Mountainside Auto Tech in Burlington, Ontario is a complete automotive repair shop as well as a tire dealer! Here is their story….
Jim and Bette Robinson formed Mountainside Auto Tech in 1968—originally an Esso automotive repair shop at the corner of Trafalgar and Lakeshore Road in Oakville.
Jim had been working as an Esso travelling sales rep when he decided he would prefer to be self-employed, so opened his own Esso franchise.
Bette was a primary school teacher in Burlington and retired to help run the business with Jim.
One of Jim and Bette’s three sons, Scott Robinson, continues the story of Mountainside Auto Tech.
In 1975, Jim and Bette moved the business to the corner of Guelph Line and Mountainside Dr. in Burlington. In 2002, we got out of the gas business moving off the Esso property to a building on Mainway. In 2018, we moved onto Advance Road—a property we now own.
We three Robinson sons—Jamie, Jeff, and Scott—have run the business for years now and both grandsons have worked with the business over the years. Both our parents are now deceased.
How did you first get started in the automotive service repair industry?
All three of us grew up pumping gas and doing minor auto repairs—oil changes, tire changes, and maintenance as teenagers.
We all earned a College or University degree and worked elsewhere before returning to the business, eventually taking over the reins.
What reasons made you chose this profession?
The family business has always done well, our family loves working together. We agree with most decisions and get along great working in a chaotic environment.
The industry itself has been very strong throughout the years giving us an opportunity to run a successful business while taking time for our families when needed—each of us will cover for the other.
How has the business evolved over the years?
The auto service and repair industry is always evolving.
For us the key is keeping your staff on top of all the changes and keeping up with the latest technology.
We have also noticed the change in demand for snow tires and wheels.
We are a Signature Tire Dealer and able to offer our customers great prices on almost any brand of tire plus an excellent affordable offering of steel and aluminum wheels.
Another change in the last few years is the use of the Internet for appointments and reviews.
Websites like Facebook and Google are an important part of our business.
Tell us a little about Mountainside Auto Tech’s range of services?
We pride ourselves on being a true one-stop-shop for auto repairs.
We don’t do bodywork, paint or detailing but we do almost everything else—tires, brakes, suspension, A/C, electrical diagnosis, safety inspections, exhaust, engine repair/replacement, alignments, cooling systems, windshields, routine maintenance, and we have a Hybrid technician on staff.
We have offered courtesy shuttle service since the early 80’s—something our father took great pride in.
It’s a great way to really bond with customers and get feedback about our business.
We began offering tire storage about 10 years ago—it’s really taken off.
It takes a lot of planning and logistics, but it is a service our customers really appreciate.
How many staff do you currently have?
We have four Class A technicians and four apprentices plus the three of us—Jamie, Jeff and Scott—who own/operate the business—it’s a real family atmosphere.
One of our techs, Paul, has been with us for 35+ years; Garon over 12 years; Eric 11+ years, Aaron over 10 years and Tyler, who apprenticed with us back in 2011, returned last year with almost 10 years -experience as a certified technician. Last year Joe retired from ‘our family’.
What is the current size of the facility?
In 2018 we bought and moved to a new building. It has five service hoists and an alignment hoist/rack.
We also have a beautiful showroom/waiting room. This property has allowed us to add more tire storage and customer parking.
When it comes to equipment, what are some of the recent investments you’ve made?
We always try to make sure our technicians are equipped with what they need to do their jobs properly and work on the latest cars in the industry.
We have the latest Autel Elite Scan tool to do computer diagnosis, plus a great Road Force Hunter wheel balancer, a Hunter laser alignment rack and have added a new A/C machine to handle the latest 1234 refrigerant.
What about training—how do you ensure your staff and technicians remain current with the latest technology/procedures?
We are a member of TechNet through CARQUEST that has regular training sessions for our technicians on new topics or update training available. All our techs are very good at staying on top of current trends/changes in the industry.
We also take health and safety very seriously and keep our staff up to date on WHMIS and first aid.
We have a Health and Safety committee who work on policies and procedures to make sure we are all working in a safe environment.
Are there any significant events/milestones in the history of the business that stand out?
The business is celebrating over 54 years in business! In late 2018, we finally opened our own building.
In order to build a strong, loyal customer base what are some of the factors you consider important?
We find being honest and offering a competitive price is a great start.
We always try to remember that we aren’t perfect, mistakes will happen, but we take responsibility for them and fix the problem for the customer instead of making excuses.
What are some of the challenges/opportunities you see in today’s service repair industry?
We have learned to communicate by email appointments, Facebook messaging and Google reviews.
These methods can be great for the customer but very time consuming. Google reviews are terrific advertisers to people that have never been to your shop.
The increased popularity of the electric car is always a topic for us to watch, stay on top of. We have a technician on staff, Tyler—a Toyota Hybrid Pro Tech who has helped our knowledge and skill base in that area.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Although we have worked very hard to be as successful as we have become, we must give credit and thanks to all our current and former long-term staff who have helped us along the way.
We have many long-time customers that have stuck with us and spread the word to their friends, families and neighbors—such a great way to get new business and we are very grateful for all those references!
We will continue to do what Mom and Dad taught us—treat every employee and every customer with respect and honesty and try our hardest to give great service at a reasonable price!