New owners, same family values
Shiloh, Ill.—Located in the “backyard” of Scott Air Force Base is the small town of Shiloh, Ill., wherein lies Distler’s Automotive Repair. “We have quickly realized that servicemen and women love European cars. Being so close to the base has really helped drive our success,” said B.J. Berger, who co-owns the shop with his wife, Kim, who added, “Once someone has work done here, they tell someone, then they tell someone, and so on. Word-of-mouth advertising really brings in new business for us.”
Having the right clientele close by, as well as providing quality service is key to the success. “We like to think of our shop as the dealership alternative,” said Berger, who started his career at Distler’s as a technician. “When I first started, we saw and heard where customers were taking their vehicles to the dealerships in St. Louis and most of the time they were given a full list of repairs deemed ‘necessary.’ Over time, we realized that we could compete with the dealerships by making sure our customers are not being forced into repairs they didn’t need, which, in turn, brought them back to us for future work.”
Kim Berger added that they have equipped the shop with everything they need to service and maintain European and Asian vehicles as well as domestic vehicles. She gave some examples of what the shop has obtained to make sure all their basics are covered. “We have the Autologic scan tool which gives us coverage on nearly all European models, as well as other secondary scan tools we feel compliment our domestic repairs. We have a Snap-on Verus Edge as well as other various scan tools.”
Along with having the right diagnostic equipment, the shop is equipped with a Launch alignment rack, a Launch tire machine and Rotary lifts.
“Having the right equipment is very important,” said B.J. Berger. “We often are asked to take on work from other local entities, and we maintain the City of Shiloh’s service vehicles as well.”
Having the right training is also very important to keep the shop ahead of the curve when it comes to the import market. “We have attended several training sessions. The only problem is finding some that are close by. We have been to Florida and the closest ones have been in Chicago. It is hard to attend them all because they’re far away. We would basically have to shut the shop down, which is not the most productive option,” he said, adding that WORLDPAC has “really helped” in providing training opportunities, as well as being the shop’s main parts supplier.
“WORLDPAC has done an excellent job of providing us parts for our repairs over the years. Back in the ’90s we went their California headquarters and toured the facility. Our relationship goes back that far and when they opened the St. Louis facility, things got even better. We used to have parts overnighted from California but now we get multiple deliveries every day which helps cycle more cars in and out.”
Distler’s average car count per month is 176, which has been the norm for several years now. “We are very happy to be able to maintain this success especially being a smaller shop in a small town,” he said.
There have been discussions to expand, but nothing is set in stone as of yet. “We own some more property adjacent to our current facility and would love to open up more operating bays. Right now, it is mostly talk but hopefully we can make it happen soon,” Kim Berger said.
The 2400-square-foot shop currently has five operating bays and they employ three full-time technicians. Kim’s father, Bob Distler, opened the shop in 1975 and was originally located directly across the street from the current location. They moved to the new facility in 1980.
“We have been family-owned since the beginning and intend to keep it that way,” she said. The couple took ownership in January 2017. The next generation is currently working in the shop as well. Tyler, their son, has taken over the role of service writer.
“Taking over ownership was a very smooth transition for us. Both of us have been around this shop long enough to know what it was going to take to keep it running,” she said.
What keeps it running is having a customer first-attitude and keeping in mind the family values that were passed down to them. “We don’t believe in upselling or blowing smoke. If a repair is necessary then it is presented to the customer and we provide quality work that we stand behind,” B.J. Berger said. “Family time is also something we do not take for granted around here. We don’t stay open late and are not open on the weekends. We want our team to spend as much time with family as possible.”