FUTURE OF WORK: Dundas independent auto shops support small business

FUTURE OF WORK: Dundas independent auto shops support small business

FUTURE OF WORK: Dundas independent auto shops support small business
James and Nicole Elzinga, of Arrow Automotive Repair, and their daughter, Winnie, outside their 200 King St. W. location.

A unique arrangement between three Dundas businesses that might otherwise be seen as competitors set the stage for the independent repair shops to thrive into the future.

Eccles Auto Service, Arrow Automotive Repair and Dundas Cycle and Powersports cooperated to protect local jobs in the auto tech sector, and other small businesses in downtown Dundas.

Bruce Eccles, founder of Eccles Auto, sold his former shop at 200 King St. W. to James and Nicole Elzinga of Arrow Automotive. The shop’s former tenant, Tom Abramovich of Dundas Cycle and Powersports, relocated to Arrow’s former home at 279 King St. W.

Eccles said he was friends with James and Nicole and knew they had limited space outside their small shop for parking cars.

Discussing the idea with his son, Scott — who owns Eccles Auto, the Elzinga’s and Abramovich, Eccles figured everyone could be happy.

“It just fits together. We can’t fix all the cars in town,” Eccles said. “I think it’s better for our little town overall.”

He said the independent auto shops bring potential customers to other downtown Dundas businesses, and the small independents must work together to compete with bigger competitors — including dealerships.

“We don’t want people leaving town,” Eccles said. “The betterment of the main drag is the responsibility of every owner.”

Eccles fears the day of the “Mom and Pop” or family-owned auto shop is disappearing.

That means fewer options for customers and fewer positions for qualified technicians.

Eccles said fewer people to fix your car — including electric vehicles and hybrids — mean longer waits and higher prices.

“When you have a community-based business, you and your customers are working for the same thing,” Eccles said.

Eccles said the key now is keeping up with ever-changing technology. Equipment and tools are more expensive and need to be updated regularly.

He said starting salaries for auto technicians were not on par with other skilled trades.

“We need to be competitive with them,” Eccles said. “How are we going to get young people involved?”

James and Nicole Elzinga at Arrow Auto see the same challenges and opportunities, after expanding into their new larger location.

“The future of the trade is fabulous,” James said. “There’s lots of opportunities.”

He said it’s difficult to find qualified technicians as the job becomes more complicated and technical. Techs need to be more computer literate. He said training is a daily thing for his staff.

“If you’re not training you’re moving back,” James said.

Nicole said they are looking to hire at least one new tech, adding to the three current staff in addition to themselves.

James acknowledged auto tech wages aren’t competitive with other skilled trades.

“We’re trying to change that,” he said.

James said Bruce and Scott Eccles have both been supportive and offer advice. They provided a service bay where Arrow tech Caleb Kierstead worked on Arrow customers’ vehicles while their shop was shut down for a month.

Nicole said the couple is grateful to everyone that supported them in the move — including other local business owners and their customers.

“We’re now closer to the core of Dundas,” Nicole said. “We do like being closer to the downtown core — we feel more like part of Dundas.”

Tom Abramovich is looking to add a full-time licensed mechanic at his new Dundas Cycle location at 279 King St. W., but it’s been difficult.

He said he didn’t need the large parking area Arrow Auto was now putting to use.

He specializes in motorcycles and other small engines and power equipment, including snowblowers and ATV’s.

“I love the property,” said Abramovich, of his new space. “It’s more of a motorcycle shop. The building’s got tons of potential. It worked out really good.”

STORY BEHIND THE STORY: We wanted to learn about the Future of Work in the local automobile repair industry.

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