WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Clyde George has operated his automotive repair business by one simple philosophy for exactly 50 years as of Friday — “doing what the customer needs, and nothing else,” according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
The business strategy has sustained B&C Auto Service, at 855 Northwest Blvd., through good and poor economic times, technological upgrades and industry transformations, and through the closing of the garage doors of many competitors and friends.
It continues to resonate with George’s customers, as evident by the hundreds — some three generations full — who braved the rain to share in the 50th anniversary celebration, complete with hot dogs and ice cream.
Although many customers presented George with gifts and mementos, hugs and hearty handshakes, he tried his best to make the event as much about their loyalty as about his longevity. George started his own business at a gas station garage at age 20, and moved to his present location in 1982.
“It’s been a great ride, and it’s clear we’ve been very blessed to have had the employees who’ve been with us decades in some instances,” George said. “I never thought about being in business 50 years, otherwise I would have written some of this stuff down.
“When you are straightforward and honest with customers, treat them fairly and with respect, they tend to go away satisfied, come back when they need more help, and spread the word about you along the way.”
Ronnie Phelps, who has been with George for 32 years, said he can vouch for B&C’s dependence on word of mouth advertising.
“Except for what he’s put into the Yellow Pages, he hasn’t bought any advertising over the years,” Phelps said.
Pointing to the crowd of customers in the garage, Phelps added, “that’s got to tell you something of the respect Clyde has in the community.”
“He’s been a fantastic man to work for. He’s always been the kind to take the time to figure out what’s going on with a car rather than just slap a new part in it and tell the customer ‘he hopes it works.’”
Joining the celebration was Bob May, a former competitor down the street at Bob May’s Auto ServiCenter whose nearly 35 years in business seems like nothing compared with George. May closed his shop in March 2013 for health reasons.
In a sign of respect, May brings much of his own repair and maintenance work to George.
“Clyde has been a trusted friend, and we have assisted each other over the 35 years we competed,” May said.
“Clyde, like ourselves, has thrived because we provide a personal touch to our work, showing understanding and compassion knowing what many people are going through in those tumultuous times when their car fails.”
Anyone who knows George would nod and smile when he said he has no plans to retire or even slow down. Phelps said he would not be surprised if George spent his final days in the shop.
That said, George is preparing for an eventual handoff of the business to his grandsons, Michael Murphy, 23, and Jesse Berry, 19. Both have been involved with the shop for several years and appear to have grease in their veins as well.
Berry said one of his earliest memories is trying to work on a motorized Hot Wheels vehicle with a ruler and an adjustable wrench.
“It is crazy to even think someone my age could own their own repair shop, much less build something so successful for so long,” Berry said about his grandfather. “The number of people he has touched is also pretty crazy. It’s so cool to be able to see him help someone whose car is broken down — someone he may have never met before — and they leave the shop happy and glad to have met him.”
Berry said “there are definitely some big shoes to fill. It’ll take a lot of work and patience to build up the confidence in us that customers have shown to my grandfather.”
George said the lean years taught him the importance of valuing customers’ time and finances.
“There’s been times when a customer came in knowing they needed their car fixed, but also knowing they couldn’t pay for it all,” George said. “My beliefs have been that there are other ways to give to your community than to a church or a foundation, as worthy as those are.
“God takes care of those who take care of others.”