Mechanicsburg, Pa., located eight miles west of Harrisburg, has a population of less than 10,000. Founded in 1806, it is known as a small town with a big sense of community — and it drops a huge wrench every New Year’s Eve as a nod to its mechanic roots.
ASP asked Judith Zimmerman Walter, owner of Zimmerman’s Automotive in Mechanicsburg, to tell us about her shop.
“The original Zimmerman’s garage was opened by my dad, Norman Zimmerman, in 1958. The oldest of seven children, he had goals of providing a family income, offering a needed service to the community, and securing flexibility for his time — he also served as a volunteer pastor at a local church. The shop consisted of one bay and two gas pumps.
“Eventually, my dad enlisted the help of his father, Paul Zimmerman Sr. Their houses were located on the same plot of land as the business.
“In the 1960s, my uncles Paul Zimmerman Jr. and Jay Zimmerman spent their high school afternoons helping out at the shop. Paul and Jay’s daily duties included pumping gas, fixing cars, and working on all types of engines from lawn mowers to farm tractors. By the mid-’70s, both brothers would be working for the shop full-time and joined my father on the ownership team after their dad’s retirement.
“I started working at the company in 1974, performing many different jobs, including pumping gas and accounting duties. Two years later, my dad brought on my husband, Jeff Walter, as a service technician.
“The 1970s and ’80s saw lots of expansion for the Zimmerman family. The business moved in 1975 and saw three separate expansions in the mid-’80s alone. As the business grew in success and in reputation, more and more family members joined to help. Services expanded — and the community grew to depend on Zimmerman’s for quality auto service and repair. In 1986 we began selling quality pre-owned vehicles following requests from customers. In 1994, my brother and I joined the ownership team, when our dad decided it was time to retire.
“Company success lead to the ground breaking of our current location in the winter of 1999, and the grand opening in October 2000. The 20,000-square-foot facility includes a 12-bay service shop, a 35-car auto sales lot, and a two-bay quick-lube oil change center.
“Since 1958, we’ve grown and kept pace with ever-changing automotive technology. We added services that will be real assets for our customers, but we never changed the values in being a family-owned business. Trust, respect and integrity define how we do business. Sixty years ago, our dad never dreamed his goal of providing income for his family would grow into a business with 29 employees on the verge of being run by a third generation of owners!
“When you walk into the Zimmerman’s Automotive building, you are greeted by not only the staff at the front desk, but by the pictures lining each wall chronicling the history of the family business. In between numerous candid photos of families, employees and clients, are plaques of industry-specific and community awards won over the years.
“This year is a big year for the family business. Zimmerman’s Automotive is celebrating its 60th year of business with a community-wide celebration. In August, we will be hosting our annual car show which includes over 40 cars, food, games, participation of local emergency responders, and lots of fun.”
Does your shop offer general automotive repair or do you specialize?
We offer full-service for all domestic and most foreign makes. We also carry an inventory of used vehicles and offer a quick lube service.
What is your business philosophy?
We are all about family at Zimmerman’s Automotive. We want our clients to feel a part of our family because they trust us with one of their most important assets, their vehicles. We also strive to keep our customers informed and provide them with the basic car knowledge needed to get the best performance out of their assets over the years.
What do customers expect from your shop?
Our customers expect the same from us as we expect from them — honesty and integrity. We firmly believe in family and family values. We love helping families remain safely on the road, whether it’s through vehicle maintenance, repair, or purchasing a newer car.
Where do you buy your parts?
We source our parts from a number of different vendors. Our main vendors are Fisher Auto Parts and Advance Auto Parts. We have incredible working relationships with both of these companies.
Parts purchases: What influences your parts buying decisions? Rank 0-3.
Quality and availability are very important for us. We want to know what kind of warranty the parts are backed with and how quickly we can get them. If a company won’t stand behind their own parts with a decent warranty, we move on.
What is your approach to training?
We firmly believe in continuing education —not only for our technicians (5 are ASE Master Technicians), but also all of our other staff. The automotive world is constantly changing. It is our responsibility to keep up with updated technology, procedures and standards.
How has ASP benefited your business?
ASP is one of the many different resources that aids in our knowledge of the industry. Reading about issues from other shops helps us to be able to push through unique situations. ■