Frank Russo Sr. has seen the car parts and repair industry change a great deal over his 36 years in the business, but one thing he believes has and always will remain a constant is the importance of serving the customer honestly and fairly.
“You have to treat your customer how you’d want to be treated,” said Russo, who opened the doors to his Boutte automotive repairs and collision center 15 years ago. “The thing about an independent shop is for many of those customers you see, you build relationships. I know my customers. I see them out and about. And some of those relationships have turned into friendships.”
Russo said there’s no greater compliment than hearing someone they’re stopping in because of a high recommendation.
“When someone tells me that person they know had nothing but good things to say … or a customer say (Russo) is honest and treats you fairly, that makes my day,” he said.
The shop’s location just off U.S. Hwy 90 isn’t visible to the common person driving by on the highway, and he said that makes building a strong rapport and trust with his customers that much more important.
“We’re not going to get the drive-by customers,” Russo said. “I have to have my customers be repeat customers, and the only way to do that is to treat them fairly.”
One advantage the shop offers is through warranty —“We have the longest warranty in our repairs of anyone, and it’s nationwide,” he notes — of two years and 24,000 miles.
Performing repairs is one thing, but one will likely find themselves looking for service again if the parts used for those repairs are of lower quality. Russo places a high priority on using quality parts that are, if not original equipment manufactured (OEM), as close to that as possible.
“We don’t use cheap materials to try and make the most profit. We try and use the best for our customers,” he said. “The better materials you use, the better chance you won’t have to bring your vehicle back in for parts failure.”
Another priority is the ability to offer everything a customer might need under one roof.
“We were the first complete service center in St. Charles Parish,” Russo said. “We haven’t had to sublet work to anyone, it’s all done here, in house, and has been for years. We’ve offered automotive repair, body repair, tire center, the whole thing.”
Dealer Services also recently opened a new performance parts shop primed for race, off-road, jeep and show car enthusiasts.
“It’s got me back in an area I was in for many, many years and it’s bringing in new customers, as well as people I haven’t seen in years. We enjoy doing it and we do some performance work now,” Russo said.
This year, Dealer Services will be holding a toy drive for Christmas, and offering anyone bringing in a toy to donate a 10 percent discount on any auto repairs, with the exception of service specials.
The shop is also once again contributing to the Louisiana Custom Cruisers car show on Nov. 3, which will benefit the St. Charles Parish Special Olympics.
“The River Parishes have been very good to us, and I owe its people a thank you,” Russo said. “I hope we’ve been as good to them as they have to us.”