Neubauer’s Auto Repair: A True Maryland Marvel

June 20, 2018

Neubauer’s Auto Repair is located in Ellicott City, Md., in northeast Howard County, approximately 10 miles north of the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Following is a brief history of the business, in owner Jim Neubauer’s own words.

“Neubauer’s Auto Repair started out with my father and business partner Pete Reichardt in a two-bay Esso station in Ellicott City, Md. WWII was ending and Pete was working on war plane tail sections at Martin State Airport. In 1947, Pete left Martin to start his career in the auto industry and opened his Esso gas station with two bays, later expanding to three. Pete and his wife lived in the house located just behind the Esso station, sharing it with my father, Will Neubauer, and his wife, Joanne. In 1972, Pete retired and sold the property to Esso and my father. At that time, Esso changed over to Exxon, and built a new four-bay location.

“I began working in the business, first pumping gas back in the full-service gas station days, then in 1979 fresh out of high school, turning wrenches. In 1989, I bought out my father and Exxon and built a new five-bay station at the same location, becoming the third generation owner.

“In 2002, I broke away from Exxon and relocated two miles down the road, purchasing our current building for $1.2 million.

“In 2007, I was struggling with the service department, forced to run the department alone after one adviser quit and our general manager was out with medical issues. I tried using temporary help to answer phones and greet customers, as I tried to run the shop and sell jobs.

“What a nightmare. The first temp would answer the phone and turn around immediately to tell me I had a phone call. Nothing could get her to at least scrutinize the call (customer name, type of repair desired, etc.). The next temp was somewhat better. After a few weeks of helping out in between doing her schoolwork, she announced that she was graduating from college, thanked me for helping her graduate, and promptly left.

“I finally had enough, and called in my daughter Chelsea to come in after school to help with the phones. She’s been with the shop ever since, becoming the fourth generation from our family working in the business. I’m now considering retirement in the next few years, and am working on a continuation and succession plan with both Chelsea and her brother Seth, who is in the business as well, turning wrenches.”

Does your shop offer general automotive repair or do you tend to specialize in specific makes or types of repairs?

Most of our automotive service is in the “general” category.

What is your business philosophy?

In our mission statement, we state, “We are committed to exceeding customer expectations thus striving for long-term relationships.” Building relationships with customers has always been my philosophy to be successful. Today, while that still applies, the personal handshake is no longer the norm. Today it seems that the relationships are turning into text messages.

Where do you buy your parts?

Aftermarket parts usually come from World Pac and Advance Auto Parts. We were previously with another parts store, but supply became an issue. We would call for routine parts and constantly had availability issues. Advance has taken on the task of being a major supplier to the automotive shops in our area. So far, they seem to be gaining market ground, especially with us.

Parts purchases

What influences your parts buying decisions? Rank from 0 to 3, with 0 having no influence and 3 having the greatest influence?

  Price                                 2

  Brand name recognition   0

  Perceived quality              3

  Availability/time                2

Quality and availability are the priorities. Our techs and I like to take the approach, “Would I put this part on my car/truck?” If not, then I would not feel comfortable installing it on a customer’s vehicle. Most of the time this is not an issue. But sometimes, we run into an “economical” customer who does not want the best, but wants a cheaper alternative that would still function. So, with the many options out there, we will find a way to make the customer happy without compromising the job by installing junk parts.

What do customers expect from your shop?

Our customers expect an easy, stress-free and quick experience, where they will have their vehicle repaired correctly the first time.

What is your approach to technician training?

We want our technicians to be on the top of their game and up with the rapidly changing technology in the industry. We provide in-classroom and online training so our techs have the ability to learn not only from home but to also be able to hit a classroom as their schedules allow. We also offer a training bonus to the techs who can make an additional $2 per labor hour generated as a training bonus based on a few minimum qualifications (mostly getting 12 hours of training per quarter to be eligible. If they miss the 12 hour mark, they don’t get the bonus for the next quarter).

How does ASP benefit your business?

I like the abundance of information you can get off the website. I recall a while back while sitting down one day for lunch and grabbing the magazine to read. As I was reading, I realized that one of the articles represented the same issue I was having with a customer, and the article described how to fix the issue! Boy, that was a nice day.    ■

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About the Author

Mike Mavrigian | Editor

Mike received a BA degree from Youngstown State University in English Literature with a minor in Journalism in 1975.