The first Rad Air Complete Car Care store opened in 1975 in Parma Heights, OH, a suburb of Cleveland. We met with Andy Fiffick, founder and CEO of the company, at store number 10 in Strongsville, a nearby small town with much history and upper-middle class customers.
Like the other stores in the company, Rad Air Strongsville is a franchise. This one is owned and managed by Mike Munger, who was also on hand for our meeting.
Built from scratch
The Strongsville store opened in July 2011 and was built from scratch on an empty lot. Although the town granted zoning and building variances, Andy said they also had a long list of design specifications for things like oil interceptors, drain systems, a water back-flow prevention system, sewer line improvements, CO detection and ventilation systems. We asked Andy to explain the CO system. “If the carbon monoxide level gets too high in the shop, a controller will turn on huge fans that pull air and fumes from just above the floor, and a roof vent opens to let in fresh air.” In the 8-bay shop there are two such systems, plus a third in the large storage room at the end of the building.
Andy described another ventilation system that keeps the building under positive pressure when the doors are closed, to force fumes out of the building. He says it’s a nice feature but not without its downside. “Because you’re always pushing air through here, there’s always a film of dust on the walls, because dust is always in the air.”
The shop itself is roomy and well thought out. The service bays are 15 feet wide and about four feet apart, with another car length of space between the bays and back wall. Hanging between each pair of lifts are hose reels for shop air, oil and water, and another pair of reels carries a drop light and an electric power cord.
“We keep everything off the floor so it keeps the floors cleaner (and) a tech never has to walk more than one bay away to get what he needs,” says Andy. “You see so many shops with stuff coiled on the floor; that’s a trip hazard.” One of the shop’s techs called the overhead hose reels a “God send. It’s so much easier and it looks good.”
It all came together
Many features of the Strongsville shop were pioneered at the other Rad Air locations first, including the hose reels and some of the tool and equipment choices. Building a new shop gave Andy a chance to incorporate things he has learned from the other shops and from his years in the business.
For instance, Andy says the sheltered parking area out front makes Rad Air Strongsville more competitive with dealerships because “People like staying dry when they get out of their car.” The customer waiting room is, of course, comfortable and inviting, but technicians’ comfort is just as important. The large kitchen/lunch room has a flat-screen audio/video system for training events (training never ends at Rad Air). The shop is a wel- equipped and safe working environment that has plenty of work space and is easy to keep clean.
Andy is always keeping an eye open for new ideas that might work in the company’s older shops too. Cars change, so skills and tools need to be updated. Andy Fiffick obviously feels that workshops should be kept up to date too.
Top 10 Tools
- Alldata and Mitchell information services
- Scan tools: Snap-on Solus Pro, Tech II
- SmokePro smoke machine
- Motorvac fuel system cleaner
- Hunter HawkEye alignment machine
- Challenger Lifts with 3-step arms
- Coates rim clamp tire machine
- Coates wheel balancer
- Robinair A/C service machines
- A/C hose crimp tools
- Bacharach A/C leak detector