NAPA AutoCare Center Celebrates 50 Years As Family Business
Richard Day opened Laurel Heights Automotive in Raytown, Missouri, in 1967, reaching a 50-year milestone. Originally, it included a gas station and shop where Day performed oil changes, tune-ups, brake jobs, and other repairs. As soon as Richard’s sons Dennis and Dewayne were tall enough to clean the middle of a car’s windshield, they started pumping gas at the family’s corner business. When the gas pumps and tanks were removed in the late 90s, Laurel Heights Automotive became a full blown repair shop. Dennis and Dewayne bought the business from their father in 1994. Today, Dennis’s son Justin also works at the shop as a service writer.
One of the First AutoCare Centers in the Midwest
Laurel Heights was one of the first NAPA AutoCare Centers in the Midwest, joining the NAPA family in 1984—unbeknownst to Richard. Dennis said their salesman learned of the AutoCare program and presented the idea to him and his brother Dewayne. Dennis said, “We knew my dad would never agree to the membership fee—it was hard to squeeze a few dollars out of him back then. But our salesman believed in the program so strongly he paid it out of his own pocket.
“We had to keep quiet about the AutoCare benefits so Dad wouldn’t find out. But once I gave him the first couple of quarterly rebate checks he asked where the money was coming from. When I explained it was a result of the NAPA AutoCare program he was convinced that was the way to go. Laurel Heights Automotive has been an AutoCare Center ever since. Today, we take advantage of most of the programs AutoCare offers.”
That includes everything from NAPA TRACS shop management system to Sales Drivers. Dennis is currently a member of the AutoCare Council. Members are charged with the task of helping to improve and refine all aspects of the program so AutoCare owners can get the most out of it.
He said, “It’s nice to know what’s coming in the industry and in the AutoCare program. I share what I learn at the Council meetings with our local Kansas City Business Development Group (BDG).”
AutoCare Programs Contribute to Business Success
Like his fellow repair shop owners, Dennis understands training is essential to keep up with today’s vehicles. “Cars are getting more complicated with all the technology involved. You can’t get enough training these days. Our BDG offers NAPA Autotech Training. Autotech’s Jeff Bly is one of the best trainers in the country, especially for the labscope. It’s a great tool for solving tough electrical problems. NAPA Training also offers eLearning classes and I can assign a technician specific courses online.
“Younger technicians especially like Digital Vehicle Inspection. Since it shows pictures of any problem areas on the car, customers are more likely to choose the recommended service. Because the service writer also sees the DVI recommendations, it saves lots of conversation time between the tech and the service writer.”
The NAPA Service Assistant (NSA) app also gives service writers access to a variety of videos that provide customers with a visual explanation of service recommendations.
When customers say the cost of a repair is more than they can afford, Dennis said he tells them about NAPA’s EasyPay Financing. “Sometimes customers will ask if I will let them spread their repair cost over a few months’ time. I always suggest NAPA’s EasyPay card. It’s much better for my accounts receivable when customers are able to use that,” he explained.
Extended payment options are available to make the thought of a costly repair less daunting. In addition, when repairs are paid for using the NAPA EasyPay card, NAPA’s Peace of Mind Warranty for that repair is extended from 24 months/24,000 miles to 36 months/36,000 miles. Dennis has also taken advantage of PROimage branding to distinguish Laurel Heights Automotive as a NAPA AutoCare Center. “There are a lot of people who’ve driven by our shop for 20 years and have never seen us, but now they do,” he remarked. “The signage is lit up at night so we’re visible even after hours. We’ve received a lot of compliments on the look and being co-branded with NAPA has brought in traffic.”
Communication with Your NAPA Store is Key
During all their years as a NAPA AutoCare Center, Dennis said he’s had a good relationship with his servicing NAPA AUTO PARTS store. His advice? Communication is key.
He explained, “For example, when you need a part, your NAPA store always strives to get it to you as fast as possible. But if there are times you don’t need that part until later, let them know. Then in the future when you do have an emergency, they’ll do what it takes to get your parts right over even if it means pulling a counter guy. It all comes around.
“If you’re struggling with something, ask your servicing NAPA store for help. I always talk with my salesman first. If he doesn’t know the answer, he knows someone who does. Communicate with your store. They are there to help you. You’re partners. They want you to succeed.
“When we celebrated our 50th anniversary, NAPA brought their truck. They grilled and served hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, and chips for our customers, neighbors, and friends. My dad was here for the celebration, too.”
Dennis is looking to a bright future for Laurel Heights Automotive. And when Dennis and Dewayne are ready to retire, they are looking forward to Dennis’s son Justin continuing the 50-year tradition that started with Richard Day.