From IBM engineer and pilot to shop owner
San Francisco—As a shop that specializes in Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Mini Coopers and SmartCars, Pete’s Inc. in San Francisco’s Nob Hill neighborhood touts itself as “Your Dealership Alternative.” By emphasizing the customer experience coupled with smart marketing, Owner Greg Arkus is hitting his numbers but is continually looking for other ways to improve the bottom line.
Fixing roughly 145 cars monthly at approximately $800 per average repair order, Arkus adds complementary services to his menu periodically to provide more value for his discerning clientele.
“We started offering detailing services a while back and other ancillary services, basically for the convenience of our customers,” said Arkus, a former IBM solutions architect and pilot who races yachts as a member of the San Francisco Yacht Club. He decided to re-direct his career path in 2013.
“We also do some Paintless Dent Removal (PDR) and sublet out things such as glass work to keep more money in the shop and be a one-stop solution for our customers.”
Arkus isn’t afraid to give his regular customers a break on small repairs or easy fixes, because in the long run it strengthens the relationships and can lead to positive repairs as a result, he said. “Customers come in here all the time and, in some cases, it takes 5 to 10 minutes to find the problem and fix it. Rather than charge them, we ask them to give us a review online and they will often do it because they’re happy to get something free. It didn’t cost us anything, so it’s easy to pass it on and we get great reviews as a result. Our attitude is the car is here, let’s fix it now and move onto the next one.”
By specializing in only a handful of luxury brands and staying ahead of the game when it comes to ongoing training, Arkus is happy to prosper in his own niche.
“It all comes down to knowledge and that’s why we’re pursuing as much training as we possibly can through WORLDPAC and SSF Parts, two of our major parts vendors. We follow several instructors including Seth Thorson with BMW and others and make it a point to get in as many of their classes as we possibly can. By being experts when it comes to four brands, we get a lot of work from other shops in this area. These new anti-theft systems and collision avoidance systems that are programmed specifically to the car are so intricate that a shop that isn’t specializing is often lost.”
He has only owned Pete’s for the past two years and although he’s been a car guy since his teenage years, Arkus, 52, had no previous experience running a mechanical repair shop.
“I owned a six-cylinder Mercedes many years ago and I always loved anything that’s well-made,” he said. “When I was looking for a business to buy, I considered a lot of different ones, but in the end I figured I could do well in this industry. The shop was virtually turnkey, but I decided early on that I wanted to learn this business from top to bottom. Joining a WORLDPAC 20 Group has been a huge part of the learning process and even though things can change every day, I feel comfortable here.”
When people in San Francisco’s Nob Hill neighborhood drive by Pete’s, they’re accustomed to seeing one or more large stuffed Teddy bears sitting in the back of a 1964 Ford Econoline out in front of the shop.
“It’s become a tradition and often people stop and take pictures,” Arkus said. “We named him ‘Mercedes’ and customers will tell us that their children will often ask about the Teddy bears on rainy days when we have to bring them in. We did it at first for fun, but it’s also become a marketing tool.”