Streets of Gold: Shurway AutoCenter Ltd. - BodyShop Business

Streets of Gold: Shurway AutoCenter Ltd.

Name: Shurway
AutoCenter Ltd.

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Owner: Giovanni
"John" Scarfo


Square Footage:

Number of Employees:

Repair Volume:
150 cars per month

When the first immigrants arrived at Ellis
Island, they believed the streets of America were paved with gold.
Obviously, they weren’t truly paved in a precious metal. But,
to the millions of people crowding the decks of docking steamers,
America was the land of plenty, the land of opportunity.

Visiting the United States for the first time
in 1966 and with no intentions of making it his home, Giovanni
"John" Scarfo saw his opportunity in a ribbon of endless
highway paved in concrete and clustered with automobiles.

The Italian-American mechanic started an auto
repair business after a meaningful encounter altered his traveling
plans. "I met my wife, and I decided to stay," he says.
Three years later, he opened his first body shop, followed by
Shurway AutoCenter Ltd. in 1981. Today, the 17,500-square-foot,
20-person shop repairs an average of 150 cars per month.

The secret to John’s success? "Keeping
an eye out for future technology and trends," he says, adding
that he also keeps his feet grounded in what he calls "traditional
values": hard work and a dedication to customers and family.

Family Heritage

There’s no mistaking that Shurway is a family
business. Scarfo’s son, Frank, is shop manager; son, Sal, oversees
the shop’s corporate accounts; daughters Cathy and Enza take care
of office operations; and Enza’s husband, Vinny, runs the shop’s
mechanical area.

And there’s plenty to keep the entire family
busy. Shurway’s work volume is a virtual "melding pot"
of domestic, Japanese and European vehicles. The local Volvo and
Honda dealers sublet work to Shurway, which also has corporate
agreements with a rental-car company and a major local utility,
along with direct repair programs for two insurance


Though Scarfo no longer works on the vehicles
– "When I started, I did it all," he says. "I was
the worker and the helper." – he keeps busy supervising the
shop, writing estimates and dealing with customers.

Keeping With the Times

Before coming to America, Scarfo studied industrial
mechanics in France and worked in the European automotive repair
industry. With that experience and ample opportunity in the land
of plenty, it made sense, he says, to go into the body repair
business here in America.

"It’s a beautiful business," he
says. "I like it because it’s very creative, but it’s not
an easy business. Years ago, there were less electronics; now
there’s all this new equipment."

The equipment at Shurway AutoCenter includes
three Car-O-Liner benches, one Blackhawk bench, an FMC wheel-alignment
machine, a Titan lift and a WelBilt vacuum system. Estimating
is fully computerized using the CCC estimating system.

To keep himself, his family and the rest of
the technicians up to date on the latest equipment and techniques,
John sends his employees to manufacturer training programs and
I-CAR classes.

"I like to be updated on all the latest
equipment and techniques," says John. "I don’t like
to wait too long to be able to do the best job possible."

Art in the Making

The shop’s painters handle the diversity of
passenger cars and vans using only DuPont products supplied by
their jobber, Midwood Auto Body Supply in Brooklyn. All the painters
have attended the DuPont Refinish Training Course and are I-CAR
Gold trained and ASE certified.

Because 90 percent of Shurway’s business is
color matching collision repairs, it’s vital that the shop get
color right. The painters mix their own paint using a MasterTint
mixing machine, and Shurway also has two WelBilt downdraft prep
stations and spraybooths with forced drying, which can accommodate
four cars.

Once a vehicle is prepped, one of Shurway’s
painters sprays two medium coats of paint in a north-south pattern,
and then applies a clearcoat. The low-VOC paint system Shurway’s
painters use helps the shop comply with state and federal regulations.

After painting is complete, vehicles are then
detailed inside and out, which includes an interior vacuuming
and a wipe down.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Customer satisfaction is one reason why Shurway
became one of the first shops in New York City to earn DuPont’s
Assurance of Quality (AOQ) Certification. Since becoming an AOQ
shop in 1992, Shurway has consistently achieved 90 percent plus
customer-satisfaction index ratings. And while the shop has yet
to have a claim written against the DuPont warranty, it has experienced
the warranty’s power as a marketing tool.

"We recently had a customer who lived
in Wilmington, Del., and was in an accident here in Brooklyn,"
says Frank. "The customer was concerned about having the
work done so far from home, but once I explained that the warranty
applied anywhere in the country – and since he was familiar with
DuPont’s reputation – he let us do the repair."

But Shurway takes this warranty one step further.
"We guarantee all our work for the life of the car,"
says Scarfo. "In this business, our reputation is everything."

Relying on that reputation to bring in repeat
customers and referrals, Scarfo puts little emphasis on advertising.
"People look for a repair shop only after they have an accident,
so they go more by recommendations than something they saw in
a newspaper," he says. "They listen to friends and neighbors."

From Sea to Shining Sea

Modern America is nothing like the one first
seen by the immigrants as they reached the shores of New York
years ago. Cities have grown, populations have boomed and technology
has advanced far beyond anyone’s expectations.

The same is true for the collision repair
industry – new shops are constantly created, new technicians are
trained daily and new equipment is quickly manufactured.

All that is fine by Scarfo. "Thank goodness
we’re in an industry where things are happening all the time,"
he says. "I like progress. I don’t like to stay still and
let things happen."

Progress forced Ellis Island to be converted
to a tourist attraction decades ago. But for many shop owners,
like Scarfo, the ribbons of American highway are still paved with
gold – and wrecked cars.

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