Val Schepens of – How we started in the Auto Repair Business in Huntington Beach, CA

Val & Mike Schepens - Mike's Auto Repair, serving Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach & Irvine

Val & Mike Schepens – Mike’s Auto Repair, serving Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach & Irvine

Hi, I’m Val from Val and Mike’s Auto Service, and I thought today I’m just going to tell you our story here. Mike and I started our business about 20 years ago in September 1994. We kind of fell into it and I wouldn’t actually recommend this for anyone looking to start a business, but that was the year I graduated from college. I got a business degree. My daughter graduated from junior high, so we decided to take a great family vacation to Hawaii. We had a wonderful time. We come back and my husband goes to work and his boss says, “I’m going to not pay you for your vacation time and I’m going to cut your salary.” So, I think, for the first and only time in his life, he didn’t call me or say anything, he quit his job. He quit right then and he came home that night and said, “I just quit my job.” And I went, “Okay.” And he goes, “Let’s start a business.” And I go, “Okay.” So, anyway, that’s how we fell into it.

We took probably about 100 names of family, friends and acquaintances and I put a mailer together and we sent it out. And we started our business on Gothard in a corner behind what was actually a storage unit that had units in front of it for auto repair. We put a lift in there. It was behind an alley and from there we grew. And we grew then to the front, and by the time we left there 16 years later, we had four units, we had six bays and we just kept growing and growing at that time. So by then Mike was in business for about three years and I was helping him on the side. I was doing the payroll the best I could and the marketing. I was actually working for Ruby’s Diner, I was their marketing director. He said he needed full time, so in 1997 and so that’s when I joined Mike full time. I figured marketing is marketing. Hamburgers, auto repair, what’s the difference? Let’s just dive in there and let’s do it. And that’s what we’ve done ever since.

Together we built our business and we really tried with our expert care and auto repair. And I would say that we would emphasize the care in auto repair. We are a shop that cares. There’s our staff right now. What I have in our team meetings and I preach constantly – it’s on my list – “This is your mother’s car.” A lot of them don’t like their wives. I don’t know, but everybody should like their mother. Everyone loves their mother. This is your mother’s car and that is how you will treat it. And it doesn’t go out of here without a double inspection. Okay, yeah, your mother-in-law’s mother. And our goal for you is we want to repair it right and we want to repair it right the first time. Our goal is to solve your repair problem or solve your maintenance problem. That is our job. I also like to consider myself, more so than Mike, I am the bartender of auto repair. I know everything about my customers, I know nothing about their cars.

But I’ve shared so much with them these last 20 years that, just to share a little bit, is that these friends right here, they either are my customers, or they were my customers, they’re now my good friends. This right here is my breakfast club with a running disorder. We are together every single Sunday running. So, with that, my tag line on my Instagram is “Val and Mike’s Auto Service keeps you running,” and that’s what we do. We maintain ourselves and we also maintain your car. So we’ve built this through our business relationships actually with all these people, and then also building relationships with customers.

Like I said, I am a wealth of information on autism. I have a 36-year old daughter that’s autistic. Her name is Chrissy. She also has cerebral palsy, so she has been a challenge for us. I would only describe her as, if you ever saw the movie “Groundhog’s Day,” that’s our life. Luckily she does have the maturity level of a 15-year old. We don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, but that’s okay. We deal with it. And then you hear our other customers that have children with autism and I’m very blessed. I have a customer who has autistic twin boys, 26 with a maturity level of a five-year old. So I just get on my knees and thank myself. But we’ve been actually a good support and help with each other where we’ve been able to refer and work together. I was actually a wedding planner for about a year. There’s my son and his wife. I planned that whole wedding. I have a whole file on it. I had a customer that came in and they made an appointment with me to go over every vendor and saw the pictures, and that was fun.

Also, what was really neat at this time, he finally got a job at Kappa Valley High School. He’s an economics and history teacher. A permanent. He’s a football coach, he’s a wrestling coach there for them. But that took four years for him to just do everything right. So as I’m talking with my customers, there are a lot of teachers out there who are unemployed or working and we’re able to share things. And then, of course, I have my Macy and Penny. They’re my fur babies. I love them to death. They are little runner dogs, they do run with me. Macy, she has run as much as 11 miles. Penny, she’s a little slower. She’s only done about six. We don’t want to go any farther than that. But they’re really fun to have in the shop and I have even a Pinterest page just with all my customers and their dogs. We just focus on the dogs. So, with that, as we’re building relationships.

We know you have choices in auto repair. So if someone asks me what makes me so special, what makes me different than another auto repair facility, I mean, there are a lot of good ones out there, but I think it is our service, knowing the customer, being involved in the car. You need to go where you’re comfortable. We try to make it a very comfortable environment. Your mechanic is like your doctor, and that is what we do. We have it on record. Mike knows the cars. The tech knows the cars. We have a history on it. We provide updated equipment, service bulletins, a lot of technical bulletins out there. Then also for our employees, we send them to school to continue their education. They’re ASC certified. We pay for that, so I make sure and I pay for their licenses so that we are all up to date.

We also do full inspections on the car because what we want to do is prioritize the work so that you can be informed and you can save your pennies or be at least informed of what’s going on with the car. And Mike is very involved with almost every repair. He’s in there with them getting an understanding because he is the communicator. He is the one talking to the customer and letting them know what’s going on with the car. And one thing about us too is that his cell phone number is on after hours and it’s on our answer phone, so if something happened to the repair that we did or you have an emergency, we are there. So we can guide you and let you know what you can do.

It’s really important that we have the associations. As I mentioned before, we are a smog repair and now smog test facility. We were the very first to get licensed to repair smogs. There were a lot of shops out there that were repairing smogs without licenses but we want to make sure that we did it right. We’re AAA and AAA-approved for 16 years. And recently, for the last three years, we’ve been involved in this Confidence Plus, which has really worked out nice because the parts that are on there now, I mean, as much as we try to use quality parts, they’re all made in China and things happen. When a starter or an alternator goes out when you’re in Oregon, we were able to take care of that customer in Oregon. They took care of the tow, they took care of the labor, they took care of the part. So that Confidence Plus is good anywhere in the United States.

So, anyway, everyone does drive a car. We know it is one of your largest investments. Not everybody budgets for it, but it’s something that you should consider because it is a running machine. It’s constantly running and things go out. Fluids get contaminated. Even if you don’t drive that much those fluids sit there, they contaminate your car, things deteriorate. So we are here for your first choice in auto repair, for maintenance, and of course failed smog. We are located at 17662 Metzler Lane, Huntington Beach. And we’re there Monday through Friday, 7:30 to 5:30. Thank you.

Fax: 714-375-3160
17662 Metzler Lane #A
Huntington Beach, CA 92647