It Takes a Village
Pennsylvania owner tells why branching out is key to maximizing his investment.
If Keith Heilveil, AAM, were your financial adviser, he’d advise you to diversify. He has, and it’s paying off.
In fact, his car wash is one of the ways he diversifies his shop. And his snowplow business keeps dollars rolling in too, especially when that cold north wind blows and the snow falls.
Heilveil owns Village Tire and Auto Repair, an ASA-PA shop in Lansdale, Pa. A borough of more than 16,000 people, Lansdale is located 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Heilveil has been fixing cars there since 1989, and all of his ventures are located on a 2.5-acre site centrally located in town.
Those ventures include the tire and auto facility, a full-service shop that’s open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., a snowplow sales, service and repair division that’s been part of his business since it opened and an automatic car wash that Heilveil added in 2003. The snowplow and car wash divisions have maximized his location and investment, he says. “I strongly believe in that old saying, ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’.”
Heilveil installed the automatic car wash that’s 100 percent touch free, easy to use, has no guide rails and never forces owners to leave their cars. It’s open 24/7, 365 days a year.
“Typically, automatic car washes are unmanned,” he says. “But since we are on the same site, we routinely engage our customers for quality control and customer satisfaction. With the price of today’s vehicles, many customers have moved to touch-free washing to eliminate any damage that tends to come from friction washes.”
Revenue from the car wash comes in year-round. And sure, Heilveil says, car washing may not be as big in the summer as it is the rest of the year. But cars get dirty in the summer, too. So on days when the weather permits, off to the car wash his customers go.
But when everything else slows down a bit because of the weather, Village Tire and Auto Repair’s frequent winter-revenue mainstay is the snowplow division, which keeps going strong. Snowplows are a necessity if you live in a state like Pennsylvania, where the flakes start falling in November and the white stuff hangs around until the next April.
Customers might not be able to get their car in for service on some of those bad days, but they continually need help from a snowplow. Heilveil’s shop operates around the clock when snow is on the roads and customers count on it for emergency snowplow repairs and equipment.
Heilveil believes in taking care of his customers, which may be why his snowplow division is one of the area’s largest dealers, offering sales, service and installation. It’s an authorized dealer for Western, Meyer, Snow Ex, Swenson and Toro snowplows. And the division’s people are ever ready for those aforementioned emergencies.
Village Tire & Auto Repair also sells virtually every make of tire there is. And Heilveil’s technicians, all ASE certified, are skilled at taking care of any service, repair or maintenance work a vehicle might need. He says his shop’s motto is: Fix It Right the First Time On Time.
“We take great pride in our quality control and customer satisfaction,” he says. “And you know, this, in itself, is a marketing tool because we enjoy the benefits of referrals.”
An ASE master, Heilveil is also L1 certified and has earned the Automotive Management Institute’s coveted Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) designation. Currently, he’s the chairperson of ASA-PA, an affiliate of the Automotive Service Association.
“There are many aspects to running a business today,” he says, “from training to marketing. The industry is constantly changing, and you have to change to stay competitive. But being an ASA member really makes keeping in touch with the industry so much easier.”
His plans for the future of the business? “To continue growing and keeping up with technology,” Heilveil says. “We enjoy being at the front of technology rather than waiting. It’s so much easier to ride the wave from the front. Staying tuned in to new technology is an integral part of our business, and everyone, including our service writer, is required to attend regular training.”
Name of Shop: Village Tire and Auto Repair
Location: Lansdale, Pa.
Shop Square Footage: 5,000
Number of Employees: 5
Number of Repairs Weekly: 45-55
WHY KEITH HEILVEIL IS A MEMBER OF ASA: “I joined ASA in the early ’90s to get more technical training. But my membership has become much more than just training. I’ve come to realize that there is strength in numbers as we fight various legislative issues for the industry. I’ve also learned the value of networking. Many of my fellow ASA members are close to our location, and we now look upon each other as friendly business partners rather than simply competitors.”