise awareness and increase donations for people awaiting bone marrow transplants.

The shop’s annual Houska Houska 5K run has more than 1,000 participants each year, and the Houska team has helped raise more than $900,000 for a new cancer center. They donate used cars to single mothers. His wife, Noreen, started a program that collects super-hero themed underwear for underprivileged children. It’s donated thousands of pairs to various nonprofits and schools.

With its incredible local community ties, it’s no wonder why the 64-year-old business thrives (sales top $4 million on an annual basis). But Houska, when interviewed by Ratchet+Wrench in 2012, said that none of it was done with his business’s success in mind. That’s just a byproduct of doing what’s right.

“If you’re passionate about something, people can see that,” he said, “and it can make a difference.”

Read more about Houska's story.

‘All About the Kids’

John Francis Jr. and Pennsylvania’s Francis Auto Care focus on child safety. Read More

Dollars and Sense 

Nick and Val Muhlenbruch donate 10 percent of pretax growth profit to schools in their Cap Coral, Fla., market. Read More

Brakes for Breasts

Laura Frank and Leigh Anne Best’s quest to prevent breast cancer—one brake job at a time. Read More

Family Service Day

Charlie Marcotte’s nationwide effort to repair broken families. Read More

About the Author

Ratchet+Wrench Staff Reporters

The Ratchet+Wrench staff reporters have a combined two-plus decades of journalism and mechanical repair experience.

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