It’s a simple trait Frank Russo Sr. values most in his staff at Dealer Services in Boutte, but one he believes makes a huge difference.
“If you have a love for this, you will be good at it,” said Russo, the owner and operator of the automotive repairs and collision center. “This is us, this is who we are. We’re real car guys and it makes a difference.”
Russo has been in the business for 36 years, the last 15 of which has been spent running Dealer Services in his home area of St. Charles Parish. Prior to opening the shop, he worked as a dealership technician, and then as its parts and services director before deciding to open his own business.
His is a very similar background to those on Dealer Services’ staff.
“My guys here, most of us are factory trained. That’s where the Dealer Services name came from,” Russo said. “Most of us are out of dealerships. We have many, many years of experience.”
That’s not insignificant. One advantage to that background, Russo notes, is collectively he and his staff have established numerous contacts in the factory repair business. Another, he says, is that when someone brings their vehicle at Dealer Services, they know it will be handled by capable hands.
“I’ve never been someone willing to sacrifice quality for quantity,” he said. “You can put a bunch of kids in your shop who are bolting parts on, but the whole idea is to be able to fix people’s cars and not use their money to pay for your inexperience.”
That experience on the staff, as well as its versatility, enables Dealer Services to assist customers in a wide variety of ways and they are able to handle virtually any job in house.
“We’re really the only full service shop they have in the River Region,” he said. “We can fix a flat tire, make an engine replacement, fix dents in your car or do a complete restoration. We pretty much cover the whole spectrum for auto repair and collision repair. We don’t have to sublet anything to anyone. A lot of body shops do … we do suspension work, air bags, alignments, and it’s all in house. If your car is being repaired by us, it’s being repaired by us.”
Dealer Services offers a two-year warranty that covers 24,000 miles, parts and labor, which he notes comes with the store’s status as a NAPA Auto Care and AAA certified repair facility. The warranty is also honored nationwide.
“You can be anywhere in the country, and if you have problem with a part or repair, we can put you in a local shop and have it repaired under warranty,” Russo said.
Russo noted that over the years, he’s seen many people taken advantage of at other stores, and he said much of that could be alleviated if they were educated on how repair costs are determined. He added that because his employees are paid on salary, his mechanics aren’t inclined to rush through a job to get to another or to sell customers things they might not need.
“Every job you bring into a repair shop, there is an industry standard labor time guide,” Russo said. “Each job has a time for it. Most of the time, customers should check for labor rate, what labor time is being used for pricing and your warranty.
“A lot of times, I see pricing on stuff that’s just absurd. Sometimes, customers will come in with a grocery list of items someone told them they needed, and only two or three of those items are necessary. My idea of business, I want to give people a good job at a fair price. I’m not looking for a one time customer but a customer for life.”
In the 15 years he’s run his shop, Russo said he’s seen many changes in the industry, and likewise, he and his staff have adjusted and adapted as the years have gone by.
One of the chief improvements he said his business has made to its operation is its scheduling process, which he admits was once a hindrance but that he now considers a strength.
“When I first opened up, I worked on anything and that hurt us in some respects,” he said. “We just had so much work and we couldn’t get jobs done fast enough. Now we have a better system, we account for certain jobs taking a certain amount of time, and we make those adjustments to our schedule. We’d like to invite anyone needing same day service on a repair or maintenance to their vehicle to give us a call for all of their automotive needs.”