59 Auto Repair in Plainfield, Illinois, has been named the 2021 NAPA AutoCare Center of the Year. Owners Rich and Linda Brauer have been loyal NAPA customers since 2007 and their shop was one of the first in the Chicago area to receive AutoCare Gold certification.
“We joined the NAPA AutoCare program about a year after purchasing our shop. NAPA has always provided excellent service,” said Rich. “When AutoCare Gold certification was introduced we knew we wanted to earn that recognition. We were already using many of the qualifying programs, but being a NAPA Gold AutoCare Center lets customers know we’re recognized as a top shop. We promote our Gold status on our website, social media, and all of our paperwork. Gold certification lends another level of professionalism to our business.”
A Top Shop with a Reputation Built on Quality Work
Linda said 59 Auto Repair is working to elevate the perception of the industry, especially since the automotive repair business hasn’t always had the best reputation. “We want customers to know they can count on us for professional, honest service and fair pricing. Gold certification, as well as digital vehicle inspection (DVI) are two programs that help us do that,” she said.
Rich explained, “Digital vehicle inspections allow us to give customers a visual as well as verbal explanation of what we see or recommend for their vehicle. It’s an easy-to-understand way for us to educate drivers about the importance of properly maintaining their vehicles.
“Providing complete and accurate inspections and helping customers prioritize needed repairs and maintenance is the right way to do business. We want every customer that comes through our door to have a positive experience and leave knowing they made an educated decision about their vehicle.”
The Peace of Mind Warranty is another big benefit of being a NAPA AutoCare Center. And being Gold certified is a big plus because it extends the nationwide 24-month/24,000 mile warranty to 36 months/36,000 miles.
“We have a large customer base in several of the active adult communities in our area. They typically travel to warmer climates for the coldest part of the year and return in the spring and summer months. So, being able to offer the extended warranty to all those customers is a great benefit for them,” Rich said. “In addition to the ‘snowbirds,’ many customers have children who are away at college, so the parents and their students appreciate the extended warranty as well.”
Being Gold certified also lets customers know 59 Auto Repair employs ASE certified technicians. In addition to the technicians, several service advisors are also ASE certified, making a total of 38 certifications in all and earning 59 Auto Repair the ASE Blue Seal shop designation.
The Brauers encourage their technicians to attend NAPA Training whenever possible. In addition, two of the Brauer’s employees are taking part in the NAPA AutoCare Apprenticeship program including their daughter-in-law Sarah Gocek and nephew Ian Kasner.
Rich leads by example with training and was awarded the Hands-On Pico Scope Power User certificate in 2019 after attending 32 hours of ASA Pico Scope training classes.
59 Auto Repair Makes Customer Service a Priority
Everything from DVI and the nationwide warranty, to ASE certification and training, helps support Rich and Linda’s goal of delivering the best customer service to everyone who visits the shop. “Our philosophy here has always been to treat the customer as you would want your grandmother to be treated,” Linda said. “New customers frequently tell us they’ve come to 59 Auto Repair because a friend or relative said they shouldn’t take their vehicles anywhere else. In addition, the children and grandchildren of many of our original customers are now coming to us for the service and repair of their own vehicles.”
During the pandemic, the Brauers have made safety a top priority. Before working on customers’ vehicles, technicians not only use floor mats, they put covers on steering wheels and gear shifts. They also sanitize keys as well as vehicles both before and after working on them. The Brauers also offer after-hours key drop-off and pick-up and allow customers to pay over the phone making it easy to do business at their NAPA AutoCare Center.
59 Auto Repair has been recognized for their high level of customer service having been designated a Top-Rated shop on Demand Force and chosen as a top shop in multiple community “rate a business” surveys. The Brauer’s AutoCare Center has also earned the Better Business Bureau Accredited Seal and is a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility.
Working Together to Provide the Best Customer Experience
In addition to being locally owned, 59 Auto Repair is truly a family-operated business. Along with Rich and Linda, family members working in or running the shop include daughters Marisa Brauer and Ashley Brauer, daughter-in-law Sarah Gocek, Linda’s brother James Rath, and nephew Ian Kasner.
Rich said, “Many of our technicians have been with us so long we consider them family. Mike Fukar and Rich started their careers working together. Jeff Kowalski worked with Rich at the first shop he owned. Dave Matel has been a family friend of Linda and Rich for more than 20 years and has worked in the auto industry for most of his life. While Albert Hilliger has not been with 59 Auto Repair quite as long, he’s a valuable member of the staff and the Brauers are happy to have him.
“We are a tight knit group that works as a team to give our customers the best experience possible,” said Rich.
Industry and Community Minded
The Brauers and their employees also work to support their industry as well as the community. Rich is involved with Lincoln Technical Institute, his alma mater. He has served on several of their panel boards and each year helps evaluate the automotive program, making suggestions to make the courses even better.
He is also involved with local high schools developing a mentor program. Rich takes young mechanics under his wing offering them a hands-on opportunity to get a taste of the auto repair business and help them decide if a career as a technician is right for them.
The Brauers, as well as members of the 59 Auto Repair team, are active in the community. At their church, Rich and Linda offer car repairs at no charge to families in need. They also collect food items for their local food pantry and are active members in the Plainfield Rotary Club. Linda serves as the club’s president and was awarded the Service Above Self Award.
Service Manager Dave Matel has been an active member of Boy Scouts for the last 25 years, is involved with World of Wheels as a judge and co-chairman, participates in the annual Toys for Tots run, and is a member of the Loyal Order of Moose, a family fraternity helping children in need as well as a supporting a retirement community. Technician Mike Fukar participates in Soldiers’ Home Motorcycle runs to welcome soldiers home, works with Operation Welcome You Home Run for the Brave 5K, sponsored by 59 Auto Repair. Rich and Linda’s daughter Marisa paints buckets filled with car care products that are then donated to raffle or auction off at various charitable events.
“It’s clear that Rich and Linda Brauer, along with their entire team, are not only an asset to the NAPA family, but the aftermarket industry as a whole,” said Jason Rainey, Vice President, NAPA AutoCare. “We know they will represent NAPA well in 2021. Congratulations to 59 Auto Repair, the NAPA AutoCare Center of the Year!”
More than 90 years ago, the National Automotive Parts Association ("NAPA") was created to meet America’s growing need for an effective auto parts distribution system. Today, 91% of do-it-yourself customers recognize the NAPA brand name. We have over 6,000 NAPA AUTO PARTS Stores nationwide serving all 50 states with a unique inventory control system that helps you find the exact part that you need.