If the brakes on your Rolls
Royce Silver Cloud failed while you were driving near San
Diego and you saw a sign for Brake Depot
on the way to your
dealership, would you take a chance and stop?
One customer did, and he saved $3,000. Instead of paying
$8,000 to have the work done by the dealership, he paid
$5,000 and had the job done efficiently by San Diego's
newest brake specialists. He was so pleased with the work
performed that he returned to have the brakes replaced on
his second Rolls.
That's one example of the type of service that Brake Depot
provides, according to Patrick Walby, CEO. Brake Depot's
philosophy is to satisfy customers, which means listening
to them and giving them quality work at a lower price. It
also means "doing brake jobs quicker and better" than other
repair centers. Customer service means educating car owners
about how their brakes work, what regular maintenance needs
to be done and how to maintain a safe car.
was started five years ago by
two brothers Philip Walby, Patrick
Walby and a partner,
who each had retail experience. the leased a dilapidated
1915 vintage property in central San Diego that required "
a lot of sweat equity including retarring the parking lot,
fixing walls, hanging up signs and installing service
bays," says Patrick Walby, one of the brake brothers.
Both Walby brothers grew up around retailing because their
father owned a hardware store in the Detroit area. Patrick
Walby worked for retailers including Montgomery Ward, where
he learned about merchandising and inventory control
systems. His brother Phil, who is CFO, has an MBA and
handles financial operations. Their partner, John Dacey,
set up the shops because he is an experienced auto
Today that one store has grown into 25 brake shops in the
San Diego area, Orange County, Ca and Charlotte, NC. Each
store has four to eight service bays and ranges in size
from 1,800 to 15,000 sq. ft. The San Diego store is the
largest shop. It houses the corporate offices as well as a
telephone room where staff make appointments for customers
and monitor customer satisfaction with an after service
questionnaire. Parts are also warehoused there. Each Brake
is staffed by three technicians and one manager and
there are three district managers in the field who check
on the stores. Floating managers substitute for managers
San Diego was a tough market in which to start a service
business because area customers are very price conscious.
But by listening to his customers, Patrick Walby has been
able to offer more cost efficient, quality service. "We buy
our brakes from Wagner Brake Products in St. Louis, without
a middle man, which means our prices are 10 %to 20% below
other shops," Pat Walby said.
Patrick Walby decided to buy U.S. made parts because
customers weren't happy with cheaper, foreign made parts.
He talked with Raybestos and Bendix but found Wagner Brake
Products provided training seminars for mechanic and helped
What's ahead for Brake Depot? Patrick Walby hopes to expand
the operation to 1,500 stores. "We'd like to open
negotiations to form joint ventures in Phoenix AZ and Las
Vegas, NV. Setting up shops in smaller markets is easier
than dealing with the hassle of going into Los Angeles or
San Francisco markets, where capital and planning are
needed," Patrick Walby said, noting that he has recently
hired someone to attract fleet customers, including
construction companies and delivery services.
In the las few years, Brake Depot has depended on word of
mouth advertising and penny savers for promotion. As the
operation has grown more sophisticated, the company is
using direct mail and coupons, and has now begun running a
30 second TV spot on local cable and Fox network stations.
Patrick Walby believes there are no other brake specialist
like Brake Depot. competitors such as Midas Muffler or
Firestone Tire Centers fix brakes, but Patrick Walby points
out that theses shops don't help educate customers on how
to keep their brakes working longer with regular
maintenance or follow up with customers to make sure the
job was done right,