With 263,115 auto mechanics in the U.S., according to IBIS World, the $66 billion market has tough competition. That’s why when Nick and Jessica Hammer decided to open Hammers Auto Shop, they knew their customer service had to be second-to-none.
It turns out that in addition to service, engine repair runs in the family: Nick’s mom and dad, Cindy and Wayne, own Midwest Engine Service in Madison.
“It’s on Milwaukee street — so that’s been there for almost 32 years now,” Jessica Hammer said during a recent interview. “And we are — all the Hammers are — from Sun Prairie and we decided it was time to open a second location. We were ready to expand. So we opened this second location here,” she said, referring to the location on 5321 Wood Drive in Sun Prairie — just a stone’s throw from the Burke Town Hall.
The shop, which opened March 1, was doing fine until . . .
“Right away, it was great — we thought we were going to be super busy,” Nick Hammer said. “And then within a month, the COVID thing happened. And, then . . . crickets.”
Has COVID-19 really made that large of an impact?
“This road, before the COVID the thing, at 5 o’clock, it would be backed up past our driveway almost,” Nick Hammer said. “And when the COVID thing happened, you maybe saw three to four cars a day come by — it’s crazy. It’s picking up now, but it’s still not back to where it was.”
“We had a great customer base at Midwest and we were able to carry the reputation here when Nick and I started this,” Jessica Hammer said. “And so that goes down to fleet accounts too. We have a ton of fleet accounts, so that helps a lot.”
Hammers Auto provides a range of services, including under car services, alignment, brakes, tires, engine and transmission, engine maintenance, 4x4 services, heating and cooling, electrical service, electronic service, lube, marine service, loaners and miscellaneous services.
Those loaner vehicles are popular with customers, too.
“We had a woman stop last night and she was at Costco and she said, ‘my power steering’s out, I need to come there.’ And she came here and we loaded all of her groceries to a new Kia loaner, and sent her on her way. And we have her truck here,” Jessica Hammer said.
The loaners are popular with customers who don’t want to wait for service. With a location close to Prairie Lakes and the East Towne Mall shopping area, customers can use an electric loaner to run errands.
“You’d be surprised. People will want to wait for the oil change or something until they’re like, ‘Oh wait, I had to run down to Menards.’ So they zip down there and do their shopping while we’re doing their work,” Nick Hammer said. “It’s actually very nice.”
Working with one particular Prairie Lakes business has also paid off, Jessica Hammer said.
“We’re a Costco auto program certified shop,” Jessica Hammer said. “And so Costco people buy tires at Costco or whatever they need, and Costco sends them our way because they’ve gone through here, certified our shop, our team, and our equipment and sends them here to have whatever they need — mount and balance, alignments, anything else — done.”
Customer service and good customer reviews are important to Hammers Auto Service.
“Above and beyond service! Amazing work!” wrote Jeff Gill, whose comments can be found on the Hammers Auto Service website. “Highly recommended for any of your automotive needs!”
Gill isn’t the only one — recently, reviews on the Hammers Auto website included positive comments from Kathy Petrie, Harvest Chiropractic and other customers raving about the business.
Jessica Hammer said service advisor Collin talks with customers about the cost benefit of each repair.
“We’re big into if we see like a major flaw in a vehicle that’s like, ‘Hey, you should know about this before we go ahead and fix the rest of this that you brought it here for’, or we definitely will let you know,” Jessica Hammer said.
“Reviews are everything, and we try and give the quality service for everyone so we can get good reviews and have happy people and good customers who come back,” she added, “and tell everybody how amazing we are.”