Since 1950, Steller’s has been a business that has always cared about its customers and community.
Located in historic Shelton, CT, Steller’s Garage is just the kind of repair shop where your entire family gets their cars serviced. Kevin Reichelt and Erik Lydiksen have owned Steller’s since 1996. They decided to keep the name since the original owner, George Steller, had become such a local institution. And that only grew when the next owner Phil Cayer took over before Kevin and Erik bought Steller’s from him. Even though the business has grown since George opened the business in 1950, the core mission of the shop has continued – the belief that both new and existing customers can trust that their car will be fixed right the first time at Steller’s Garage.
Asked what he is most proud of about the business, Kevin says “We are most proud of the relationships we built over the years – customers, employees past and present, vendors, delivery people, fellow business and shop owners and of course the Shelton community. It’s great to hear from all of them. The love is always felt in those conversations.”
Steller’s is keenly aware that marketing is a big reason for their success. A few of the most successful actions taken are videos, check-in phone calls to customers and mailers. Fun and engaging videos are a signature social media initiative that makes them stand-out from other shops. They have found phone calls to customers to see how they are doing and if they need help is a terrific way to stay engaged with their community. And new customer acquisition via EDDM or mailers, have proven to be an important action for continued growth.
Shelton is the home of Wiffle Ball, Charter Fire Arms and several working farms that are hundreds of years old. The downtown area is transforming. The area was mainly industrial manufacturing for many years. It’s now being reborn with higher end luxury lofts, amazing restaurants and a farmers market. The community bands together to help others and while it is growing, it still retains its small town feel.
Something important to both Kevin and Erik is the elusive goal of a work/life balance. Something we all would like to attain. Because they have a stable and operational shop they are focusing on not just growing the business further, but also managing the business remotely. After all, the CEO of a business doesn’t need to be on-site every hour the shop is open. They have department heads to carry some of the management load. Kevin and Erik consider this goal a priority and are taking steps to make that happen.
The successful and long standing partnership between Kevin and Erik is another key factor of the Steller success. Before they bought the shop, they were brewing beer together in the early 1990’s. Now instead of brewing beer, they are brewing up further success at Steller’s. “The reason the partnership between Erik and myself works so well is one word…Communication. Actually, two words. Communication plus Respect.” Erik agrees: “Kevin and I know each other really well. My strengths compliment his. And visa versa. Bottom line, there’s no one else I’d like to be in business with.”
It’s not only the support of a fellow business partner, but of other shop owners that has become an important tool to not just foster friendships but to talk about actions that have worked and initiatives that haven’t worked. “First of all, it’s nice to know that we are all in this together and we all have shared experiences. Networking gives us a better understanding of what we are doing now and what we want to do. The friendships I have with other shop owners are invaluable,” says Kevin.
Dave Bloom, owner of Pine Aire Truck Service and Dream Car Restoration says this about his buddy, “Kevin’s enthusiasm and generosity are contagious which are common attributes of great shop owners. Whether it’s his employees, his family or people in his community he is always there to help out. That goes for his fellow shop owners also.”
Adam Jadovitz, owner of A & M Automotive says about his friend Kevin, “For as long as I have known Kevin, he has always been a giver, not a taker. He often goes out of his way to help people.”
A key component of growing Steller’s Garage into what it is today, is the relationship with DRIVE. Kevin says that the best piece of business advice he received was from a fellow shop owner to sign-up with DRIVE. Because of this partnership, Kevin and Erik can now step away from the shop and enjoy their families and free time. For Kevin that means scuba diving, traveling, boating and of course hanging out with his wife Elly and their three crazy German Shepherd’s.
“Over the years working with DRIVE, I am able to get away from the shop more. Policies and procedures are in place to grow the business and it has helped us automate processes to allow both of us more freedom,” says Kevin. When they bought the shop, a typical day for the partners was 7am-11pm Monday through Friday, plus Saturday. They had no idea what money was coming in or going out. When they needed more cash to cover that week’s bills, they just worked harder. Now they are working smarter with the help of DRIVE. Today, weekends are reserved for their family and friends.
Kevin says of Steller’s Garage “We are really like a family unit, Michael Schaefer has been with us since 1986. Our bookkeeper, Carol Mavilla has been with us for 25 years. And thanks to our wives Ellen and Diane for their endless support and patience.”
DRIVE salutes Steller’s Garage for a job well done and for continuing the name and reputation of this successful business!