Kindness Matters

2 02 2015



“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,”

~ Matthew 6:3, NIV

Ever since Community Automotive Repair’s inception, this company has been built (literally) on charitable initiatives.  If you know our back story, it’s not something we’ve intentionally promoted to date.  This is in large part due to the Biblical verse cited above.  Now, any of you that have been around for awhile also know that we’re people of faith, but just the same it’s not been something we openly advertise.  We believe our actions should speak for themselves but then there’s that slight rub that says people of faith shouldn’t hide behind their beliefs.  All this to say, we’re not interested in being forceful about our morals or values, but we’re happy to share them with people that may inquire.  Being in business requires you/us to operate within ethical guidelines that dictate what level of transparency we may have in regards to our own personal beliefs.  It’s unfortunate to a degree, but painfully accurate.

To that end, we’ve almost never made a point to call attention to good works in which we may be involved.  We’ve engaged with local and regional endeavors in secret, for the most part.  However, that was then, and as Bob Dylan prophetically spoke years ago… the times, they are a changin’!  While we maintain it’s not our desire to shamelessly broadcast our philanthropic arm, we do believe there’s merit in partnering with you to maximize the benefit of these offerings.  How else would you be able to engage unless you were aware on some level?  In short, you wouldn’t.

As we’ve observed a significant percentage of our local friends launching their own charitable campaigns, we mostly (up to this point) have stood quietly along the sidelines.  We’ve had to discern our place in the fold, and that hasn’t been easy.  Perhaps it shouldn’t have been this difficult, but we submit it likely was because of our steadfast wrestling with being a sustainable and profitable local business, as opposed to building our legacy in private.  Suffice to say, our decision to be either of these entities was not made sheepishly or without laboring over the most appropriate way to do so.

Today, we’re happy to introduce you to three specific relationships we’ve had, in hopes (should you be willing and able) you may come alongside our efforts and help make an even bigger impact for these benefactors.  By design, we’ve given of our time, energy, or resources to benefit the following local organizations:

ICCF (Inner City Christian Federation) – providing affordable (and in some cases emergency) housing to those in need, learn more at

Kids’ Food Basket – attacking childhood hunger in West Michigan by providing sack suppers and empowering kids to help each other through educational programming, learn more at

Congress Plus – an afterschool (latch-key type) program within our neighbor Congress Elementary School’s campus, specifically designed to help local kids achieve greater leadership through elevated liberal arts programming.  Currently Congress Plus doesn’t have much of an online presence, but more information about Congress Elementary School is available at

We launched Kindness Matters infrastructure last year to better manage our continued support of these fine groups.  With that, our hope is to slowly release campaigns on site that promote different levels of engagement, in which you will be able to participate as little or as much as you’re able.  We hope arriving at this place of more public disclosure doesn’t misconstrue our sincere mission to assist these wonderful people without drawing attention to ourselves.  This isn’t about us, and we can’t express explicitly enough how the desire of our heart is that these organizations would receive the spotlight they both need and deserve.  It has been our deep pleasure to help where we’re able, and we’re even more eager to make a greater impact with your help.

We anticipate early 2nd quarter will introduce some opportunities for you to get involved, should you be interested. For example, services rendered at our place of business may include some credits to grow our donation, which in turn would become OUR collective gift.  Doing this alone all these years hasn’t been an exercise in futility, just that now we believe the power and influence of many can (and likely will) make an exponential difference.

Thank you for ongoing trust and confidence.  We don’t take the opportunity to serve you lightly, and greatly appreciate you choosing our local small business to address all your automotive service/repair needs.

Lastly, the aforementioned website upgrade is almost complete, and we hope to have a more user friendly and technologically advanced (read as quicker) space on the internet by the end of this month.

Kindness matters, friends… and so do you.



Local. Honest. Service.

30 04 2012

Our  farmers market (Fulton Street Farmers Market) is preparing to reopen Saturday.  This exciting news has us thinking about the importance of local marketplace.

Reputable pop culture site fanpop recently conducted another series of surveys.  When asked specific questions about what made The Brady Bunch or other famed sitcoms of our past the treasured icons they’ve become, the greater majority of responses described “simple, personal, relate-able, and local ” as ingredients for their mainstream success.  When you stop and think about it (and that’s what we’re asking you to do here), the latter is where it begins.  What does it really mean to be local?  Has your experience of “local” been met with “simple, personal, and relate-able?”  Let’s play further into this Brady Bunch example, where we believe the answer to at least one of these questions is easily found.

Who doesn’t remember Sam the Butcher?  What makes Sam’s character unforgettable, assuming you’ve followed along up to this point?  Some of the more popular answers offered through the fanpop survey included: “Sam was like extended family,” “Alice and the Brady family never really had to say much, Sam often knew their needs,” “Sam knew everyone in the Brady family well enough that it didn’t matter who showed up, he’d deliver every time,” and our personal favorite “Sam was the man, hands down.”  We’re not sure if that last opinion is to be read into further or if it’s just machismo, but either way it’s hard to refute.  Suffice it to say Sam was highly respected, trusted, and the person everyone turned to when there was a need for the type of services he offered.  Doesn’t that describe what most business owners would like to achieve?  Who wouldn’t want to be like Sam?

Whether it’s Sam the Butcher from The Brady Bunch, Aunt Bee of Mayberry, or perhaps even Arnold (early Pat Morita fame) from Happy Days, the aforementioned “simple, personal, and relate-able” apply across the board.  These are characters people easily fell in love with, and attributes they shared helped pave the way for many more winning formulas in television.  It’s less important who their successors might be today, rather we’d like to keep your attention on the heart of their character, respectively.

If you unpack the culture of these times and take a closer look at what worked best, you don’t really have to search further than local commerce.  Aunt Bee may be the exception but she still carried the heartfelt mentality of raising Opie, not unlike Sam and Arnold did with their patrons.  You see, in these times (fiction or not) there weren’t many national corporations competing for the attention of the public.  The “big box” places existed but careful research shows local business owners weren’t nearly as threatened (if they saw them as a threat at all) because the community at large had committed to a sustainable strategy, not the least of which was their own engagement, to promote and utilize services available through their neighborhood grocer, dentist, butcher, farmer, mechanic, doctor, etc.  How amazing would life be today if every one of us had our own “professional” when our need consisted of something we couldn’t/shouldn’t do ourselves?  We realize this isn’t Little House on the Prairie and Grand Rapids is far too vast to suggest only a few people could handle the masses, but is it wrong to be motivated by the “quality” this notion affords?  We think not.  Of course, it can be taken too far and one doesn’t have to look any further than the 1998 drama Pleasantville for the most exaggerated example of this.  After all, we’re not sure it’s a good idea for your doctor, postman, and baker to be the same person.  You get the point.

Where does Community Automotive Repair fit into these examples?  We’re glad you asked.  We contend our commitment to “local” offers an experience very similar to Arnold’s Diner or Sam’s Butcher Shop.  Our customers know we’ve served the greater Grand Rapids area since 1975, and since day one we’ve been devoted to doing so with friendly, honest, and dependable people.  Although the marketplace shifted and radical changes occurred, we’ve never strayed from our core values and continue to offer the same level of quality our customers deserve and expect.  We know and fully recognize that’s not possible without YOU.  We’re in this together.

For us, local means family.  Local also means sowing seeds into the community in which we/you live.  Local is a partnership, where business owners and people that depend on their services stand in the gap for each other.  Local is realizing your part in the equation and pursuing it with intense passion.  Local most definitely, among other things, is “simple, personal, and relate-able.”  Speaking emotionally, local is the feeling you get when you know you MATTER, when you can sense you’re not a mere statistic, and when you relate to the collective difference you’re making in the bigger picture.  Local doesn’t happen without a community.  As they say, “It takes a village…” and we’d like everyone reading this to know how much a privilege it’s been to be on this journey together.  As we discuss the future and turn to our partners, friends, and family alike, we’re deeply grateful and look forward to providing local, honest service for many years to come.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t make it a point to thank the incredible team of Local First of West Michigan for the many great opportunities to collaborate.  We decided long ago this was a movement and organization with which we placed a great deal of value, and they have truly surpassed any expectations we’ve had.  If you are in local business and haven’t already joined forces with Local First, we greatly encourage doing so today.  No business is too small or large, so long as you’re private (not publicly traded) and based in Michigan.  Local First’s 10% Shift campaign promotes and validates the ideas behind this blog entry, that the community in which we live will be a far better place if we intentionally support locally owned and operated businesses FIRST.

Consider your part.  Make a choice to save Michigan – buy local.

(Ann Arbor artist Amanda Jane Jones’ piece pictured above is for sale HERE)

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Did you just say INYA?

27 01 2012

We’ve all done it in some form or another, made an attempt to remember something we shouldn’t overlook.  Whether it was as overt as tying a red ribbon around your finger or keeping something in your front pocket that only you knew was there, the idea behind it was the same – don’t forget.  What if somebody else attempted to simplify this process for you, would this be of particular benefit?  Do you believe the rhythm of your day would be less interrupted by not having to resort to alternative means of memory retention?  Well, even if you prefer to don a small piece of fabric on your finger or that special polished stone, we’d like to at least offer our assistance.  Therein lies the INYA.

INYA in our corner of the world stands for Items Needing Your Attention.  We believe too often the case has been customers leaving their respective auto repair facilities with less information than they may desire, and certainly short of what they deserve.  Our observation isn’t based on any specific shop or potential competitor as much as the general culture of the customers we serve and their reaction upon receiving that initial INYA (and subsequently each time they return).

You’ve known us to use the medical analogy in previous blog posts and this is no different.  It fits equally as well.  Do you seek surface level information from a health practitioner or physical therapist when you see them?  And if you happen to be one of the less than 10% of people alive today that haven’t ever been to see one of these professionals, please replace our example with one that relates to you and privately forward us your secret.  The same point still holds true.  You not only desire detailed information but you often require it.  Why might this be?  We can’t say for certain because we’re not you but we suspect it’s because your life (or somebody with whom you have close relation) may depend on it.  Yes, your vehicle is inanimate.  As such, we will not be making any attempts to equate it with human life.  We will, however, call close attention to how your vehicle relies on proper care to operate.  That much is no longer relative but absolute fact.  Just as you and all other living creatures would perish without food and water (among other things), a vehicle simply cannot sustain itself without oil and certain fluids.  Notice we didn’t say gasoline, for we’re entering a day and age that has introduced motor vehicles dependent on electronic energy for fuel.  WOW, the times… they are a-changin’.

Do you currently view your vehicle(s) as entities worthy of the actual care they need?  Be honest.  If you don’t, you have plenty of company.  It’s not uncommon for us to take certain areas of our lives for granted, and the automobile often tends to find itself in this category.  We’re not suggesting that your mode of transportation needs to be the most important thing in your life, but we are expressing caution for allowing it to be the least.  Regardless of whether you’re one to appreciate the open road (read as car/truck enthusiast) or see your vehicle as a way to travel from point A to B, a certain level of upkeep is paramount.  Sometimes knowing and realizing this isn’t where there’s a disconnect since people to some degree assume as much, but the real challenge is knowing WHAT needs to be done and WHEN.  Once again, therein lies the INYA.

With every service visit at Community Automotive Repair our customers receive a detailed invoice, which breaks down all the services performed, recommended, and forecasted (so to speak).  In other words, we aspire to inform, educate, and engage – and each of these steps are accomplished prior to and within the INYA itself.  Let’s take a closer look at each:

Inform – Unless we’re asked not to by the customer, your vehicle receives a comprehensive (and complimentary) visual inspection with each visit.  This is our commitment to making you more aware of where your vehicle is in its “maintenance life.”  Without hesitance we confidently make professional recommendations concerning the care your vehicle needs (when applicable).  We’re open to discussing other items you may have questions about but it is no interest of ours to “conveniently find” extras to secure work.  We are here to serve you to the best of our abilities and while profit is necessary to sustain business, it will not be conducted at the expense of integrity.

* Educate – Often times when we reveal the result of our inspection it will raise valid questions.  After all, we don’t expect you to be the authority on your vehicle as much as we are honored to accept that responsibility.  We’ve meticulously followed trends and the latest advances in this industry for almost 40 years, which is why we attempt to teach you as much as you’re willing to learn about your vehicle, as it pertains to your specific concerns.  We’d like for you to be empowered and feel the advantages of a wise consumer.  It is also during this time where we tend to break recommendations into categories of importance, as necessary.  You have the right to know if there’s a safety concern and you’ll in effect assume responsibility for any potential harm this may cause, or you’ll also know if the condition of your vehicle is such that waiting a bit won’t introduce any additional risk.

* Engage – It isn’t uncommon for there to be a natural segue way between educating and informing because let’s face it, if we’ve done justice in explaining things clearly up to this point all that’s left is to share the resolve.  This is the point where we come alongside as a partner (ideally) for short and long term care of your vehicle.  We will develop a plan based on your needs and attempt to work within any specific constraints, which of course often amounts to time or budget.  Your options will be clearly laid out and the INYA (yes, another honorable mention) will be utilized to bring this entire process full circle.

INYA (Items Needing Your Attention) – With every service your vehicle may stand in need of at the time it’s inspected, a separate line will be reserved in the INYA section of your invoice.  The INYA is always towards the bottom, following the detailed breakdown of services you had performed and/or estimated.  What’s more is that you’ll receive reminders to let you know when each of these services are due.  For example, let’s figure on you needing a brake inspection, tire rotation, and oil change.  General rule of thumb (there are many exceptions) is that your vehicle should have its motor oil and filter changed every 3000 miles or 3 months, whichever comes first.  Along those same lines the tires should be rotated about every other oil change service.  In this case we’re also suggesting that your brakes aren’t quite due but should be checked in 6 months.  With all of this taken into consideration, you’d receive a reminder in about 2.5 months for the oil change and a separate one for the tire rotation/brake inspection in roughly 5.5 months.  Most of our customers receive these notices electronically (which the trees appreciate) but they are also available as snail mail for those that happen to prefer more traditional means of communication.  Bottom line, this eliminates the guesswork and all you have to do is schedule the appointment and sleep easy.

We don’t want to disrupt any creativity or other forms of self expression you may have to remind you about important events.  But we do believe in making the most of your time, and this process goes a long way if you’ll let it.  Our recommendation is to leave the yarn/string for the kids or family member that enjoys knitting and craft work, as we’re wholeheartedly committed to easing the pressure associated with memory.

Each of us have enough to remember already.  Feel free to cross the personal responsibility of auto care off your list and add it to ours.  We can handle it.

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