In Good Hands:
Donahue's Auto Service
By Lisa McReynolds
Dedication, fairness keep customers coming back.
Bill Donahue has always had an interest in repairing things. And that interest led to him opening an automotive repair shop nearly 50 years ago that is going stronger than ever today.
From left to right: Mike Donahue, president; Michael Donahue (kneeling), service writer; and Danny Donahue, parts manager. Donahue's Auto Service proudly displays the ASA sign for all to see.
It all started in 1942 when he joined the Navy and supervised above-deck repairs and equipment. After his naval stint, Donahue's repair career continued. In 1946 he went to work for a local automotive repair shop to learn the trade.
Then - in 1959 - Donahue and his wife, Helen, opened Donahue's Auto Service in Columbia, S.C. Helen worked in the office and managed the books. Donahue took the time to meet with each customer, manage the shop and order the parts. From the beginning, Donahue and his wife made sure every vehicle was repaired correctly, customers' needs were met, and that the shop ran smoothly. The couple encountered challenging times but their determination and dedication to the industry helped to overcome those challenges.
Donahue's approach to his work is reflected in his business philosophy.
"Our philosophy is to repair the customer's car to the best of our ability and to charge a fair price for the work we have done," Donahue said.
Like the Automotive Service Association (ASA), which had its humble beginnings in May 1951 as the Independent Garage Owners of America (IGOA), Donahue's Auto Service has strived to build a history with its customers. "We are dedicated to a long-term relationship with our customers," he said.
Soon after the shop opened, Donahue's dedication drove him to be more involved in the industry. The shop became a member of IGOA in 1960. Donahue served as an officer in the state association, holding most offices. Donahue was vice president of IGOA in 1965. He also served as transmission council president from 1972 to 1974, national president for 1974-1975, and as a national delegate for 1979-1980.
A cozy waiting room lets customers relax, read a magazine or make a phone call while their vehicle is being repaired.
"I attended most of the national conventions until 1999. My oldest son, Danny, took my place representing our shop and South Carolina. He was also president of the association twice," Donahue said.
As the business grew, more employees and family members were added to Donahue's team. Donahue's family has continued the dedication and fairness that customers of Donahue's Auto Service have come to know and appreciate. Donahue's son, Mike is president of the company. Mike's wife, Dale, handles the front office and incoming phone calls. Danny handles the parts department of the shop, and Donahue's grandson, Michael, is the service writer. Donahue's Auto Service team also includes two transmission technicians, two R&R technicians who remove and rebuild transmissions and one general repair technician.
Donahue didn't totally pass off the business to the family. Even though Donahue is retired, he shows how dedicated he still is by coming to the shop almost every day. His wife still works part time at the shop.
Donahue's Auto Service team includes, from left to right: Bill Donahue, Helen Donahue, Dale Donahue, Michael Donahue, Mike Donahue, Danny Donahue, Carl Martin, Stan Ingram, Preston Padgett and Jack Baugher.
When the Donahues first opened their shop, they relied on customer referrals to get the business off the ground. They still value their customers.
"We really pride ourselves in treating our customers the way we would want to be treated," Donahue said. "When a job is finished, my son Mike calls every customer two weeks later to make sure they are happy with the job we have done for them. He then sends them a personal thank-you note."
Not only is Donahue's family involved in the business but faithful customers who come to the shop year after year bring their family members in as well.
Dedication and fairness have kept Donahue's Auto Service going strong after more than four decades of business. Donahue has never seen any need for changing the way things work around the shop. The future goals for the shop involve making their customers happy.
Donahue recently upgraded his shop's computer software to make sure the technicians get the information they need to repair the cars correctly and quickly. "We are always researching the newest equipment for our technicians," he said.
Bill Donahue, owner of Donahue's Auto Service, comes in daily to help around the shop and make sure everything is running smoothly.
From day one, the shop has been busy with light repair jobs and transmission overhauls. Each customer and repair job is different and unique just like the shop itself. It started with the love and determination of two people committed to the industry. Little by little their business grew to include dedicated family members and faithful customers.
"We have been blessed and are doing very well," Donahue said.
Donahue's Auto Service shows no sign of slowing down. Members of the community it serves can rest assured knowing they are in good hands.
Name: Donahue's Auto Service
Location: Columbia, S.C.
Square Footage: 10,500 square feet
Average Repairs Per Week: 35
Projected Annual Sales: $1.2 million
On Why They Are a Member of ASA: ASA has been very helpful over the many years we have been in business. We have been very active in ASA and will continue to be.
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