Full-service repair shop keeps nostalgia alive
Green Park, Mo.—If you’re wondering as you drive by Green Park Automotive in South St. Louis County if you really did see a gas attendant pumping the customer’s gas, washing their windows or checking tire pressure, no need to drive back for a second look. The answer is yes, you did.
Full-service gas stations still exist — at least at Green Park Automotive.
Co-owners Kevin Hughes and Bob Haag are keeping that nostalgic idea alive while also maintaining a full-service auto repair shop. Robert Jackson opened Green Park Automotive in 1971 and owned the shop until he passed away in 2010. Hughes, Jackson’s Nephew, continued to run the shop and fuel business before purchasing the business with Haag in 2011.
The men decided to keep Jackson’s original business model and also opted to keep the full-service fuel aspect in addition to upgrading the repair shop. “We will be a full-service gas station as long as I am a part of this business,” Hughes said. “We want our customers to know we still offer this service to them free of charge, and that will never change.”
Hughes also said the fuel business is not just about making money. “Of course, we would like to increase our fuel sales, but the money is not the focus. We like taking care of our customers and making them feel appreciated,” he said.
Hughes estimates current fuel sales are about half what they used to be and he may know why. “We had to temporarily close the fuel portion of our business last year,” he said. “We were forced to replace our canopy over the pumps. The poles were rotting out and needed to be replaced. We were supposed to be down for six days but it turned into a 14-week ordeal. Our fuel customers were forced to purchase elsewhere. Some of our past customers may have been under the impression that we were done with fueling and haven’t come back yet,” he said.
While Green Park Auto may break even on fuel sales, it is its high-quality technicians that help the shop continue to thrive, Hughes said.
“We have seven part-time gas attendants, and four full-time technicians. Our gas attendants do a great job and my techs are the best,” he said.
Green Park’s repair facilities consist of five full-time heated repair bays equipped with Rotary Lifts. “We have the latest and greatest when it comes to equipment. We like to stay up to date with current technology,” Hughes said. “We offer full-service auto repair along with tire repair and replacements. We have a Hunter mounting and balancing machine for our tires and we also offer nitrogen fills for our customers.”
Green Park Auto also has one of the best engine diagnostics equipment on the market, Hughes said. “For General Motors we have the MDI and a GM laptop,” he said. “This provides us with the ability to perform dealer quality diagnostics in our shop and also gives us the ability to program GM computers. For all other makes we use the Snap-on Solus Ultra. We also have high-quality Evaporative Emissions Equipment and a Robinair AC Machine.”
When it comes to new tools and equipment, the shop recently added a BarTech TPMS reprogramming tool, Hughes said. “This has helped in the shop,” he said. “It can diagnose and program TPMS systems in any make or model. We are also looking to add the most advanced AC recharging system on the market because of the upcoming changes in Freon technology.”
The best piece of equipment Green Park Auto has added as of late is its BG fluid exchange machine, Hughes said. “I love what BG has to offer in the way of engine performance and maintenance,” he said. “As far as new tools, we buy them as we need them. We get 90 percent of our shop tools from Snap-on and our sales rep Bruce Moore.”
Hughes estimates they service between 100 and 150 vehicles each week. “We use ALLDATA for all of our estimating and service ticket needs. They’re the best. It is easy to use and keeps us rolling. They’re also good at keeping the software up to date,” Hughes said.
Green Park sources 95 percent of its parts from South County Auto Parts. “We love those guys. They are close and usually have what we need. We spend between $20,000 and $25,000 a month with them,” he said. “If they can’t get it we also use Al’s Automotive and O’Reilly Auto Parts. For dealer-specific parts we like to use Sunset Ford, Bommarito Automotive Group, St. Louis Honda and Suntrup Automotive Group.”
Hughes said there are two things that keep his business going strong: respect for his employees and being honest with his customers. “I treat my employees like they matter. I give them the respect they deserve,” he said. “We’re honest with the customer. We don’t push anything on them they don’t need.”
Having full-service gas pumps also helps Green Park Automotive, Hughes said. “We get to form relationships with the customer and earn their trust and respect while taking care of the little things,” he said. “It keeps them coming back when they need other services.”