Jackson — It doesn’t seem like 27 years since Richard Morris opened his auto repair shop, but now as he begins to contemplate turning the business over in a few years to his son, he’s comfortable with this plan.
“I want to leave it with someone I trust that knows how to talk with customers,” Richard, 57, said of his son, Michael, co-owner of Morris & Son Import and Domestic Auto Repair and Service, which opened in 1978.
And, customer satisfaction is what Richard has instilled in 30-year-old Michael, who said his father is the kind of person with whom anyone would want to work.
“He’s very people oriented,” Michael said. “He loves to help others, and honestly, I sometimes have to make him charge for our services.”
Services at Morris & Son, on U.S. 80 at the Jackson-Clinton city limits, include everything from brake, fuel injection and wiring repairs to computer electronics, heating and air conditioning and major engine work. Both claim that their prices are already 40% to 50% less than at car dealerships, and with a satisfied customer base the two now see 10 to 12 cars come into its garage each day.
Richard said, “My goal is for the customer to leave happy and pleased with the work we’ve done. I want them to tell others about it.”
Two decades of satisfaction
One customer, Donna Hardin of Clinton, has been satisfied with Morris & Son for more than 20 years.
Hardin said, “They are very honest and dependable. They shoot you straight and will do a good job every time.”
Word of mouth has definitely been the best advertisement over the years, according to Richard, who said he’s tried every advertising gimmick from t-shirts to the Yellow Pages.
“When I did buy advertising, I’d only see about $1,000 worth of business out of the $10,000 I’d spent,” Richard said.
Being a small family establishment, Richard said he and Michael can’t seem to leave the work at the office at the end of the day, but they do try to find time to get away. Each trusts the other to keep things running smoothly when one decides to take a vacation.
A Harley-Davidson owner, Richard said he puts work at the back of his mind when he heads out into the blue on Saturday mornings with other Clinton motorcycle owners.
He also has peace of mind because of his five dependable employees, ranging in age from 21 to 60, and their auto repair knowledge, which aids in maintaining a successful and respected business.
“The young people that work here come in with more computer skills,” Richard said of the technology that continuously changes in their line of work.
Also, consistently rising are the prices of equipment. According to Richard, a small hand-held device that went for $40 about 15 years ago, can now carry a price tag of $8,000 to $10,000.
“Each year the manufacturers are changing something on the vehicle — especially computer systems. We have to have the right diagnostic equipment to read these,” he explained.
An early start
Keeping up with the auto repair industry and its trends has been in Richard’s blood since he was 14 years old. His stepfather started him out in the business when deciding to open a shop in the backyard.
Richard worked with someone outside the family only once before venturing out on his own.
He said, “I just didn’t like the way he did things, and I said to myself, ‘I can do better than this.’ Of course, I almost starved to death the first six months.”
But after that, along with new customer faces, Richard began seeing repeat clients who were also recommending Morris & Son to their friends.
“It seems just like yesterday that I opened with a desk, chair and gravel parking lot,” said Richard, who doesn’t plan to ever leave the business completely.
And, his son Michael doesn’t want his dad to make himself scarce.
“We’ve been doing really well working together for 12 years. We’ve been successful, and I’m not planning on making any changes,” Michael said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Harriet S. Vickers at email@example.com.