FAIRFIELD — Railroad Avenue Autoworks is the true definition of locally owned and operated.
Owner David Castillo, born and raised in the Fairfield area, took the reins of the company 25 years ago and brought on his wife, Jan, 23 years ago when they married.
“It all started when my dad was a mechanic,” David Castillo said. “I’m not sure that was the main reason why, but I’m sure it had something to do with it. In high school, auto shop was a big thing. I liked auto shop and I liked working on cars. I got to be pretty good friends with the auto shop teacher (at Armijo High School).
“One day, some guys came in from the automotive school in Arizona, Universal Technical Institute, and they left some brochures and stuff. I talked to my parents and I wound up going there. That’s how I got started.”
As for this duo’s secret of success lasting in the auto repair business for 25 years?
“I’m not sure if there is such a secret,” David Castillo said. “I think a large part of it is dealing with the customers and trying to make them feel at home here. I think we do a good job doing that. We like to say we treat customers the way we would want to be treated when I walk into their business. I would like to be treated fairly, nicely, speak with the customers.
“I have a lot of customers that have been coming here for almost 25 years. A lot of them have died off because I’ve been here 25 years and a lot of them were older to begin with. I still have quite a few and some of them are kind of like family. They ask about my kids, they’ve known me since my kids have been born, and ask how they’re doing in school, stuff like that. We have quite a few customers that have been here almost since day one.”
The Castillos’ business has grown over the past quarter-century.
“It started with me by myself,” Castillo said. “I had about half the size of shop that I have now. Then I took on a mechanic and then I took on a service writer. It’s kind of grown and then came back down a little. At one point, I think I had five or six mechanics. Now there’s two mechanics and myself. My brother (Henry) is the service writer, handling all the phones. My wife does all the bookkeeping, she’s a trained accountant. She makes sure all that stuff gets taken care of.”
Being a locally owned business, loyal customers and their referrals are key.
“We do other advertising, like everybody else does, with the Daily Republic and with the Yellow Pages,” Castillo said. “But a big part of my business is making connections and having customers that refer other people. There are so many people who come in the door that have been referred by whoever else. It’s all about getting to know your customers and talking with them and having them refer people to us. That’s big.
“You have to be totally honest with (customers). You have to make them feel comfortable with you when they walk in the door. A lot of them already have this idea of what mechanics are like and how they’ve been treated at other places. Mechanics kind of get a bad rap. We just want them to be comfortable and that I’ll do my best. I can’t please everyone who walks in the door, but I try.”
Working together as husband and wife is a perfect fit for the Castillos.
“She was worried about that at first,” David Castillo said. “She thought that might be a little bit of a problem, but it hasn’t been.”
“I told him when we were first going to do it that if it was going to be any problem at all then I didn’t want to work here because it wasn’t worth risking or making your marriage bad over it and it has not,” Jan Castillo said. “It works really well, I think.”
Well enough to last 25 years.
Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.
Railroad Avenue Autoworks
Address: 605A Railroad Ave., Fairfield