Your Neighborhood Service Center

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Whatever happened to good service?
Have you wondered what has happened to good old-fashioned service? A recent experience caused me to wonder. My daughter’s car needed service as she was planning to drive from Florida to my house in Maryland. She described the problem to me and it sounded like the front brakes needed service. So I talked to the service writer, authorized a front brake service, asked him to change the oil, check all the fluids, and check the tire pressure. When she arrived in Maryland, I looked at the car and immediately noticed that the tires were low. I opened the hood and found that the windshield washer solvent tank was empty. That’s not the kind of service I grew up with, nor what I expect today.

e Hannon Sr, at Esso servicecenter

My Dad at the ESSO Servicecenter as a young man

I think back to when my dad first took me to his Esso station in the 1970s. The driveway bell would ring twice as a car’s wheels passed over the black hose, and one of the mechanics would yell, “One up!” An attendant would check every fluid under the hood, the tire pressure, and clean the windshield and rear window. Sometimes they would give customers coffee mugs or green stamps.
 Service stations gave out S&H green stampsService stations gave out coffee mugs
I watched the technicians mount snow tires (bias ply) when the weather was calling for snow, back before all-weather radial tires.
We also performed road calls, mostly in the winter after a cold weekend. Later, when I was a tech, on busy Monday mornings we would pack up the truck, grab the road call list and head out. We usually just had the names because we knew where our customers lived.
Most of the cars had flooded carburetors or dead batteries. I think that’s about the time I started to drink hot black coffee to help myself warm up. But most of the time our customers warmed our hearts.
Old guys from the neighborhood used to hang around the shop and have coffee. They wanted to see what was being worked on, or just hang around after their cars were done. Customers would come in around Christmas and bring gifts for the mechanics. By the time we closed the station about a decade ago, we’d been working with families for over three generations. I sure miss the bond we created with the neighborhood, the friends we made and the pride we felt providing much needed service. It seemed like things changed after fuel prices climbed and people sought out stations with a few cents off the price and self-service at the pump. But I guess when I get old I will walk down to the convenience store/gas station, sip an espresso and watch them make a sandwich.
For information on your vehicle, check out Chilton’s online database of repair information for detailed instructions, images, and specific tips from the vehicle manufacturer and our certified expert technicians. Keep your vehicle running smoothly with maintenance schedules, service and repair information, Technical Service Bulletins and Recalls at: ChiltonDIY.com and ChiltonPRO.com.

Gene Hannon, Jr., Chilton Senior Editor

Gene Hannon with his father and brother.

Gene Hannon Jr., ASE Master Technician lives in Maryland with his wife Paula; they have 3 girls, Jocelyn, Sarah and Carly. With his father and brother, Gene opened Avalon Automotive, an 8-bay repair center, where he was a partner for more than 10 years. Gene joined the Chilton Team in 2006.

30 Responses to “Your Neighborhood Service Center”

  1. Jeff Ryan says:

    Those were certainly different times but great memories. Great article…

  2. Gene Hannon says:

    Thank You, I’m glad I had an opportunity to work with my Dad and the older techs in the shop. I’ve been told I have quite a bit of Old School in me.

  3. "P'Nut" Ciotola says:

    Awesome article! You make a sister proud:)Love you Brother!

  4. Deb Hannon Silcox says:

    Dad taught us that the way to a customer’s loyalty was through the service you provided. Good job brother!

  5. Evelyn Turner says:

    Loved reading this. Great job. Your Dad was and is so proud of you. He used to say, with amazement, “He surpassed me years ago.” Meaning your mechanical knowledge.

  6. Tom Boettinger says:

    Gene great article I really enjoyed reading it and it made me miss the friendship and great times we had working together. Your dad was the BEST BOSS I ever had .I LOVED working for your dad all those years . They are treasured memories I will have to the end of time . You and your family were there when Noreen and I married and there when I said good bye for the last time . Thanks for being a great friend and cousin .

  7. John says:

    Awesome story and a great tribute to your Dad!!

  8. Charlie Nemphos says:

    GENE
    enjoyed reading about the old Esso station on Edmondson Avenue with fond memories of your dad you and your brother It was a great spot where everybody in the Catonsville area knew of the
    Good works you guys did and how they trusted you. Hannon’s gave a great service and it was a wonderful time !

    PS your Mom was a Big part of the business
    Too! Always a smile !!

  9. Paul Schiaffino's daughter, Diane says:

    Gene, your article brought back a lot of good memories with my dad and trips to the “station”. I can hear the bell still and the service & kindness you all gave.

  10. Adam says:

    It’s crazy to think there are still shops out there not doing safety inspections whenever a car comes into their shop.

    With every car we see we make sure to at least check fluids, tires and most electrical stuff.

    • Gene Hannon says:

      Most good shops do, but some overlook the basics. Quality control is needed in shops. At my shop I would oversee new employees. Nothing would upset me more than test driving a vehicle that was in for repairs and find a bulb out or a low tire.
      Customers are busy too and most expect the repair shops to notify them and to repair things on their vehicle that are needed.
      Most people may not be aware of a low tire or rear light out. Or they may have just forgotten about it.
      Its not just about the money it’s about building a trusting relationship with your customers.

  11. Marcus -- Roving Repairs says:

    Being the owner of a new mobile automotive repair shop, I attempt to follow the “good ole days” rule when conducting business. You were absolutely right when you said that today’s car repair was not what you grew up with. It’s down right distasteful, dishonest, and disrespectful. In my opinion, a little bit more morality is a necessity to save our industry.

    • Gene Hannon says:

      Marcus, It’s nice knowing technicians like you are working in the field.
      Its not just about the money. If you are honest and treat customers with respect
      you will have a thriving business.

  12. Ralph says:

    These type of mechanics are hard to come by these days. Back in the day, people took pride in fixing someones car, and now, they just take pride in charging the most they can, and fixing the smallest thing. Which in most cases, turns out not to even be the problem.

    People should really get a little more knowledge on cars then we have, and it would save a lot of time/money/trouble.

    Great article, and I’m glad to see your type still does exist! Keep up the work, business will slowly but surely grow!

    • Gene Hannon says:

      Thanks Ralph, the more information and questions a person has about their car, can go along way when dealing with auto repair shops! Another thing to note! If possible clean up your car before taking it in for repairs. It can make a big difference in the technician’s attitude and cleanliness. I have seen cars that looked and smelled like trash cans inside. That’s not a good way to drop off your vehicle to a repair shop.

  13. Steve says:

    If only we had services like this now! It just seemed so much friendlier and honest. I agree with cleaning up the car before you take it to the services, it can save a lot of hassle. I wish it could go back to how it was in your pictures! Great article, thanks

  14. Gene Hannon says:

    Thanks Steve. I think we could, all it takes is caring about service and not the bottom line. I know a few shops that go the extra mile for their customers. We had 3 generations dealing at my repair shop, grandfather to grandchild. It was really special.

  15. Will - Performance Transmissions says:

    Oh how I long for the days past. I remember pulling up to a service station and like bees, men smartly dressed with smiles performed pit stop service!

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