It all started when my car didn’t. Quite literally. My car wouldn’t start. I was at a rehearsal for a dance show when I turned to my friend and asked, “Do you have any recommendations for a mechanic?”
Her face lit up and she grabbed her bag. She reached in and as she pulled her hand out, the bag exploded in a cloud of business cards.
“I love them so much!” she exclaimed as she handed me a card. “They’re quality focused and it’s a small business run by Andrew and his wife Bethany.”
I looked down at the card and read “Marinelli Auto Service.” Clearly Amanda was happy with the service. I had an older car that needed help and I had lived here for a few years but hadn’t found a mechanic in the area that I trusted yet. So, that evening, I sent an email with a detailed description of what I was experiencing and waited for a call.
Bethany called me the next day to talk about expectations and scheduling me. I was able to get on the schedule fairly soon after and poor Phillipe (my 2002 Grand Am) was towed over to the shop. I talked with Bethany in the office about testing and evaluation and what the next steps were.
Andrew commenced testing and was able to resolve my two main concerns; the fact that my car wouldn’t start at all, and the security issue that I was having. Around the time that I needed to bring my car in, there was an issue with the security system that made it difficult to start my car, making me do a reset that took 30 minutes. I was thankful that I didn’t have to do that anymore, and that whole exchange built my confidence in Marinelli Auto Service.
A few months later, I was having issues with my tire; it was losing pressure fairly quickly but I wasn’t sure what was going on. But I knew where I was going to go. I called Marinelli’s again and was able to get on the schedule a few days later.
While I was waiting for Andrew to find out what was happening, I had a lovely conversation with Bethany. She mentioned that they were actually looking to hire and I happened to be looking for a job. The next week, I sent my resume to them and that began the long process of interviewing to make sure that I was a fit for their business.
My New Job
As a hospitality and tourism major, I had familiarity with customer service: I had previously worked at a restaurant, however working in a mechanic shop was something new for me. My father was a mechanic, as was my grandfather, but I knew little about vehicles and was intimidated by shops. I didn’t need to know what was done, just that my car was fixed. Working at Marinelli Auto Service has not only helped me learn about cars, but I have been able to put into practice what I learned in school.
Vehicles, they’re the easy part, or so I’ve been told. Talking to people, helping them make the best decisions for themselves, their families, and their vehicles…that’s what is intimidating. Over the past year, I’ve made connections with clients and vendors; people that I care for. As I am so often reminded, people are precious, and now these clients that I’ve built relationships with are precious to me. I’ve made mistakes, but I’m lucky in who I work for. Andrew and Bethany have been so kind to me and I am grateful for the chance that they gave me.
The automotive industry is intimidating for a lot of people, and you don’t see many young women working in it. As a young female working at a mechanic shop, I’ve learned that maintaining what you have is so important and it’s okay to ask questions! You should feel comfortable with your mechanic and you should know what’s going on with your vehicle. You should be able to count on their workmanship and their service. The first step in finding a mechanic is to ask your friends, maybe they too have a bag full of business cards that explodes into a cloud.
The risk was big. The statistics were against us. A mechanic may be a strong mechanic but can often be a weak businessman. Andrew knows his stuff when it comes to the cars and won’t claim to be a great businessman. He is like one of our son’s favorite books – The Little Engine that Could. Andrew is committed to rise to the summit no matter the effort.
Andrew’s perseverance is largely why he’s built a solid reputation as a knowledgeable mechanic – Andrew won’t rest until he is confident in how to fix it right the first time. A vehicle returning for the same problem is not an option. He won’t have it, and it shows in the miniscule percentage of vehicle come-backs we’ve seen since we opened in 2015.
Our six years of business have been both exciting and challenging. We were told that the first three years are the hardest and if we make it past 5 years we will most likely succeed. In the first year we built a strong client base and structure. The next two years are what make or break you. Maintaining that client base, continuing to improve our structure, stewarding our income well and making a liveable profit kept us moving forward despite encountering many challenges. We continue to grow, but the struggle has been real.
The Little Engine is heralded because, despite being little, he was still able to help the other train up the mountain, but it’s more than that. In my numerous trips winding through the Rocky Mountains’ tight S-curves, the added element of danger became apparent in the signs that say, warn about potential falling rocks. We’ve encountered some falling rocks in our business and family…and some outright rock slides. I am amazed we survived them all.
Our son was born in 2017, and I had planned a three-month maternity leave. However, I developed a serious case of septicemia which left me hospitalized for three weeks and, in my recovery, I wasn’t able to contribute to the shop as planned.
Halfway through 2018, our shop landlord tried to evict nearly all of the tenants in our building. Theyfloundered in their reasoning and eventually we were able to work out a new lease. Rent increased substantially, but our perseverance and commitment to our clients saw us through.
At the end of 2018 our one employee left us suddenly and was a big setback. (Note: If anyone here has let you down at any time, please contact us. We would be happy to listen.)
We had to fill the client services position fast, so in 2019 I had to jump in at a moment’s notice and put our son in early preschool. In the weight of the change (and other challenges shop aside), I began struggling with mental illness, affecting my work. Andrew continued to power through and to be a rock to our family and business.
We are very grateful for the local community we have supporting us, including those who have chosen to trust us with their vehicles. We continue to build relationships with them and do everything we can to care for them well.
A Turn in the Right Direction
We turned a corner in 2020. The road straightened a bit, and the incline wasn’t nearly as harsh.
Andrew and I hired Victoria to take over client services and have really enjoyed working with her. If you haven’t worked with her already, you will be glad when the time comes!
Also, Mike, a dedicated former employee asked to come back on a part-time basis to help grow the business through improving policies, processes and potential areas of expansion.
We’ve never wanted to be a family with two full-time working parents, so I have stepped back to part-time and focus on my strengths in relationship building and communication to build our client base. I’m better able to care for my health and our family. I’ve been a better mom and I’ve been able to support Andrew better as a wife so that he can focus on the shop so that his time is better distributed. Andrew is the chain that binds us all together.
Then COVID-19 came along. We know this hurt everyone – especially small businesses. Thankfully, with auto repair being an essential service, we haven’t really missed a beat. Though stay-at-home order reduced people’s driving habits and business became slow which was worrying. However, as the stay-at-home order was lifted and safety measures have been implemented in public areas, people began driving more and business picked up. We’re making it through!
The Other Side of the Mountain
Despite the challenges we’ve faced, we are committed to continue providing a quality-focused service based on trust, honesty, and fairness. Over the years, we’ve added to the services we can provide in-house. We’ve improved on our business processes and efficiency. You have made it worth the effort by continuing to trust us.
Many people come to us feeling frustrated by past experiences in auto repair. They feel overcharged and undervalued. Andrew and I know that once you find someone with whom you can build trust to meet expectations, to treat you well, and fix your vehicle the right way the first time, you want to be able to go to them for everything. Our goal has been to be that shop that you trust for all of your needs – from oil changes and tires to in depth testing and major repairs.
That’s also why we strive to go beyond just fixing the vehicle by continuing to improve upon our client services. From the first phone call to the repair and maintenance plan, to budgeting, we want you to feel cared for because we care about you.
We have some lofty goals for the future as well. Andrew has been dreaming for years about adding loaner vehicles to our list of services. Hiring another full time mechanic would increase our efficiency and allow Andrew to focus more on improving the business. One day, purchasing our own property would help expand our services. Everything we do goes back to our vision of building trusting relationships through honest communication, quality-focused automotive repair, fairness in practice, and kindness in action.
Despite all of the challenges we’ve faced over the years, we continue to build and grow in a positive direction. Owning a small family business is hard – especially in a rough and tumble industry requiring hard manual labor, automotive smarts, and a society that has a general feeling of mistrust of mechanics. We believe our business is making a positive impact in this industry by taking the road less traveled.
If you recall, the reason the little train needed to get over the mountain was because it carried “dolls and toys and good things for boys and girls to eat.” The Little Engine that Could allowed that to happen. His Good Samaritan-like service benefited many. Just like the train, we’re not just in this for ourselves. We are in it for the greater good.
We have been delighted to build trusting relationships with so many of you who have, in many cases, become friends and a part of our supportive community. It means the world to us when you tell friends and family, “Andrew Marinelli is my mechanic. You should bring your vehicle to his shop!” More than just meeting new clients, we truly appreciate the trust you have in us to send us someone you care about. That’s the kind of business that we’ve set out to run, and we plan to keep traveling that road.
As this year seems to have turned the whole world upside down it can be difficult to easily grasp things that we’re thankful for. However, it is times like these more than any other to stop and grab onto even the littlest things that this year has warranted thanksgiving. That’s why we wanted to share with you what we are thankful for. Maybe it will help you to realize how many things you really can be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
I am one of the fortunate to say that this year has been a blessing in disguise. I was going through some really hard things in 2019 that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It was the capstone of a steady decline of one hard thing after another. I needed a chance to catch my breath. I wasn’t sure if I could take it anymore. I had some serious health problems that made it hard for me to function at the shop. Andrew was carrying his full load and most of mine. Our son was having a hard time being at school so much, so he was spending a lot of time at the shop during the work day. We were all carrying heavy loads. Then 2020 happened.
Early in the year we were able to hire someone to take over the Client Relations role for me. I was able to narrow my focus on marketing, the part of the shop I really like. When the stay-at-home mandate happened, like a lot of people, I began working from home because my job didn’t require being on site. Besides, our son’s school closed, so I needed to be home anyway. This was a dream for me! This was what I had always wanted – to work from home and care for our son. It was the space I needed to breathe. It was what allowed me to focus on my health, our son, and having a productive role at the shop. So, while there have been many challenges about 2020, even for me, the change in direction was exactly what I needed. I am thankful for my new role working from home. I am thankful for more time with my son. I am thankful for my newfound health.
Victoria’s gratitude comes in a different form. At the end of 2019 she was searching for a job and was in the shop as a client. When I mentioned to her that we were looking to hire, she jumped on the chance. We put her through her paces and hired her mid-February…right before the country shut down. She says, “This past year has been hard, but it has been full of chances to learn and grow. I’m thankful for the Marinelli’s who have not only serviced my car to a high standard, but who have also given me the opportunity to serve their clients.”
On a more personal note, Victoria’s family has been going through a difficult time as her mom fights a rare form of cancer. I can tell you from getting to know her that Victoria holds herself up well even on the hardest of days because she chooses to look on the bright side.
She continues, “I’m thankful to my church and community for coming around me while my mom has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Finally, I’m thankful to the Lord for every day I get to call my mom and have her answer, to wake up and face each new day with hope and with faith.”
Around the time that we hired Victoria, Mike jumped back on board to help take some of the burden off of Andrew as we continue to find ways to grow and improve the business. The timing was fortuitous as we quickly began to navigate changes in operation due to COVID.
Mike currently lives out of town but comes back regularly. With his family being “at risk,” he stayed with us on his visits until the stay-at-home mandate ceased. He says, “Definitely thankful that my family is healthy and safe considering the virus. I’m thankful to be able to help you guys this year.”
Andrew has had a lot on his plate this year. On top of “just” running a business, fixing cars, and serving the people who come through our shop, he’s had to adapt the business to the pandemic while also training a new employee.
Despite this, his gratitude for the year is far reaching, saying, “I’m thankful that we’ve had a stable opportunity to serve people during this chaotic year and that Victoria is motivated to serve the clients and finds it meaningful.”
If anyone deserves a break this holiday season, it’s definitely Andrew. With everything that’s weighing on him at the shop, he also has a family waiting for him at home. Every day it’s his goal to make it home before our son falls asleep and to spend time with me. Most of the time he makes it happen and our hope is that someday it won’t be a race against the clock. Some day he will be able to lock the doors at closing and go right home. In the spirit of seeing improvements in our home life, his gratitude aligns with mine when he says, “I am thankful that Beth has been able to spend more time with Arthur while still contributing to the shop.”
Finally, and I think all four of us can agree with Andrew when he says, “I’m thankful that God is good in both times of joy and times of suffering.”
Finding Thanks in 2020
It has been a rough year for so many people across the world and it may seem like there are few things to be thankful for. I hope that our proclamation of Thanksgiving has helped you to think about what you are thankful for this year.
Maybe the gratitude you expected to evolve as you came into 2020 didn’t come to fruition. Weddings canceled. Memorial services postponed. Family and friends becoming ill. National and world events weighing on you.
For every challenge or disappointment there is something to be thankful for to match it. People who have walked beside you during this time. A change in pace from your usual busy life to spend more time with your family. Time to reflect on what is most important to you. What are you thankful for?
“Screeeeeech” screamed my brakes as I pulled into the parking lot. This is not a sound my car had made before. I had sensed something was off and earlier that week had asked Andrew to take a look at it over the weekend. Now it seemed urgent. I called him immediately to explain what was going on. He gave me sound advice (as he does) and I dropped my car off as soon as I was done with my errand.
You might think that because we own an auto repair shop that we’re immune to stress over car problems. Many times there is just no way around it.
First of all, our cars need maintenance and repairs just like everyone else’s. Being as that we are well in tune with maintenance schedules and preventative care, we are pretty wise about what our vehicles need and when. Our goal is always to educate our clients so that they have the same level of empowerment in servicing their vehicles, but with the added benefit of being updated whenever you schedule for service.
Secondly, our vehicle’s can develop surprises just like any other vehicle no matter how diligent we are in staying ahead of maintenance and repairs. We have the same challenge of figuring out transportation while our vehicle is in the shop. This, just like you, is more challenging when it’s a surprise that our busy schedule can’t really accommodate.
Plus, we don’t get cuts in line just because we own the repair shop. In fact, we reserve working on our personal vehicles for after shop hours so that we can continue to serve our clients well. Just like you, it’s even more challenging when it’s a complex repair and we’re down a vehicle while it gets tended to.
Then, there is the financial aspect of maintaining a vehicle. While we don’t pay ourselves for labor (because that’s obviously redundant), we still have parts costs. We still have to budget for vehicle repairs and, like you, money can be tight at times and stressful if it’s not a repair we were expecting.
Finally, the time for the repair needs to come from somewhere and it’s time that we’re not getting paid for. For us, as I previously mentioned, this means Andrew staying after hours or working more on the weekend to work on our personal vehicle.
Advantages of Owning an Auto Repair Shop
Are there advantages to owning a repair shop? Sure! We don’t have to pay labor or parts mark-up. When my vehicle makes a noise or isn’t handling quite right, I am better able to relay the relevant information to Andrew because of the time I’ve spent talking clients through their vehicle’s symptoms. Information is valuable in getting down to the bottom of the problem in a timely manner.
I am also more aware of whether or not it’s an urgent issue or something that I can keep my eye on. When I go home at night I can discuss it with Andrew. After being around the industry since before we opened the shop, I am more easily able to understand what he’s telling me. I am used to taking what he finds and explaining that to clients, so I generally don’t have a lot of questions..
However, I can still relate to you when you come in stressed about your vehicle, your schedule, finding alternate transportation, and your budget. I experience all of those things, too. Much of the time I need clarification about whether or not what I’m experiencing is urgent. This helps me to better understand what you are experiencing when you have an unexpected concern over your car.
When it comes down to it, we’re all human and vehicle’s are a man-made object. Very few of us are experts about this valuable piece of machinery we rely on to get us where we need to go. We can only be so proactive about vehicle maintenance and repairs no matter how much we know or don’t know.
After hearing that awful noise it didn’t take long for Andrew to get my vehicle up on the lift and see that the vehicle was due for new brake pads. Just like any client, he didn’t hesitate to take care of this safety issue so that I could get back into my vehicle.
I don’t know about you, but I’m glad I have such an attentive mechanic to take care of the vehicle I drive on a daily basis. If you don’t, I highly recommend finding one!
“Daddy!” the boy squeals as he flies into the shop, wrapping his arms around his father’s legs.
“Arthur boy!” his father exclaims.
“Walk, please!” his mother warns…for the millionth time.
“Can we do shop time, Daddy,” Arthur asks.
“That sounds great! Beth, is it ok with you if we have shop time after we close today?” Andrew asks with the “you know it will be good for him” look in his eyes.
Looking forward to getting the boy home, I respond with exhausted elongated words – “Yeah, that’s fine.”
But it is good for our now 3 year old son. And it’s good for Andrew to be able to share that special time with him. It’s certainly a benefit when your dad owns an auto repair shop. It’s a unique experience that few other kids his age enjoy.
If you have been a client for any amount of time, you have recognized that Andrew is a good teacher. That’s one benefit of his music education degree and he applies this with our son, especially during their Shop Time.
What Do They Do?
Arthur is always interested in what Andrew is up to and does his best to emulate him.
Arthur loves to help out around the shop and Andrew loves to give him practical jobs.
Learning opportunities abound at the shop!
With Andrew’s degree in music education and Arthur’s interests in everything music and everything in Daddy’s shop, this was a big hit! This is just a short clip of the beginning of their music exploration around the shop.
Finding out how things work around the shop can take a lot of different forms, but this is one of the most fun to date. I think Central Florida amusement parks have a rival!
These are just a few examples of the fun Andrew and Arthur have during their shop time. Many of them, I haven’t been around for. They will look for little treasures that Arthur can hide away in his pockets, do an oil change together, or just explore how different tools work. Arthur has been around the shop since his birth and is now capable of being helpful with small tasks. He truly completes our family business.
What a treasure trove of learning for a little boy!