Ari Goren’s last day at Scotiabank was the same day he was diagnosed with leukemia.
That was in 2008. The twenty-something Seneca business graduate was working as a teller and training to be a personal banker when cancer disrupted his life. He spent two years battling the disease and upon emerging triumphant he left his career to join his father, brother and uncle at the family’s auto repair business and body shop, York Mills Automotive.
“When I was ready to get back to work my heart was with the family,” he said. “I never saw myself in the banking world, long-term.”
His older brother Shant Goren says Ari is “a welcome addition to the force.”
“That experience made us — and him — realize that maybe it is better, as family, to stick together and work with one another.”
Shant joined the business his father, Hayik Goren, and uncle Leon Mermer, have owned since the early 1980s.
Hayik Goren immigrated to Canada from Istanbul, Turkey in 1980 with his wife and six-month-old Shant. He had owned and operated a body shop back home, so when the family came to Toronto Hayik found a job as an apprentice at York Mills Automotive.
Three years later, the business went bankrupt and was put up for auction. Hayik, his cousin — and three partners that have long since departed — pulled together enough money to purchase the auto repair business.
Thirty years later, York Mills Automotive is still in the same hands and the same location, at 1881 York Mills Road in North York, Ont. Hayik remains, running the body shop, while Mermer takes care of the mechanical side of the business.
Business is good. York Mills Automotive services about 50 cars a week — 30 on the body side and 20 on the mechanical side. Shant and Ari say staying up-to-date with current vehicle technology and up-to-date training, while making a point of offering good customer service, have been successful strategies for their family’s business. Ari adds they spend thousands of dollars on the latest hardware and software upgrades for needed vehicle computer analysis.
“The more new [vehicle] technology gets, the more difficult it gets to repair a vehicle,” Shant says. “We don’t want to run into a situation where we’re repairing a BMW, for instance, and we take the bumper off, and a sensor goes off. What are we going to do? Finish the [work], take it to the dealership, have the dealership diagnose the sensor and reset the electronic components? We have the ability to do that in-house.”
While York Mills Automotive specializes in the repair of imported European vehicles and Japanese cars, they have the technology and the ability to fix all makes and models, and are a certified hybrid repair facility. The family also does lots of market research to see vehicle buying patterns and to find out what vehicles are being driven in their market area. The goal is to be ready to service every kind of vehicle that comes into their bays.
“That’s why we spend so much money on equipment, so we can tackle any vehicle and any project,” Shant adds.
Another recent investment was in the technology and training for the new Drive Clean emissions testing format being rolled out in the province.
In the shop there are six bays and five hoists, a digital alignment machine and on the body shop side of the business, they have invested in an integrated spray booth.
“We do our own baking and prepping—the painting is all done in-house,” Ari notes. They also do paintless dent repair (PDR), lubrication and oil changes, rust proofing, tire storage, general maintenance and CAA certification.
Regular training is something that is also a key part of the business and it is not uncommon to send the staff for training some four or five times a year.
“You have no choice,” Shant explains. “Cars are always changing and you have to know what you’re doing or you can’t fix them. And if you’re knowledgeable and know what you’re talking about, you can sell the job better to the customer too.”
He says he feels more confident in the services he obtains when the person he’s talking to can show they know their stuff. It is the same with automotive repair. A knowledgeable staff is one key to customer service and to having people come back to your shop for regular service and repair work, as well being polite, friendly and keeping the shop and waiting area clean.
“The automotive industry doesn’t have the greatest reputation,” Ari says. “People think of the automotive industry, body shops and mechanics and [wonder] ‘what are they trying to screw me on.’”
“We’re trying to change that culture,” Shant adds.
For Ari, fairness and honesty are important to foster good relationships with customers.
“We’ve been here for 30 years, in the same location,” Ari notes. “We’ve never moved. We’ve continued to grow and the main reason is because of our reputation. We’re an honest facility. We’re not here to defraud anyone or any company. We want to treat people fairly and get treated fairly in return.”