Forty-five minutes before closing time on a Monday afternoon, about 10 technicians dot the expansive shop floor, engrossed in their repairs. The blue beams and concrete floor seem to run on endlessly, bay after bay, everything startlingly clean.
What with the cleanliness and the technologically advanced machinery, this repair shop has an assembly plant vibe. Nowhere is the tired and greasy clutter you might expect at your typical mechanic’s garage.
Walking along between the bays, Douglas Addington points out the wash area partitioned by curtains from the rest of the shop. Before vehicles go back to their owners, they get a bath. As for the floors, they’re scrubbed a section at a time each day.
Here at 280 N. Hubbards Lane, the cleanliness could rightly be interpreted as a metaphor for the way St. Matthews Imports does business.
“We’ve always built ourselves on transparency,” says Douglas, the CEO.
The company also has collision centers in St. Matthews at 4164 Westport Road and in the East End at 11400 Westport Road, where they also provide boat sales and service.
“There’s a lot of bad rap and mistrust in this industry, and we fully understand that,” says Sheila Addington, Douglas’s cousin and the company’s CFO. “And we probably work a little extra hard because we understand that that’s a possibility. I mean, there are people all over the world that don’t have a lot of ethics, and we try to be a shining exception to that.”
Practically speaking, that means instead of trying to sell you a part or service you don’t need, the staff at St. Matthews Imports will give you all the information. They’ll tell you the truth about what’s going on with your vehicle so you can make an informed decision.
And if your car is nearing the end of its life?
“We’ll try to get you back on the road,” Douglas says, “but we’re going to say, ‘Hey, the laundry list on this car is pretty long. What’s your intent for this car? What are your needs?’”
“We were raised to care about what we do,” says Sheila, “and to care about the people that we do it for. And so when I run into a customer across the street at Kroger on the weekend, it always feels nice to be able to say hi to them and to know that whatever service we did for them, we did it with their best interest in mind – trying to really help them get the most out of their automotive investment.”
Sheila and Douglas’s upbringing has a lot to do with how they run things. Along with co-owners Jenny Pfifer, Aaron Coleman and Tim Addington, the cousins assumed ownership of the business about three and a half years ago.
Sheila and Douglas are carrying on a legacy started in 1969 by their fathers, Ron and Archie Addington, respectively, and their fathers’ friend, Doug Coleman. The three founders hailed from Eastern Kentucky and had served in the National Guard.
Aside from coal mining, the career options in their hometown were scarce, so they moved to the big city.
“By 1969, they had decided that they wanted to take their future in their own hands,” Douglas says, “and so they started a service shop over on St. Matthews Avenue.”
Now with three locations and about 70 employees, today’s St. Matthews Imports is still very much a family-and-friends operation.
“We can walk through this building,” Douglas says, “and there’s lots of tenures over 15 to 20 years. [There are] some younger people, too, but we’ve just grown very close. We treat people inside and out like family.”
So the scrupulous hush on the late-afternoon shop floor is a means to a greater end.
Douglas sums it up succinctly: “We’re in business to fix the car, but we’re really in business to take care of our people.” VT
For more information, call the Hubbards Lane location at 502.896.0305 or visit smiky.com.