Shop of the Week is a weekly column devoted to showcasing the efforts of automotive shops and their teams across Canada. Want your shop to have a turn in the spotlight? Send an email to email@example.com!
Your Name: Josie Candito
Shop Name: Master Mechanic High Park
Location: Toronto, ON
Number of Employees: 11 (We’re proud that this includes three female staff)
Opening date: March 1999
Main parts supplier: Napa Auto Parts, World Pac, Liqui Moly
Specialty: JC: While we’re obviously a mechanic shop, we specialize in customer service. We aim to shatter the misconception about auto shops and offer trustworthy transparent service to everyone in the community.
What has been your biggest challenge(s) as a shop this year and how have you navigated through them?
JC: 2020 was a big adjustment for all businesses. With new safety measures needed, this meant giving our technicians the additional time they need to prepare themselves before and after servicing cars. As a business, this means less appointments, and less cars serviced, at a higher cost. If it keeps our staff and customers safe, we’ll pay any price!
As a shop with the Master Mechanic motto, “You talk to the mechanic”, that places a big importance on transparency. It was a big adjustment for us not being able to interact with our customers. Both our staff and customers found this face-to-face interaction invaluable. It helps build trust, open communication, and allows for our technicians to show customers worn parts before repairs are completed. To adjust, we needed to create our own positive morale in the workplace; in 2020 we focused on appreciating everything we have in our shop and the community. This took the form of pizza lunches, employee trophies for milestones, and other fun activities. While we couldn’t have the same face-to-face interaction with our customers, we still had fun. Most importantly, we needed to ensure that none of our team members or their families tested positive for COVID-19. This is the biggest challenge we continue to navigate. Although we are very cautious, the virus is out of our control.
What’s your biggest success story this year?
JC: During this unprecedented year, our biggest success story is keeping our daytime family (staff) safe from COVID-19. Although we never closed or stopped servicing our community throughout 2020, no one on our team has tested positive or had to stop working. We are also very thankful that we were able to keep our entire team employed with full-time hours. This means the world to us because our team was able to continue to take care of their own families. It also means that our team operated with strict adherence to the COVID-19 protocols since the onset. We feel incredibly grateful to have a team that saw the importance in working together to look after our customers.
When there was a hand sanitizer shortage at the onset of the pandemic, we worked with our local partner at Nickel 9 Distillery to secure bottles for our staff, customers, and anyone in the community that needed them. Through our social media pages and network, we offered curbside pickup and delivery to anyone that felt too vulnerable travelling.
We also partnered with Liqui Moly to offer free oil changes to any health care workers that came into the shop for service. We then sent them home with a care package that included a thank you card, gloves, hand sanitizer, masks, dog treats, chocolate, coffee, and gift certificates to show our appreciation for their hard work.
The team at Master Mechanic High Park.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
JC: Josie has an underlying medical condition and autoimmune disease, so hygiene and safety have always been paramount to us. The pandemic heightened that concern, and her health professionals alerted her early on to start acting immediately. So, when the pandemic began, our first plan of action was to implement strict safety and sanitation protocols. Some of these include the following:
Following social distancing and sanitation protocols (including hourly sanitization in high touchpoint areas in the shop)
Installing Plexiglass barriers at the counter
Supplying PPE including masks and gloves to all staff
What kinds of technology are you using in the shop?
For appointments, customers can book online, in-person, and on social media via direct messages. We also conduct online customer surveys after every visit so we can measure how we did and track any potential areas of improvement. We always strive for perfection.
We are anxiously awaiting Lankar’s Cloud version of the garage management system and the ability to link a digital inspection software with Lankar. Our hope is that this will be ready in 2021, which will help harmoniously link technicians, service advisors, and customers. This will give the customer the most up to date and transparent information about their vehicles. This will continue to help us give our customers the best experience we can.
We use PICO lab scopes, VAGCOM software, Snap-On Scanners, Autel Elite scanner and programmer, J2534-1 programmer and more, to offer the best-in-market car service.
If you could see one change in the aftermarket, what would it be?
If we had a magic wand, we would pass legislation to immediately give the aftermarket industry access to car data. Cars today are computers. That means they gather enormous amounts of data about the vehicle and driver, including important maintenance and repair information. This valuable data used to be stored on the onboard computer and could help drivers make smarter decisions about how to repair and maintain their cars. Now, most new cars are equipped with systems that wirelessly transmit this data straight to automakers, so consumers (and aftermarket shops) don’t generally have access to it.
In short, while drivers may own their car, they don’t own the data it collects. In the future, this could limit/control options for service and make it more expensive for consumers to do basic maintenance or repairs. In conjunction with the Automotive Industry Association of Canada (AIA), we support the petition “Your Car, Your Data. Your Choice”. This petition will allow vehicle owners to access and control the data generated from their vehicle.
Tell me an interesting fact about your shop?
Many people know us from the bright murals that cover the entire exterior of the shop. It has been used to showcase our team members as our favourite superheroes and most recently, was repainted to display heartfelt thank you messages to all of our essential workers during COVID-19.
Others know the shop from the amazing messages of encouragement that are always prominently displayed on our 10-foot curb sign. Instead of writing about our own services or promotions, we display weekly messages like “You are freakin’ amazing! Just in case you need a reminder” to brighten everyone’s day. Most recently, we posted a message to “Shop Local” in support of small businesses in the community.
During the winter, we use this same sign to hang winter clothing for those that need it, with an accompanying message that invites anyone to take an item. It’s something we’ve been doing for years and has garnered us attention from many media outlets in the city.
Name a part/product you and your team are particularly enjoying this month?
They say goods things come in small packages. We’re in the eye of the storm of winter tire season, which is notoriously busy, pandemic or not. This has taught us to appreciate the smaller, simpler things that can make a big difference over time. When we’re changing tires all day, weighted sockets that easily loosen over-torqued or corroded wheel nuts have been making a big difference
We’ve added the new Autel Elite to our arsenal of scan-tool based diagnostics! This is making our diagnostics more efficient and accurate, which helps us provide the best service for customers. A win-win!