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Charron's Auto Repair celebrating 25th year

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[May 24, 2010]  Jan. 28, 1985, Rick and Carol Charron cut the ribbon on Charron's Auto Repair at 929 S. Kickapoo. Rick Charron remembers it well, saying that it was the 2nd birthday of his second child, Austin, who is now 27 years old and a recent newlywed.                                                      

HardwareNow, 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 each other."

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 Erica, laughs.

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 Miller.

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 the times.

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 of Charron's.

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, http://www.napaautocare.com/, 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 customer service.

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 grandchildren.

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 businessman?

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
Phone: 217-735-2222  


Pat Gorman

Terry Miller

Chris Mason


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