Business & Real Estate

Old-fashioned automotive shop revs into 36th year

Courtesy of Jason Davis
Jim Davis Automotive last week marked 36 years of operations under owner Jim Davis. Davis, center, is flanked by BJ Correia, left, and Brian Nakai, mechanics at the shop.

A well-loved auto shop that services cars for customers all over the South Bay, including residents of Los Altos and Mountain View, hosted a celebration Nov. 8 for the man behind the muscle, Jim Davis.

Jim Davis Automotive at 3972 El Camino Real in Palo Alto boasts a 4.5-star rating on Yelp, with his perfect rating broken by a single one-star review from a Seattle woman who had a poor experience with one of the mechanics. The owner apologized personally in a response to her post.

“I’m sorry if you were spoken to in any way that came across as rude,” Davis wrote, concluding with a “sincerely.” “Please know that it was never our intention. We take great pride in our customer service, so I hope to get another shot at showing you what we’re all about.”

Several recent posts balance out the one complaint, many from customers passing through the area who selected the shop on a whim or from those who used to live near the shop and wanted to vouch for how long Davis has provided quality service.

The kudos are no surprise to Davis’ son, Jason, who described his father as a “classic.”

“(Jim) began working as a mechanic at Matador Shell gas station in 1968,” the younger Davis said on the phone as he was driving from Folsom with his own children to surprise his dad at the celebration. “He is an amazing man and has done so much for the local communities.”

Davis markets his business only by printing 8.5-inch-by-11-inch pieces of printer paper and hanging them around town, his son said.

“I don’t know if he even has a voicemail box set up,” Jason noted.

‘Good’ and ‘honest’

Los Altos resident Andy Naylor has known the Davis family since he attended Homestead High School in Sunnyvale with Jason. Naylor has been taking his cars to Jim Davis Automotive since he could drive – he did not want to admit to the length of time, as it was “too long.”

Naylor used the words “good” and “honest” to describe both Davis and his auto shop.

“A lot of times (with mechanics) you worry about what it’s really going to cost,” Naylor said. “He only repairs what he feels is necessary or would be a safety concern. You can make all of the decisions with anything that happens with the car.”

Naylor recalled how when he was young, Davis employed local high school students to help them save up money, and some of them still work there to this day.

Mountain View resident Ted Jenvey has been going to Jim Davis Automotive for several years and has anecdotes aplenty to share about the owner’s character and the way he runs his shop.

When Jenvey’s mother, a former Jim Davis Automotive customer, had a stroke a few years ago, a shop manager went straight to Davis with the news. Davis had comforting words during that hard time, leaving his role of seasoned mechanic and acting as a dear friend.

“Jim was clearly quite sad and asked me to give my mom a big hug for him,” Jenvey said. “And (he) told me if anybody could make it, it would be somebody that is as tough as my mom.”

Jermaine Hamilton has no tie to the Davis family other than being a loyal customer of the auto shop, but he too trusts Davis’ shop for the same reason as Naylor: reliable service.

“After shelling out tons of money and dealing with bad customer service from the local Jeep dealership, I realized there is a difference between technicians and mechanics,” Hamilton said. “Although they didn’t have the tools to do the repair, they are able to dig deeper than the dealership to find the cause of my car problems.”

Davis said the keys to running a successful business are consistency and caring about the well-being of both customers and employees.

“I just received a phone call yesterday from an ex-employee who now lives in Hawaii,” the elder Davis said. “He’s doing well and it makes me so proud. That’s sort of what keeps you going. That, and old customers who come back after 36 years just to say hello.”

To celebrate his more than three decades under the hood, Davis made signs to hang in his shop welcoming all, customer or not, to join him for coffee, donuts, sandwiches, cookies and pizza.

“I really try to accommodate the businesses here,” Davis said of his Barron Park neighborhood, after an animated command to “buy local.”

To mark his 36th anniversary, Davis priced gas for the day at $3.60 per gallon.

“I’m waiting to see if anyone notices,” he said.

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