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Family-owned shop thrives in pastoral New Jersey

Thursday, December 29, 2016 - 09:00
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While outsiders might consider New Jersey to be two megalopolises connected by a turnpike with Atlantic City on the coast, there actually are pastoral parts of the Garden State and Flemington is one of them. Besides its historic courthouse (site of the Lindbergh kidnapping trial), this quaint little town is also home to Boni Tire & Auto Service.

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At a Glance:
Boni Tire & Auto Service
Daniel Boni, Sr.; Lori Boni
Owners
1
No. of shops
18
Years in business
8
No. of employees
6,800
Square footage of shop
6
No. of bays
$365
Average weekly ticket
95
No. of customer vehicles per week
1.29 million
Annual gross revenue

Pronounced “Bonnie,” the shop was started in 1999 and is still run by its founder, Dan Boni, Sr., who earned his stripes as a manager at a tire store chain before deciding to go into business for himself. To build a foundation in the Flemington community, he launched an advertising campaign emphasizing that his was a locally owned and operated business.

“I hire local people, and my money wasn’t going back into some corporation somewhere,” Boni explains. “My prices don’t have to be as high as some other shops because I don’t have a corporate office that I have to pay. And if you have a problem with your car, you see me, the owner. If you don’t see me, you’ll see my two sons.”

Boni started off by renting a 3-bay gas station. “I was there for about 9 years, and I got so busy I had to hire more people,” he recalls. “I didn’t have enough room so I did a build out at a strip mall and now I’ve got 7 bays, five employees, plus my two sons who run the counter as well as the store when I’m not around.”

While Boni sought an independent atmosphere, he did take one thing away from his time with the chain. “They were always training the store managers, training the employees,” he recounts. “They had a center down at the corporate office where they had whole shops set up where they’d teach up-and-coming stuff. That was instilled in me, so when I opened my own business I did the same thing.”

Today Boni pursues a variety of classes through the normal channels…and some unanticipated ones. “The funny thing is,” he says, “the GM and Ford (dealers) just down the road from us are starting to get into it, and they’re actually encouraging us to attend their big classes—it’s only $30—which is pretty cool. They’ll teach about fuel injection, how to read the computers, how different sensors work and interact with things—we just recently learned how the sensors around the camshaft can get clogged up and throw everything off. They showed us how to diagnose that because I guess it doesn’t really throw up a code. And other cars would have that same problem.”

Besides the training, Boni has also invested in newer equipment. “We use the bolt-on technology to streamline servicing for customers, and we do a lot of the preventative maintenance and give the customer a list of what they’re going to need down the road. Say they have 60,000 miles on their car; we’ll tell them that their next servicing requires this, this and this. It works pretty well.”

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