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Shop owner fills void by bringing European expertise to the South

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 - 09:00
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Somewhere along the line, someone familiar with Schneider Autohaus was asked to name one thing unique about this Florence, Ala. facility. Their answer: survivor. “I guess I am,” laughs Jim Schneider — although he has no idea who may have said this.

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At a Glance:
Schneider Autohaus
Florence, Alabama
Jim Schneider
No. of shops
Years in business
Total no. of employees
Square footage of shop
No. of bays

As the Germanic spelling of ‘house’ indicates, Schneider specializes in European luxury cars, particularly German and Scandinavian. “I’ve been in the business for over 40 years and I’ve worked on basically all models,” he notes, “but I’ve always had an interest in the European models to where I’ve owned a few and had training on them.” 

Schneider began his career as a technician in southern California, and at one point co-owned a repair shop. “It was a very busy shop and I just got tired of it,” he relates. “I was getting older and I wanted to get out of southern California. Then a body shop owner a few doors from me told me he was selling his business and moving to Florence.”

Moving that far east hadn’t occurred to Schneider, so he began doing research on the Alabama town. “It was just what I wanted,” he enthuses, “kind of in the city, kind of in the country, with a beautiful historic downtown as well as the University of North Alabama.” 

Florence is located on the Tennessee River across from Muscle Shoals, renowned for its recording studios and their contribution to the American music scene. “I quickly realized that I should go for it,” Schneider concluded. “And I love it here; I love the people and the customers — it’s why I’m successful at all.”

Jim Schneider

Yet Schneider moved to Alabama in 2007 with no solid plan. “I didn’t come here rich,” he confides, “I still had to pay a mortgage — but I thought I try something different.” And after about a year in the area he realized there no local services for European makes.

“You’d have to drive like 70 miles away or further to get service on certain vehicles, and there are lots of them here,” Schneider noted. “So I opened the shop in October 2009, and it’s been progressively successful every year. I do run across challenges that a lot of shops are facing these days, and they seem to compound every time you turn around, but that’s what still makes it exciting for me.  

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