Hillside Auto Repair

Jan. 1, 2015
Cramped for space, Dave Carney adjusted his urban shop to put the customer first

SHOP: Hillside Auto Repair  LOCATION: Torrance, Calif.  OWNER: Dave Carney

SIZE: 1,500 square feet STAFF: 11 (5 technicians, 3 foremen, 1 car washer, 1 owner, and 1 accountant/ bookkeeper)


1) Dave Carney and his wife, Zoie, had been operating a gas station–service center on this property at a loss for a number of years. In 2002 they finally decided to remove the gas pumps and redo the space to make way for a full-service auto repair facility. Foliage was added to make the shop look more inviting.

“People come in and say they thought it was a flower shop,” Carney says.

2) Because of California’s typically pleasant weather, Hillside Auto is able to utilize an outdoor waiting area for its customers. They installed a trellis and a fountain and put chairs around the greenery to create a relaxing, inviting environment for waiting customers.

“The trellis was put there because it faces the south. The sun would cook us inside, so we put the trellis there and planted the vines to keep the sun out and make it easier to work,” Carney says. “The fountain provided a nice calming, white noise.”

3) There’s still an indoor waiting and check-in area for customers who prefer not to sit outside. It’s complete with Wi-Fi for customers, coffee and fresh baked goods from Zoie’s oven. And more than anything, the inviting environment breeds results.

 “We have customers that aren’t getting their car serviced who just stay and have coffee and talk to others,” Carney says.

4) With only three bays, Hillside Auto utilizes an outdoor repair station to help with the workload. Complete with an outdoor lift, Carney says just about any repair can get done outside.

5) With limited space on the lot, Carney said the biggest complaint he got from customers was that it felt so busy all the time. He implemented what he calls a “concierge auto service,” in his shop. There are now check-in spots in his parking lot reserved for customers who are just pulling up and waiting to begin service on their cars.

“We want to make it easy for the customer,” Carney says. “As soon as their wheels hit our lot, we don’t want any obstacles. We make it look not too busy and give them a parking spot right out front. It goes with our philosophy of providing a concierge customer service.”

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