Now, 25 years later, the business is still going strong, thanks in no
small part to the dedication of Charron's to offering reliable
workmanship and good customer service.
Rick began his career in auto repair at the age of 13, working
for his father, who owned and operated Logan County Radiator. When
the elder Charron decided in 1985 to pursue other interests, he sold
the business to his son and it became Charron's Auto Repair.
When they opened their doors in '85, Carol Charron was involved
but not as visible as she is today. She explained that in the
beginning, she was working at a different job. She spent her time
working away from home; being a homemaker, wife and mother; plus,
she took care of the company's bookwork in the evenings.
But, as the business grew, Rick found that he was spending too
much time in the office and not enough in the shop, where he felt he
really needed to be. For the Charrons it just made sense that Carol
would come in and take over the office.
Today Carol Charron says that even though they are a husband-wife
team, it doesn't really seem to be any different than a regular job.
"I spend my days in here," she says, referring to the office area,
"and he's out there in the shop. We really don't see that much of
As Rick and Carol talk about their working relationship, a voice
comes from the back of the office: "Why don't you ask me what it's
like to work for both of your parents?" their oldest child, daughter
After a short banter back and forth between father and daughter,
Erica gets serious for just a moment, saying that she has an
education that would allow her other options, but for the time being
at least, working for her parents is the best way to go.
As a wife and a mother of two with No. 3 on the way, Erica says
that she has the flexibility to do what she needs to with and for
her children without having to worry about being fired from her job.
When a little one is under the weather, she may be calling in to her
boss, but it's grandma or grandpa who says it's OK to stay home.
Although she is part-time, Charron said that what his daughter
does for the business is important. In addition to working with her
mom in the office, Erica serves as the IT person for the business.
With computers in the forefront of nearly every business in the
world today, auto repair is no exception. When computers go down or
software develops a problem or needs an upgrade, both in the office
and in the shop, Erica is the one who deals with it. In addition,
the business has a website,
http://www.charronsautorepair.com/, that Erica takes care of.
Moving out of the office and into the shop, Charron has three
full-time mechanics on duty: Pat Gorman, Chris Mason and Terry
Rick said that he takes pride in being able to say that he and
his crew are trained and qualified to work on any make or model of
vehicle, foreign or domestic, bumper to bumper.
He explained that the industry is changing daily, and to keep up,
everyone at Charron's is involved in ongoing education as they
attend several specialized training events each year.
Charron said that he offers his crew a salary plus bonuses, and
the bonuses serve as an extra incentive for everyone to keep up with
In addition to this, he said that from time to time he tries to
give his crew something extra. For example, the first of June
everyone is going to St. Louis to see a Cardinals game, compliments
Rick said that the business had a pretty good winter, and he
wanted to recognize his guys for all their hard work. The trip will
include the crews and their families, and they'll all spend the day
together just relaxing and having some fun.
Much of the ongoing training the mechanics get comes through
being a certified NAPA AutoCare Center. Through NAPA they are able
to take classes and attend meetings that will help them continue to
grow their business.
Charron said that one of the greatest assets of being
NAPA-certified is what it gives to their customers. Through the NAPA
programs, Charron's is able to offer warranties on their work, both
parts and labor, that are good anywhere in the nation.
He explained that if he works on a vehicle -- for example,
installing a new water pump -- and down the road his customer is in
some other state and the pump proves to be defective, all the
customer has to do is find a certified NAPA AutoCare Center in the
area, which can be done via the NAPA website,
and take the vehicle there.
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Charron said that knowing he has a good staff makes it much easier
on him, especially if he and Carol want to or need to take time away
from the shop.
"I know we can leave, and between Erica in the office and the
guys in the shop, everything will be taken care of," he said.
Being a husband-wife team in the business has some advantages
that one might not think of. For example, Charron said that he and
Carol both got to make a trip to San Diego recently for a Garage
Owners Association meeting.
He said that they were able to spend some time together, but they
were also able to interact with people in the same business.
"We have a forum where we sit and talk about our marketing
strategies and what works and what doesn't," Charron explained.
He then added, "and it kind of gives us a little boost to our ego
when we see that maybe we're not the fanciest or the biggest on the
block, but we're not at the bottom either. We're doing all right."
Charron said that being a successful business in a small
community hinges on a few things, not the least of which is good
He feels that when he does a good job for his customers, the
advertising he gets from their word of mouth is one of the most
effective ways of building the business.
In addition to this, the Charrons are active supporters of the
community, involved in many area fundraisers and special causes.
Charron said that the business offers support to the YMCA soccer
program, men's bowling, women's softball, and they help with the
Halloween celebration at the park district. They also offer
sponsorship at local car shows and have had Relay for Life teams.
As he talked about what the business does in the community,
Charron pointed to a poster on the wall for Golf for the Cure. This
year's event is dedicated to Laz Pozsgai.
Pozsgai, who was very well known in the community as a member of
the Graue Chevrolet team for 35-plus years, lost his battle with
cancer in April of 2009.
Charron said that he and Pozsgai were very good friends and that
he is especially honored this year to support Golf for the Cure in
his friend's memory.
Away from the business the Charrons enjoy spending time with
their kids -- Erica, Austin and Kyle -- and their five
And what does a mechanic do in his spare time? Well, this one
works on race cars. He and son Austin own a modified stock car and
race regularly at the Logan County Speedway.
Charron says that all three of the kids were very involved in
quarter midget racing when they were younger. He said it was a great
family activity because they were all interested in it. He and Carol
didn't have to worry about where their kids were on Friday and
Saturday night because they were all at the races together.
In the end, does Charron consider himself to be a successful
He may have said it best: "We may not be the biggest out there,
but as you can see, we're not going hungry. We do all right."
Charron's is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Charron's Auto Repair
929 S. Kickapoo St., Lincoln, IL 62656
[By NILA SMITH]