A Thoroughly Modern Idea

In the city of Eden Prairie, MN, a few miles southwest of Minneapolis, there is only one full-service repair shop. It’s the newest store in the Bobby & Steve’s Auto World chain of six shops, built, owned and operated by the company’s newest partner, Randy Neis.

When Randy bought the four-bay corner gas station in 2006, he planned to build a new facility that would fit in with the city’s revitalized, upscale downtown area. The new design works so well that Randy said when construction finally began, “people thought we were building a hotel.” The rear of the two-story building faces the street, and the gas pumps are in the ‘courtyard’ that’s defined on two sides by the L-shaped seven-bay shop and the convenience store/restaurant. The third side is a state-of-the-art automatic car wash.

No Waiting

The store is open 24/7, and the shop is open from 6 AM to 11 PM every day. A towing contract with the neighboring city of St. Louis Park means about 30 percent of Randy’s repair business is towed in. That’s OK because the shop does not take appointments. “We’re on the ‘now program;’ we get it in and done now.”

What they get done is anything that comes in the door, from a simple oil change to changing an engine. Free loaner cars are available for tow-in customers, and pick-up and delivery service is available for regular customers. Randy calls them “advocates” because they actively promote his business. “We put our advocates first.”

After 30 years as a lead tech and shop foreman in the downtown location, Randy said he learned a lot when he became the owner. “If I need to wash a car, fix a car, pick up parts, I’m ready to jump in. Whatever it takes.” His staff performs the same way. There are eight techs, and being in an affluent area means they work on high-end European cars. But every tech is prepared to vacuum and wash a car before it’s ready for delivery.

Well Equipped

The shop is equipped with central air conditioning, and the radiant heat in the floor is fueled with drain oil. In addition to a state-of-the-art alignment rack (“We get a lot of body shop business with that”), there are fluid exchange machines, tire and wheel balance machines, starting/charging/battery-test equipment, a transmission jack, strut compressor and 15 different scan tools. In all of the six locations, Randy says there about 35 scan tools, including most of the factory scan tools.

Since opening in March 2011, Randy says the shop is averaging $65,000 per week, and his goal is $100k per week without tires. When asked why success came so fast, he said it’s because “we put the service back into service. Serving people is the most important part of our business. Ninety percent of my (regular) customers just throw the keys at me and say ‘fix my car.’ ”

No doubt it takes experience, hard work and no small measure of luck to go from “the ugly duckling” to the “flagship” in the chain, outperforming the other stores within the first month of business. But Randy says his success would not have happened without faith. His partners had faith in his vision, and Randy “had that vision that this would be the number one store Bobby and Steve have. So I put my trust in Him, not money, not people, but Him, and that’s the way this place came about.”