Wilson’s Garage has been a fixture in Pfafftown, N.C., since 1950. Nestled in the hills that overlook the picturesque Yadkin Valley, about 35 miles south of the Virginia border and northwest of the bustling Winston-Salem area, Pfafftown was founded back in 1786. Since the shop opened its doors, it has earned an extremely loyal customer base that extends well beyond the borders of its classic “small town America” location.
Owners Tim and Roberta Lasley took the reins of the regionally loved operation in 1988. In addition to running the business and his involvement with various industry committees, Tim serves as the local volunteer fire chief. Here, Tim shares his thoughts.
Does your shop offer general repair or do you tend to specialize in specific make or types of repairs?
We do a tremendous amount of maintenance. We seem to be the “Last Chance Garage” for many customers (“When all else fails, go to Wilson’s”).
We try to treat all customers as family and friends. We strive to have great communication above all else. We offer honesty and integrity to provide security and confidence in our customers’ minds.
Tell us about your parts purchases.
Most customers come for the lasting value of quality parts and skilled labor. There has been a shift in the paradigm by my parts suppliers. About eight or 10 years ago, 99% of our parts came from one supplier warehouse and ACDelco. In the last five years or so, there’s been a lot of movement toward buying from other suppliers. Our main suppliers today include NAPA, ACDelco and O’Reilley. Auto dealerships are not a good source for parts and don’t offer decent prices. Overall, we’ve seen a decline from quality to an emphasis on price. Not enough suppliers in our area tend to stock the highest quality parts and instead stock the lower-priced parts.
We do everything we can to use the highest quality parts and often are forced to reach out to different suppliers, but it’s a struggle. Buying high quality parts also hurts our margins. It used to be that the customer wanted the highest quality parts, but today they also seem to be more concerned with price. We need to make a 45% to 60% margin on our parts, but when a part costs us $200, we can’t charge the customer $400. It’s been a struggle to maintain percentages.
We serve many customers who drive through the mountains. If the vehicle has been equipped with a cheap level of brake rotors, and if they drive riding the brakes down a mountain road, by the time they get to the bottom, the car’s shaking so bad that it’s hardly drivable. I feel that the move to cheaper metals has really contributed to poor quality, especially when it comes to brake rotors and wheel bearings.
While the prices through Amazon.com seem attractive, I don’t feel it’s the way to go. If you have a problem, such as getting the wrong part, they won’t take it back. I’ve also experienced cases where the part never arrived. When I deal with local suppliers, I have someone to deal with who can take responsibility. I’ve been burned too many times by Amazon.
Tell us about your customers.
Customers we deal with are second and third generation, so we have excellent customer loyalty, and we average one new customer each day. Considering the tight margins on parts, just to stay even at five tickets every day we need at least one new customer every day.
What influences your parts buying decisions? Ranked from 0 – 3, with 0 having no influence and 3 having the greatest influence:
Brand name recognition 3
Promotion in racing 0
Perceived quality 3
Other: There is a time when you cannot wait for the highest quality part, and we have to settle for the next line in stock.
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Wilson’s Garage of Pfafftown Inc.
Pfafftown, North Carolina
Owners: Tim and Roberta Lasley
Business founded: 1950 by Marvin and Annie Mae Wilson. Tim purchased the shop in 1988, after working at the shop since 1975.
Number of bays: 3 interior and 2 exterior
Number of certified technicians: 4
Shop size: 2,400 square feet
Number of vehicles services per month: 100 to 120
Hourly labor rate: $80 to $150
Average job ticket: $275
Gross profit: approx. 60%
Average spent of tools and equipment annually: $25,000 to $30,000
Vehicle makes serviced: Almost everything. GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Mercedes and Subaru.
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