September 2014 River Valley People & Places


The Auto & Truck Recyclers of Illinois 2014 Convention and Trade Show is Sept. 19-20, at the Embassy Suites East Peoria Hotel and Conference Center. Seminars and events include Parts Trader, speakers Rob Rainwater and Dan Bruner, airbag and forklift training, a tour of Neal Auto Parts, and a tour and dinner at Behr Iron & Metal in Peoria. Contact Michelle Lechner at 877-880-2874 or e-mail,



Increased complexity means more reprogramming at Fitz’z Service

St. Louis—With modern vehicles having more control modules than ever, it’s critical to have an OEM scan tool to reprogram them, said Mike Fitzgibbons, who with his brother, Clif Fitzgibbons, owns and operates Fitz’z Service Inc. and the Airbag Service franchise for the St. Louis area. The company has one in-house technician and four technicians who travel to other shops, including two who specialize in steering column repair and two with vans fully equipped to reprogram a vehicle after a module replacement.

College community provides fertile ground for Miller Brothers’ future growth

St. Louis—After a few years away in Richmond, Va., with an automotive research and development job, St. Louis native Trey Miller came home in 1996. A graduate of Ranken Technical, Miller said he grew up with a love of cars, especially the unique and quirky Saabs. His brother, Kenny, who received his formal training from South County Technical School, shared Miller’s automotive passion and was already working for a small automotive repair shop in the area. After six months of toiling and weighing their options, Miller Brothers Auto Service was born.

Central Automotive caters to ag, fleets; stresses ERA membership

Union, Mo.—As automotive charging and starting systems have become more durable, Central Automotive Electric has increasingly focused on sustainable niche markets, said Mike Schroeder, who owns and runs the business with his wife, Michele.

Much of the business across the country for automotive alternators and starters is now in new or remanufactured units available at any corner parts store, Schroeder said, and it’s often difficult for an independent rebuilder to compete with production remanufacturers on price.

Passion for performance drives Craven

Shop offers diversified services in performance, diesel repairs, off-road, and fabrication

St. Charles, Mo.—Ben Craven, owner of Craven Performance & Off Road, said his business has thrived in a slow economy by delivering guaranteed results for power or for reliability, as the case may be.

“I love to the core what I do,” Craven said. “It’s so much fun to be able to work with people who are excited to pay their bill when you complete their project and you do it to the level we do.”

September 2014 Midwest People & Places


On July 1, Ed Shoemaker took over as the new parts manager for Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volvo at Willis Auto Campus in Des Moines. Shoemaker was previously the parts manager at Des Moines Imports.

North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) in Mason City raised private funds to match a grant from the John K. and Liuse V. Hanson Foundation. Several local shops contributed to raising the money, which was spent on purchasing a new chassis dyno.

Airtex Fuel Delivery Systems launches PUMP•ED educational program

Fairfield, Ill.—Airtex Fuel Delivery Systems, a manufacturer of fuel pumps, is introducing a new pilot program focused on educating future technicians in the automotive industry. The Airtex PUMP•ED program will train student technicians across the country in the areas of fuel system diagnostics and fuel pump installations.

Automotive Technics takes electrical training and education back to the basics

Olathe, Kan.—“You can’t diagnose what you don’t understand,” said Tom Smalldon, owner of Automotive Technics, a business specializing in the development of electrical circuit boards for training and educational purposes. For nearly 10 years, Smalldon said he has placed his focus on bringing automotive electrical/electronic education to the forefront, so technicians and vo-tech students can better understand electricity and electronics.

Ever-increasing focus on reduced cycle times doesn’t trump customer care

Topeka, Kan.—Sometimes it is the little things that make a big difference in the efficiency of a body shop. Jeff Branam, general manager of Lewis Collision Center, said outlining a strategy for communication in the shop has made a world of difference.

Simple things like having a request sheet for technicians to use rather than rely on verbal communication have been highly effective, he said.

When a technician is running low on a product, or needs a new tool or piece of equipment to complete repairs, he can simply fill out the sheet and submit it to Branam.

Truck Stuff capitalizes on diesel market, custom fabrication work

Wichita, Kan.—With a business name like Truck Stuff, it certainly helps to be located in a market that is heavily saturated with trucks.

“Fifty percent of the vehicles in operation in the Wichita area are trucks,” said Jake Bolin, manager of Truck Stuff. “And if you look at any of the dealerships lots in town, their inventory reflects that.”