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Massachusetts shop pays homage to its location's roots

Friday, August 25, 2017 - 06:00
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Most Americans have heard of the ‘shot heard round the world’ and the role the Massachusetts town of Lexington played in kicking off the American Revolution. But the history doesn’t stop there; Lexington is so rich in it that Accurate Brake & Alignment operates out of a building that has been continuously operated as a service to transportation since about 1840.

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At a Glance:
Accurate Brake & Alignment
Lexington, Mass.
Location
Rob and Jim Shimansky
Owners
1
No. of shops
50
Years in business
4
No. of employees
1,500
Square footage of shop
3
No. of bays
60
No. of customer vehicles per week
$650,000
Annual gross revenue

“It had started off as a blacksmith shop,” states current proprietor Rob Shimansky. “They were shoeing horses in there. When we put our second lift in we dug up the floor and actually found the foundation from the original forge. In addition, upstairs in the loft was a wagon. We brought it down, put it together and had ‘wheel alignment and brake service’ as a sign on the side of it. For many years we wheeled that in and out every night; it was definitely a conversation piece.”

The notorious Northeastern weather eventually forced them to return the wagon to storage, but by then Accurate Brake had a solid reputation in the community. “Everybody knows who we are and how long we’ve been here,” says Shimansky. “Our word is our warranty. If you have a problem, you come back and I’ll take care of you. That’s the way we’ve always done business; everyone is like family.”

Founded in 1967 by Rob’s father, the shop originally was Lexington Automotive, a full service gas station in another locale. By the time the 80s rolled around, Jim Shimansky sensed changes in the industry and restructured his business to focus on tires, brakes and suspension.

“Eighty percent of our market is undercar,” Shimansky relates. “My father realized that cars were running a lot longer and didn’t have as many engine problems. He got ahead of the curve by doing (this kind of maintenance)--basically what cars are dealing with today--so we changed our name.”

Before he did that however, the elder Shimansky also changed locations. For many years Jim drove past this quaint old garage nestled amid colonial-style homes and was intrigued. “He always looked at it and said, ‘man, if that place ever went up for sale,’” recalls Rob. “When it did he snapped it up, and we’ve been here for the last 37 years.”

Apparently there are no special problems operating out of a 170+ year-old building. “We re-did the roof back in the 80s,” Shimansky admits. “We had a fire in 2001 so we had to pull out all the electricals and re-did that; other than that you can run a garage in a metal box, you just have to get power in there.”

It’s a small shop; Shimansky estimates 1300-1400 square feet. “We have two lifts inside, one outside, and a Hunter alignment machine. We do wholesale alignment for most of the shops in the area. If they put a tie rod on, they bring it down and we line it up for them. Our alignment guy, Jimmy Wiggins, has been with us 36-37 years. We’re going all day long with alignments, so a lot of it is off the street; if you get tires, you need an alignment.”

That infamous weather? It also accounts for bad roads. “Alignments are constantly being knocked out,” confirms Shimansky. “My customer base is—well, I don’t even know; its thousands and thousands--and with cars running longer, people keeping them longer, they’re going through 2-3 sets of tires in the life of the car.

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