Eccles Auto Service has a reputation for its strong community ties, and during the shutdown they’ve been giving away gift cards to local businesses with every service, to be redeemed when this all passes and the shops are open again.
The Ontario government has listed the automotive aftermarket as an essential service, but that doesn’t mean that local ASPS are untouched by the COVID-19 crisis.
For Scott Eccles, owner of Eccles Auto Service in Dundas, Ontario, staying open while most of the shops in this small southern Ontario town outside Hamilton have been shuttered is a challenge.
Business has slowed but not dried up completely; fewer people are making appointments, but as he told the Hamilton Spectator recently, 15 to 20 people call each day to ask if the shop is open for service. Suppliers are continuing to make deliveries, but some only deliver once a day. Dealerships are more difficult to order from, though, since many of them are closed down.
Eccles has had to lay off half of the shop’s ten workers since the shutdown, some of whom have been with the shop for many years. He vows he’ll hire them back when this is all over, but it’s hard to know when that will be, or what life will be like then. Services like the courtesy car and customer shuttle service have been furloughed as well, not only to cut back on costs but in order to adhere to physical distancing guidelines.
Meanwhile, every contact point between cars and technicians – ignition keys, door handles, shifters, even the glove box – is carefully disinfected before and after servicing. There’s as little direct contact between staff as customers as possible, and only a limited number of people are allowed to be inside the shop at a time. Customers leave their keys in a drop box and pay their bills by phone.
Eccles’s shop has a reputation for its strong community ties, and during the shutdown they’ve been giving away gift cards to local businesses with every service, to be redeemed when this all passes and the shops are open again. It’s gesture of optimism, he feels, as well as a way to help the town get back on its feet again when the time comes.
But as for exactly when that will be, it’s as murky as it is for every other small business across the country. “I won’t go out of business,” Scott says confidently, pointing out that there are others – customers, suppliers and neighbours alike – that are having a harder time of it. For now, all he can do is follow the guidelines, and wait out the pandemic along with everyone else.