Newspaper: Family-owned auto repair shops remain open during COVID-19

From DailyLocal.com

PicWEST CHESTER — Auto repair shops are essential.

Besides hospitals and grocery stores, auto repair shops remain open as the governor deemed them ‘life-sustaining’ back in March.

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[Excerpt from article]

Lewis Automotive — an ASA member-shop — is operating in uncharted territory given this is an unprecedented national event impacting countless aspects of daily life.

Although open, most auto repair shops are struggling to stay afloat during this uncertain time, said Glenn Lewis. He owns Lewis Automotive on South Bolmar Street in West Chester.

“In a year or two, we will be able to look back at this time in history and all be proud how all of America came together,” Lewis said.

Lewis Automotive is a second generation family-owned auto repair facility, established in 1964.

“My dad, Gordie Lewis, started the business,” Lewis said, calling his father “the driving force,” who first inspired him to learn the craft as a child. “He brought me into the shop at a young age and I have loved the business ever since. I have been working in the auto repair business for over 40 years and can’t imagine doing anything else. I love going to work every day and seeing our employees and customers. They have become our family. We’ve been working on many customer family’s vehicles for generations.”

Today, administrative staff includes Lewis’ wife, Donna, and service manager Pat Rooney.

By government mandate, facilities that repair or maintain vehicles are considered essential services, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lewis said. “We maintain social distancing,” Lewis added, noting that his wife keeps the office clean and disinfected every day. The shop guys not only wear gloves and masks but also wipe down vehicle steering wheels and door handles when services are finished.

Lewis said he supported the actions of the governor and described it as “the right course of action so everybody can be safe.”

Still, “We have been impacted by the stay-at-home order,” Lewis said. “Like other small businesses during this uncertain time, and even being deemed essential by our state government, the slowdown in traffic to our business from our customers staying home has made being in business difficult.”

Some vehicles Lewis Automotive repairs include funeral home hearse vehicles, police cars, ambulances, commercial business fleet vehicles and the vehicles of health care workers.

“Cars and trucks are still breaking down and in need of maintenance services during this time,” Lewis said.

For instance, if a nurse’s Jeep Wrangler busts a tire, she needs it fixed. Fast.

The business continues to offer patrons towing, pick-up and drop-off services during the ongoing crisis.

Although the panic has settled, and Americans are still adjusting to a new way of daily interactions with others and the world at large, in isolation, mostly, the financial cost of the crisis is just beginning.

“Most shop owners have come across difficult times in the years they’ve been in business,” said Lewis, who is a certified master technician of the automotive trade.

“I have been through tough times before,” Lewis said. “This one is going to hurt all of us for a while.”

From West Chester government parking attendants to Liberty Place bartenders in Kennett Square, people are out-of-work.

“We sent out Pennsylvania State inspection reminder cards to our customers who are due that month, and we found out most of our customers didn’t know that we’re open.”

Administrative staff including Lewis’ wife, Donna, and service manager Pat Rooney have followed up with phone calls to customers to set up appointments as needed. The business is also offering pickup and drop off service as well during the ongoing crisis.

“When the stay-at-home order lifts, everyone will want their vehicle serviced,” Lewis noted. “That being said, it’s better to have a reliable vehicle now, than to cross your fingers and hope for the best down the road.”

His wife is passionate about the family enterprise and grateful for the friends met along the way.

Said Donna Lewis, “Glenn and I have put our heart and soul into our business. The relationships we’ve built with generations of customers trusting us with all of their vehicle needs is what it’s all about. We love coming to work every day to help our community.”

What has inspired her most recently includes the continued communication from Lewis Automotive “customers, calling us and asking how we are and if we’re healthy and safe. Phone calls between us and our customers are at times not even about their cars and their maintenance needs, it’s personal and heartfelt.”

She said, “Our customers are our family, and they are the only reason we are able to keep doing what we love doing every day.”

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