Billy Mathews started Mathews & Son’s back in 1969. Dan Mathews and his sister, Judy Acha, with the assistance of their shop dog Lucy run a lean operation that works solely on Domestic and Asian brands at Mathews & Son’s.From left technicians Roberto, Mark and office assistant Margaret are called upon to do just about everything at a small and busy shop.

Brand specialization and proper tooling keeps Mathews & Son’s thriving in Vallejo

Siblings continue family legacy at second-generation shop

Vallejo, Calif.—As a shop that gets great online reviews for being fair and flexible with its customers, Mathews & Son’s has become a fixture in Vallejo, Calif., since 1969. By stressing brand education, ongoing training and using OE parts when possible, this second-generation business has thrived during several recessions and throughout the rapid technological evolution of today’s vehicles. 

It was founded by Billy Mathews when he purchased a machine shop in Utah. After retiring from GSA nearly 50 years ago, Mathews & Son’s purchased 12,000 square feet of facility space that features seven bays with five lifts on two lots. The business works exclusively on domestic and Asian brands with five employees who include two mechanics, a shop assistant, the company’s CFO, Judy Acha, and her brother, CEO Dan Mathews. Their beloved dog Lucy isn’t on the payroll, but is greeted by almost every customer every day.

Mathews said specialization is key to the shop’s longevity. “It’s hard to imagine that some shops can afford to work on all brands, because the correct tools require a huge investment and we’re not even talking about all of the scanners we need just to diagnose the brands we work on. The biggest challenge is constantly changing technology, because every manufacturer requires specialty tools.”

Installing original factory parts is also a priority. “I’m always very critical about certain types of aftermarket parts and I give our customers the same speech every time,” Matthews said. “We prefer OE quality parts over many of the ones that are made in Asia, based on our experience. We are wrestling with purchasing strategies all of the time, and, of course, we prefer to use OE parts whenever we possibly can. But, some of the aftermarket parts out there are good and we will use them, because they will last through the warranty and beyond. We use local businesses whenever possible. Our attitude here is spend money locally and hopefully people will do the same and use local businesses like us.”

Many of their customers often keep their cars long past they reach 100,000 miles, so Mathews works hard to keep them on the road, he said, which requires tiered repairs. “We have a few clients that have 200,000 to 300,000 miles on their cars and they’re still going strong. If they stay on top of their scheduled maintenance, they will last and we work with them to make it as affordable as possible. We tell them that some repairs are ‘do now’ while others are ‘can do later’ and then, of course, there are those that are known as ‘just walk away’ situations. We don’t encourage people to fix their cars just to hang on to them. It all comes down to thorough inspections, so that we can find out everything upfront.”

Mathews & Son’s also performs pre-sale inspections, because many of his customers purchase used cars with a lot of miles on them. “For a nominal fee, they can buy some peace of mind,” he said. “With a test drive we can pick up things the consumer can’t and identify sub-par work rather quickly. Sometimes people buy the car and then bring it to us, but I tell them that’s a post-purchase inspection and not as quite effective.”

Running the front office is primarily Judy Acha’s job, and taking Dan’s place on his days off. By mentoring a good assistant it never hurts either, she said. “Margaret is outstanding, because with a small crew we need people who aren’t afraid to multitask. She helps me with customer service, invoicing, assists Dan, and will pick up parts in a pinch. Every successful shop needs someone like Margaret and we’re happy to have her.”

Looking back on his many years in the industry, Billy Mathews is now retired and enjoys his free time playing golf and dancing. He’s proud to have two of his four children running the business and providing good service to the community, he said.

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.