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Business

Westside Auto Brings Family Into Car Care

With more than two decades of experience, Andrew Almanza Sr. is oriented toward total car care

No matter what sort of car you drive, it will eventually need maintenance or repairs. But finding a good place to get it worked on isn’t always the easiest thing to accomplish. While going to a dealership is usually a reliable option, it can often be expensive, leading many to seek out a privately owned repair shop that could be less expensive, but may also lead to trouble.

Westside Auto — which, despite its name, is located in the heart of the Eastside industrial zone at 723 Reddick St. — combines dealership reliability with small-business thrift. Although Westside has been around for many years, Andrew Almanza Sr. bought the business from its original owner in 2007. Since then, he has built up an ever-increasing clientele by offering something above and beyond the typical repair shop experience.

It begins as soon as you walk through the front door of the waiting room, which is bordered by a couple of flower boxes Almanza built with his sons.

“There used to be old cars sitting there,” he said, gesturing toward an awning covering the entry. “We wanted customers to have a pleasant experience here.”

Inside, it’s clear that the building isn’t simply a business, but a place where Almanza’s family and customers spend time. His sons are into building bicycles, and are eager to chat about their latest projects — a couple of Bianchis hang on a rack in the corner of the waiting room. In the next room, Almanza’s son has his drum kit set up so that he can practice without disturbing the neighbors in their quiet Goleta neighborhood.

Almanza — an ASE-certified master technician, diesel technician and 21-year veteran of the Ford dealership’s service department — involves his whole family in the process. His oldest son, Andrew Jr., serves as the shop manager. His daughter, Andrea, takes care of books and taxes. Tony, who is still in high school, helps out around the shop. Almanza was quick to stress that the foundation of the entire operation is his wife, Mahra, who takes care of the family so they are better able to look after the shop.

“My shop is like a little dealership in that we do everything here,” he explained. “You don’t have to go anywhere else because we take care of everything.”

He added that aside from reliable workmanship, he wants to provide customers with the best service possible by offering a more personal experience. Remembering the nationwide repair coverage offered when he was working at the Ford dealership, Almanza said he wanted to provide the same kind of guarantee at his shop. A member of an insurance program called the Certified Automotive Group, customers who experience a problem after a repair has been done at his shop can go to any of the thousands of participating businesses to get it taken care of.

“If you break down in L.A., you don’t want to have to pay for a repair again,” he said, noting that he hasn’t had occasion to use the coverage, but it’s good to have just in case.

Almanza has also made sure that his shop is up to date with the latest technology. Aside from being able to perform any type of repair there, the office is equipped with the online version of the Mitchell repair guide — a comprehensive source for technical information and labor pricing that has been the industry standard for decades. Engine and transmission replacements are performed using warrantied Jasper products.

But it is how he treats people, said Almanza, that has repeatedly made return customers out of those originally lured in by Westside’s $27 oil change.

“I have what I have because I’ve been a nice person,” he said. A soft-spoken man who can usually be seen wearing a warm smile, Almanza stressed the importance of making his mechanics feel like part of the family, too. All of the apprentices he trained at the Ford dealership went on to become mechanics in their own right, and he said most occasionally call on him for advice or just to say hi from time to time.

“I let my mechanics figure stuff out on their own, but I don’t give them jobs they can’t handle, because if you lose the spirit of being a mechanic you’ll end up quitting,” he explained, adding that his wife is his motivator. “She does a lot to keep me going, keep me sane, and encourage me.”

For more information on Westside Auto Repair, 723 Reddick St., call 805.963.5053.

Noozhawk staff writer Ben Preston can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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