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Shop owner’s widow keeps the legacy of her husband's business alive

Friday, September 6, 2019 - 06:00
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When a shop owner is as strongly linked with their company as much as Francisco “Frank” Carrillo was with his, it makes it that much harder when he passes. November 19, 2015, Alignments 2000 lost its founder to cancer. And while the community of South Houston, Texas, mourned, his family and staff had some hard decisions to make.

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“My dad had been the main guy,” explains Dulce Carrillo, his youngest daughter. “He was the mechanic, the one who ran the whole shop. One time he was short staffed, so he’d be fixing three cars at the same time, yet would still go and talk to customers, treating them with the same respect that he was raised on.”

At a Glance:
Alignments 2000, Inc.
Houston, Texas
Ernesta Carrillo
No. of shops
Years in business
No. of employees
No. of bays
No. of customer vehicles per week

Robert Farmer, the shop’s longtime senior service writer, notes that “Frank never put a technician on anything that he wasn’t perfectly willing to do himself. If it came to scrubbing the floor, he’d get out there and do it.”

Dulce affirms that “at no time did he say, ‘I give up,’ and throw in the towel. So, we said, do we want to keep this a family business, or do we want to go ahead and sell it?”

An expert on alignment, Frank Carrillo had established the business 15 years earlier. “We were a shop created out of the American Dream,” Dulce declares. “He came over here from Mexico looking for a better future. He wanted to establish a business that would help the community as well as provide for his family.”

Since its opening in 2000, Carrillo had doubled the number of bays from three to six. Armed with Hunter alignment equipment, he also added HawkEye Elite precision cameras for greater speed and accuracy. And he expanded the shop’s services with diagnostics via Snap-On.

“One of the mottos on our sign is ‘Your neighborhood undercar and truck specialist’,” reports Farmer. “(Carrillo) wanted us to be a company you could bring your vehicle to so we could take care of nearly anything that could go wrong on it.”

Owner Eresta Carrillo and her daughter Dulce Carrillo Francisco “Frank” Carrillo

One thing they lacked though was a complete estate plan. Carrillo’s reputation had significant weight in the decision to stay open, but some aspects of the business, like his ability to align tractor trailers, his certification as a state inspector, were lost with his passing. Ultimately the company’s fate fell to Carrillo’s widow, Ernestina.

“Come hell or high water, she wanted to keep the shop,” reports Farmer. “She wants to keep her husband’s legacy alive as long as she can.” Ernestina would take over running the company, assisted at first by Dulce, later by Farmer, with Christopher Small as the senior technician. Carrillo’s shoes were mighty big, but he had instilled a solid work ethic in his family and crew.

“Chris (Small) was trained by Frank, so he’s got that same willpower,” says Farmer. “You make a mess, you clean it up. You don’t sit there for a month and let it pile up”—especially when it came to alignments.

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