Wally Clayson certainly started something. Clayson, a well-known Toronto independent, dropped SSGM a line regarding the future of his popular location, or more accurately, the lack of a future for the site which dates back to the days of White Rose (It’s in the January issue, page 12 if you missed it). The Claysons’ business is a local institution, but it looks like at lease end, it will give way to yet another convenience store. The reaction from independents in Southern Ontario has been strong, and I’ll bet that the issue simmers in other municipalities as well. Will the profitability of chips and Coke spell the end of the local garage? Maybe, but if local politicians don’t see the need for locally based service businesses, then we’ll be zoned into ghettos before we realize what happened. The solution? Write and E-mail everybody you can. Include customers, associations, politicians and your local media and don’t forget to mention the environmental benefits of auto service that’s a walking distance from the customer’s home. Don’t think that this is a Toronto-only problem, because it can and will happen everywhere. This month’s issue has more letters about this growing problem.
The other issue that I’m going to address this month is the SSGM Garage of the Year Award. Many entries were received from very worthy businesses and the “winner take all” format we’ve used doesn’t allow those businesses to be given credit where it’s due. We’re changing that, both because excellent shops need to be recognized and to reflect the breadth of the country. MJS Automotive Services in Windsor, Ontario is an example, as are Mighty Muffler and Brake from Halifax/Bedford, Nova Scotia and Lacombe Park Service in St. Albert, Alberta. These businesses are all special, but their entries stand out for different reasons. MJS Automotive Services, for example, has extensive community involvement and technician training, while Mighty Muffler and Brake had a large number of entries from happy customers. Lacombe Park Service showed impressive independent customer satisfaction survey results. All three of these businesses deserve recognition, which I guess I’m doing right now. For 2002, look for regional winners in addition to the overall Garage of the Year. Canada is, after all, a big country. Enter soon, and when you do, don’t be afraid to add a few lines telling us something about your business. I read them all, and the more detail, the better, so don’t be bashful. If ever there was a place to lose a little of our Canadian humility, it’s here!