“Jewelry, pottery, wood-burned art – what we get is a lot of people coming in just to check out our gallery, and then they become clients.”
This repair shop’s waiting room is a work of art.
Browse acrylic landscapes. Sip a local red wine. Enjoy snacks while working from the free Wi-Fi. Peruse a silversmith’s latest necklace collection. Let the art gallery atmosphere drown out the zip-zoom of impact wrenches in the repair bays next door.
Down the road from an art studio, a blacksmith and a ceramics studio stands CoAuto, the nine-bay car maintenance shop with a sign out front that reads “Art Gallery Open. Come In!”
And you should. CoAuto’s waiting room will have you rethink everything you know about lobbies.
“You ought to see this place. It’s just amazing to see. Murals on the wall, beautiful counters, floors and lighting. It’s very modern or San Francisco,” said Interstate Batteries Distributor Gary Krupp. He supplies auto repair across shops in west Nevada with batteries. Some of his dealers are so clean, “you could eat off their floor, but this place is just unreal. People go in just to see it.”
Owned by brothers and business partners Vinnie and Anthony Lucido, this auto repair shop in northwest Reno, Nev., rose above entries from the US and Canada to win “Best Waiting Area” from the Automotive Service Association, the non-profit trade association supporting independently owned repair garages.
“We’re on a pretty artsy road as it is. On day one, we knew we would have art in our waiting room,” Vinnie said, himself an artist and collaborative businessman eager to give wall space to local artists. “CoAuto always meant community conscious, and within that, we wanted to develop as many avenues as possible to explore unity.”
Getting to know customers and the community has been one of the keys to CoAuto’s success. CoAuto lives up to its name by fostering more than good car repair. It’s been open for five years (installing Interstate Batteries for two of them,) and it’s grown non-stop to today’s 7,000-square-foot shop – largely because of its community-conscious values.
And of course, the owners stay active in Reno’s arts scene.
“Their support of community and local artists is evident in the artwork on display. It results in an experience that creates a beautiful and uplifting environment while waiting,” said Leona Dalavai Scott, Automotive Service Association’s director of marketing and communications. “Who wouldn’t want to walk into such a bright and positive place?”
For Vinnie, that’s precisely the point. According to a 2018 automotive service industry study, time spent waiting in the lobby is the top consumer frustration, whether it’s waiting for a service to finish or waiting in line.
Here’s how CoAuto’s owners solved it.
A busy day? No, just a mixer with the Reno Chamber of
Commerce. Could your waiting area do the same? | CoAuto
CoAuto hosts 20-30 artists’ work in its rotating art gallery/waiting room. The owners take no commissions from artwork sales – and they’ve sold plenty of pieces – and make an effort to feature offer exposure to up-and-coming artists, jewelry-makers, sculptors and painters.
In exchange, CoAuto grabs more foot traffic than you’d expect – and from a younger crowd, mostly women 35 years old or younger.
“Jewelry, pottery, wood-burned art – what we get is a lot of people coming in just to check out our gallery, and then they become clients,” Vinnie said. “People walking by come in, stick around for a few hours, and they didn’t even know we’re a repair garage.”
The lobby experience (it’s hard to call the gallery “a waiting area”) is on par with a sophisticated emerging in car dealerships eager to build on their service lane business. Some are offering amenities that go above and beyond a coffee pod machine and cable TV. A recent New York Times article depicts waiting rooms with masseuses, movie theaters and fine dining restaurants offering grilled salmon and blackened chicken – that you can work off at their complimentary fitness center.
How can independent businesses compete?
Well, this shop in Northwest Reno is – and showing other repair garages how.
“We’re getting more clientele because of the gallery,” Vinnie said. “With a professional interior and a clean waiting area, clients can see the professionalism. In their mind, it just transcribes onto the work you’re doing in the garage.”
The art gallery and community involvement create the kind of customer-catching experience usually reserved for dealership lobby areas. And Vinnie said he loves it when he hears about a nearby repair shop trying an art exhibit in their lobby.
“CoAuto knows how to create a satisfying customer experience, and their waiting room is a perfect example,” said Leona. “They get the everyday details right such as free Wi-Fi and coffee but take it up several notches by providing snacks and even wine!”
Massive square footage. A snappy logo. Expensive satellite cable. Even wine on tap.
All worthless for your business compared to the power of connecting to your community.
“Build relationships,” Vinnie said, relaying advice he gives to anyone who asks. “That’s what I talk about to any auto repair shop or, frankly, anyone wanting to grow their business. Build relationships, get involved in your community, and you’ll grow your business through community engagement.”
Five years ago, their lobby wasn’t big enough to host more than one or two artists. Vinnie took orders through a tiny window while his brother worked the garage. Thanks to their vision of a community-conscious auto repair shop, they invested time and creativity with Rochelle to develop programs to connect their business deeper in the community, such as their high school internships and car care clinics. Another major program from day one was giving cars away to a local veteran through the Veteran Resource Center of Nevada. The car giveaway is an investment of time, parts and labor – into the community. And for the veterans and their families, CoAuto’s care is a blessing.
CoAuto’s other programs – a gift card referral giveaway, a vegetables co-op for his employees and whatever tomorrow may bring – come from Vinnie and Anthony’s creativity and willingness to make deeper connections in their community. When you’ve written down your personal and business goals, take a long look around and ask yourself “Who can help me get there?”
Getting two businesses to cooperate may seem awkward or intimidating. Vinnie’s advice is to keep an open mind and be willing to do something different. Work out the details. Go halfway with someone and encourage them to come halfway with you, because together your shop and your community partner may develop something no one’s ever heard of before.
Like an art gallery inside an auto repair shop.
“Make relationships and build on them. We’re definitely adapting to the new generation. And they’re digital, so if you’re not good at something, find someone who is, then create a culture and a team that supports your vision,” Vinnie said.
“Nobody in my city does what we do. Now finally, some people are starting to adapt. I love being the shop that raises the bar and I love giving hope to new business owners.”
Reno’s mayor welcomed CoAuto’s new shop owners and brothers Vinnie Lucido and Anthony Lucido, right, to the community. | Photo: Michael Lucido.
All photos taken by Michael Lucido, owner of Eighty8 Studios, unless otherwise credited.