“Serving the customer is in my blood,” says Stan Guardino. The owner of Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care at 8259 Midlothian Turnpike has been serving customers since he was ten, working with his parents in their mom & pop grocery store.
Now 50, Stan says he can’t imagine doing anything else. “I enjoy working and having satisfied customers,” he says.
Stan says he learned about hard work, long hours and customer service from his parents in their grocery store. “The store was our life,” he recalls. “Our house was right next door to the business, so we were there all the time. It’s what customers expected.”
At 18, Stan left the store to attend Virginia Commonwealth University, where he earned a degree in business. He worked in the financial business for several years, until he left to work at a tire retail and service business with outlets in Richmond and Roanoke. He started as a front counter man, selling tires, writing up service orders and handling customer service. Eventually, he became the manager.
About 12 years ago, Stan decided he was ready to run his own business. With his parents, he looked for business opportunities and found a Cottman center that was for sale. In September of 2004, the Guardino family bought the business.
Stan reached out to his contacts and clients from his time at the tire shop and found many customers for his new business. Putting emphasis on quality work and outstanding customer service has been the key to his shop’s steady growth, he says.
“I don’t mind putting in 10 or 12 hours a day at the shop,” Stan says. “The days were much longer when we had the grocery store, so long days at my Cottman center are a piece of cake.” He likes to personally handle dealings with the customers, so he usually can be found manning the front counter. “It makes difference when customers can interact directly with the owner of the business,” he notes.
The Cottman center sponsors a local race car driver, 72-year old Woody Ellington. “Woody races at our local track, Southside Speedway. We help him keep the car running competitively,” Stan says.
Stan says he learned about hard work and customer service from his parents. His father, Stan Sr., works at the center. After selling the grocery store, Stan Sr. was a tool man, selling for ProTools. So it was an easy transition into the car care business and Stan’s mother, Barbara, worked at Firestone for 18 years.
Stan’s son, Chase, helps at the center when he’s not at college, following in Stan’s footsteps studying business at Virginia Commonwealth.
“Whatever field he goes into,” Stan says, “I know he’ll understand the value of hard work and the importance of putting the customer first. It’s in his blood, I’m sure.”