Honest work and quality service
By Jack Criss
The Bolivar Bullet
In the auto repair business since the early 70s when family patriarch Thomas Runnels first opened shop in Benoit, Runnels Garage has remained a trustworthy, multi-generational business: “Trustworthy” being the key and operative word. Now located in Cleveland, Runnels Garage is currently owned by Thomas’ son, Kenny Runnels, who also has his middle son, Trevor, working alongside him.
“We moved the business to Cleveland 25 years ago,” said Kenny Runnels. “And, I took over when my dad retired about 15 years back. He was a self-taught mechanic. He still pops in the shop every now and then to give a little advice or run some errands for us.”
Kenny said he gained his automotive repair experience not only from his dad, but also by putting in seven years work at a local Goodyear store.
“Really, though, from the time I could pick up a wrench I was helping my dad out so you could say this business is in my blood,” said Runnels.
Besides son Trevor, Runnels said the shop crew also includes Adam Borne, Jr., who started work at the garage about a year ago.
“Adam’s been around cars all his life, too,” said Runnels. “We’re a small staff, but we know what we’re doing and pride ourselves in being completely honest and upfront at the start with our customers. I can tell you from personal experience that other shops, especially the chains, push preventive maintenance and are all about increasing revenue. Now, if we see something wrong with a car, something besides what the customer came in for originally, we do feel obliged to point the problem out–but we never pressure folks. I’ll also tell a customer the truth about those problems. For instance, I might tell them they still have some time left to repair their brakes or tires or whatever else might need work. I make the guys look over every car that comes in thoroughly–but only because we don’t want a customer leaving and have a new issue come up with the vehicle with them not knowing anything about it. We give every car that comes in–for whatever reason–a type of ‘physical’ but leave the decision on what to do about any problems to the customer. You’ll never catch us putting a part on a car and making a repair without calling and asking permission first.”
Runnels Garage has been in business as long as it has due to word of mouth, said Runnels.
“We really have never done any advertising–we never had the need,” he explained. “If you treat people right and do good work, they’ll let their friends and family know and you’ll gain loyalty and trust. I give a one-year warranty on our labor in most cases and cover the life of the part; we don’t pass along extra costs to the customer.”
Runnels said they can service any automobile and they have the latest technology in-house.
“Some of the Mercedes, Audi and BMW electrical work might limit us slightly,” said Runnels. “But, we can handle basic maintenance on any vehicle, including those.”
As an example of the businesses’ reputation for customer trust, Runnels mentioned a recent female client who had just moved to Cleveland from the Memphis area.
“Our shop had been recommended to her and she brought in her car and actually asked us to give it a good going-over. She told us later that she was not used to our type of service, even something as basic as us giving her a ride back to work–she wasn’t used to that. This particular lady has used us a few times now and that sums up what we’re about: honesty and treating our customers decently. I want to make a living, sure–but I want to do it the right way,” said Runnels.
His favorite car to work on?
“I guess I’d have to say General Motors cars,” answered Runnels. “They’re easy to work on and I like the brand. I also enjoy working on Toyota vehicles, to be honest.”
The oddest or most unusual car they have ever worked on?”
“An Austin-Healey,” laughed Runnels. “It needed a brake job, but the owner didn’t want to take his ‘baby’ to a dealership–which would have been a long haul since there are not that many around here. We ended up fixing it for him. Had to order some parts which took a few days but we got the job done and he was satisfied.”
Runnels said he will always take care of the people who entrust the care of their cars to him.
“You can’t always make everybody happy,” he said. “But, you can sure try — and we do. We appreciate the loyalty of our customers all over the area, and Delta State students and faculty have been especially good to us. Gaining the confidence of people is important to us–and we’ll do all we can to get them on the road safely.”
Runnels Garage is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and is located at 3301 Hwy. 8 West. Their phone number is 662-846-6099.