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  Shop Profile

Lehman's Garage Still Building
On 87 Years of Success

Posted 11/16/2004
By B.J. Johnson

Member-business continues vision of providing customers with the best collision and mechanical repairs for their vehicles.

Lehman's Garage
Exterior of Lehman's Garage Inc. in Bloomington, Minn.
Founded in 1917, Lehman's Garage Inc. in Bloomington, Minn., has provided quality mechanical and collision repairs since it started.

As a result, Lehman's Garage has grown from one facility to a total of six. The facilities are located throughout the Twin Cities metro area of Minnesota, and each facility is a member of the Automotive Service Association (ASA).

The business, established by L.P. Lehman, was purchased in 1969 by ASA past chairman Dick Cossette.

In 1999, Darrell Amberson joined Lehman's as general manager of operations. He owns a portion of the business and currently serves as president.

As president, Amberson oversees the daily functions of the business, including employee relations and insurance company and vendor negotiations. When asked what he enjoys most about his position, Amberson said, "Making changes for a positive result and the variety that comes with owning and operating a collision and mechanical repair facility. I also enjoy working with our employees and meeting other individuals involved in the industry."

He began his career in the automotive service industry while still in high school. As a high school student, he worked for a local dealership. After graduation, Amberson continued working in the dealership as he attended the University of Minnesota. "While I was in college and working at the dealership, it became apparent that automotive service would be my career path. I've worked in the industry ever since," said Amberson.

Amberson earned his Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) designation from the Automotive Management Institute (AMI) in 1998.

Lehman's Garage
Pictured are customer vehicles at various stages of repair in Lehman's Garage.
He is committed to maintaining the efficient, high-quality, cost-effective collision and mechanical repairs on which the business was built. This commitment is demonstrated through the firm's highly trained and skilled technicians. Each technician is certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) and/or trained by the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR).

Lehman's currently has a staff of 115 employees.

Each of Lehman's six facilities is equipped with the latest technology and equipment to meet the needs of its customers. The facilities' combined square footage of 87,000 square feet allows Lehman's the ability to effectively serve its customers. As a further service to its customers, Lehman's offers a mobile glass service.

Lehman's Garage
Direct marketing piece (two-sided) used by Lehman's Garage.
Through the continued dedication of its staff, Lehman's performs approximately 1,000 repairs per week. This figure represents both mechanical and collision repairs. An added employee benefit is the opportunity to own a portion of Lehman's operations. "Our employees currently own 30 percent of the business through our Employee Stock Ownership Plan," said Amberson. Lehman's also puts more emphasis on its internal culture than the local competition.

Operating six facilities of this magnitude requires the entire staff to work closely and effectively. And putting work in each shop to continue growth requires an even stronger marketing strategy. Lehman's takes advantage of several advertising methods to keep its name and reputation in front of the motoring public. "We use a lot of direct mail pieces. In addition, we have radio spots, newspaper ads, and some television commercials," said Amberson. An Internet presence through its expansive Web site affords Lehman's the ability to reach an even larger number of customers. The site provides customers with information on the repair process, the services offered and appointment scheduling.

Community involvement is also an important aspect of Lehman's success. The facilities host an open house for the community to visit the shops and learn more about automotive repair and service. In addition, Lehman's participates in local car shows, has a presence in the high school's sports programs and in local church bulletins. "We also participate in the Anti-Vehicle Crime Association of Minnesota. The group receives funding from the state and works with insurance companies and law enforcement agencies to prevent vehicle crimes including theft, arson and fraud," said Amberson.

Business affiliations and association membership assist in the longevity of Lehman's. The business is a member of the Better Business Bureau and several Chambers of Commerce. Lehman's has also been an ASA member for more than 35 years. Amberson has worked to advance the professionalism of the industry through his involvement with ASA and other industry groups. He has served as chairman of the local vo-tech advisory board and is currently serving as director of ASA's Collision Division. "I will continue to maintain my ASA membership because of the representation provided by ASA. As a board member, I will work diligently on behalf of the membership," said Amberson.

Lehman's Garage began building a strong foundation for its success in 1917. In 2004, the success of Lehman's Garage continues to increase and its employees are determined to carry on the original vision. Amberson's future plans for Lehman's are to be among the best in the industry and grow at a moderate, calculated pace.

Shop Stats

Name: Lehman's Garage
No. of Locations: 6
Locations: Minneapolis and surrounding metro area
No. of employees: 115
Web site: www.lehmansgarage.com
Marketing Statement: “Of all the places that do collision and mechanical repair, only one offers the best of both.”


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