By DAN MALEY
It takes somewhere between one-thousandth and one-tenth of a second to form your first impression during a new encounter. A dynamic assortment of components of our nervous systems, all with wonderfully enigmatic names, play their part. Research has shown that generally, once formed, those impressions aren’t likely to change without much deliberation. All this to say, that first impressions go a long way.
Walking through the entrance to W.E. Are Auto Care, made quite the impact. An engaging smile and warm greeting from business co-owner Lisa Wilkie, probably hit me before my prefrontal cortex had a chance to properly process that first tenth of a second. I was also given a cautious eye from the diminutive, furry occupant of a chair to my right. Roxanne, a Shih Tzu, is not a co-owner, but obviously of great importance to the establishment. She allowed me to pet her after a minute or two. I had passed the test, with permission to continue my interview granted.
Other impressions: being in the clean, tidy, yet not overly formal office felt more like sitting in a kitchen over a coffee chat. While there was some car-related paraphernalia, there was no sign of the grime or clutter normally associated with a garage. Lisa explained that when the business began in 2011, she wanted to ensure that it would not be the archetypal male environ; she wanted an atmosphere that would appeal equally to women.
When co-owner Brian Eckert entered the room, my first observation was the slight trace of oil on his hands. He had been hard at work. An unassuming and kindly man, Brian quietly explained that he had always wanted to own his own business, and that his desire was simply to “be trustworthy, do good work, and be an honest mechanic with honest prices.”
Now entering their fifth year of operation, W. E. Are Auto Care has survived the much publicized statistical period of failure for small businesses, and is growing. So what have been the keys to their success?
Their location is surely a factor. Being downtown at SR57, a block north of Main Street, is great for traffic and visibility.
Brian has a gift and a passion for working on vehicles. He is just as likely to be found repairing a car in a store parking lot as working at his garage. Together, he and Lisa have an unpretentious determination. Not to make money, although they try not to forget that. Their goal is to make a difference in their community. While working on the town’s vehicles, they sponsor little league teams, support car cruises, local non-profits and churches. They are involved in Running With An Angel, a fundraising event for the Samantha Elisabeth Porter Memorial Scholarship based in North Daviess.
Another success factor is tha t it’s a family business; they’re working together to achieve their goals. Devin Wilkie, Lisa’s fourteen year old son, is the third name on the entrance door.
Faith has also played a part. Taking the proverbial leap, Brian prayed and deliberated over a figure before bidding on the property at auction. He got it for close to his target, only to struggle getting finances approved. After sixty days he faced losing his deposit, but at the eleventh hour he was able to find a banker and complete the purchase.
One of their most important success factors has been the people of Daviess County. Just as Brian and Lisa have sown into the community, residents and organizations alike have gladly received their services. Local businesses, Washington City Police, the Sheriff’s Department, the Ambulance Service, and residents from all over the county have brought their vehicles in for care.
Not surprisingly, word of mouth seems to be their biggest draw. Perhaps it’s the combination of their care for vehicles and the people who own them. I witnessed Lisa and Brian both take time to listen to a customer sharing his problems over the counter, and offering kind words of encouragement.
With that kind of auto-care and of course with our canine friend Roxanne keeping a watchful eye on things, I think we can be confident in their future success!