That's one example of the type of service that Brake Depot provides, according to Patrick Walby, CEO. Brake Depot's philosophy is to satisfy customers, which means listening to them and giving them quality work at a lower price. It also means "doing brake jobs quicker and better" than other repair centers. Customer service means educating car owners about how their brakes work, what regular maintenance needs to be done and how to maintain a safe car. Brake Depot was started five years ago by two brothers Philip Walby, Patrick Walby and a partner, who each had retail experience. the leased a dilapidated 1915 vintage property in central San Diego that required " a lot of sweat equity including retarring the parking lot, fixing walls, hanging up signs and installing service bays," says Patrick Walby, one of the brake brothers.
Both Walby brothers grew up around retailing because their father owned a hardware store in the Detroit area. Patrick Walby worked for retailers including Montgomery Ward, where he learned about merchandising and inventory control systems. His brother Phil, who is CFO, has an MBA and handles financial operations. Their partner, John Dacey, set up the shops because he is an experienced auto mechanic.
Today that one store has grown into 25 brake shops in the San Diego area, Orange County, Ca and Charlotte, NC. Each store has four to eight service bays and ranges in size from 1,800 to 15,000 sq. ft. The San Diego store is the largest shop. It houses the corporate offices as well as a telephone room where staff make appointments for customers and monitor customer satisfaction with an after service questionnaire. Parts are also warehoused there. Each Brake Depot shop is staffed by three technicians and one manager and there are three district managers in the field who check on the stores. Floating managers substitute for managers on vacation.
San Diego was a tough market in which to start a service business because area customers are very price conscious. But by listening to his customers, Patrick Walby has been able to offer more cost efficient, quality service. "We buy our brakes from Wagner Brake Products in St. Louis, without a middle man, which means our prices are 10 %to 20% below other shops," Pat Walby said.
Patrick Walby decided to buy U.S. made parts because customers weren't happy with cheaper, foreign made parts. He talked with Raybestos and Bendix but found Wagner Brake Products provided training seminars for mechanic and helped with marketing. What's ahead for Brake Depot? Patrick Walby hopes to expand the operation to 1,500 stores. "We'd like to open negotiations to form joint ventures in Phoenix AZ and Las Vegas, NV. Setting up shops in smaller markets is easier than dealing with the hassle of going into Los Angeles or San Francisco markets, where capital and planning are needed," Patrick Walby said, noting that he has recently hired someone to attract fleet customers, including construction companies and delivery services.
In the las few years, Brake Depot has depended on word of mouth advertising and penny savers for promotion. As the operation has grown more sophisticated, the company is using direct mail and coupons, and has now begun running a 30 second TV spot on local cable and Fox network stations. Patrick Walby believes there are no other brake specialist like Brake Depot. competitors such as Midas Muffler or Firestone Tire Centers fix brakes, but Patrick Walby points out that theses shops don't help educate customers on how to keep their brakes working longer with regular maintenance or follow up with customers to make sure the job was done right,
Five years ago, Patrick and Philip Walby found a run down shop in downtown San Diego and leased it for $1,500 per month to start their first brake repair shop. A year later they opened their second location. Today they have 25 stores in California and North Carolina and hope to grow the business to 1,500 stores across the U. S.
San Diego, CA
Patrick Walby CEO
Philip Walby CFO
John Dacey COO
Advertising: Direct mail, Local TV spots
Furture Goal: Wants 20% of the market in five years and to open 1,500