We just hosted our very first open house at New Concept Auto Service on October 13. The event was a fun success for both our visitors and employees. We invited customers, Overland Park AAA members in the area, folks from my BNI networking group, and our church. My wife Polly did a masterful job of planning this first-time event, with help from our social media right arm, Traci Matt. Newton Graves showed up with his 1988 Mustang GT convertible that we have been servicing since 1997. Dennis Engel brought his high visibility orange 1970 VW Super Beetle.
We literally rolled out the red carpet. As people arrived, they saw the new, colorful, full-size shop scenes which filled the front windows. They were greeted by Service Advisor Phil Perez, who gave them nametags and entered them for door prizes. He also gave each person a “Name That Part!” game form to win a prize if they correctly identified a specific car part, along with a New Concept pink pen in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Upon entering the shop, they saw a Toyota Avalon six feet in the air exposing the underside of the car. There were tags wired to various car parts, most of them identifying the part, but three which simply said “Name That Part!” Two bays down was a Toyota Corolla with the hood up, showing various tagged parts such as the radiator, alternator, air filter, etc., along with five more “Name That Part!” tags. Small groups of men, women and children formed under and around these two cars, discussing the names of these more obscure parts. Technician Gary Parker was there to answer questions and even give a few hints about the mystery parts. One woman was overheard correcting her husband about where the fuel filter was. She went on to remind him that her father and uncle were mechanics, as she correctly pointed out where the steering tie rod was located.
Next the group proceeded to the Ford Focus which was running and wired to a secondary ignition scope, showing the spark plugs firing on a small monitor. It tells you how healthy each cylinder is and how strong the ignition system is. One elderly woman said to her husband, “Look honey, that’s my heart on an EKG machine.” A second lab scope showed a CAM sensor signal which tells the car’s computer when to activate the fuel injectors. The signal produces a precise and vital spike that occurs approximately 40 times per second on the highway! Wow! A scanner was connected directly into the car’s computer or “brain box” and was reading hundreds of thousands of bits of information per second. From the amount of oxygen in the exhaust to when the brake pedal is depressed, it processes the inputs, and makes decisions in the form of outputs. All this data needs to be analyzed and interpreted by our Overland Park automotive technicians to get your car to run properly. Technician Steve Kim was there to demonstrate and explain the process. People were amazed at the technology.
Meanwhile, Gary demonstrated how to balance a tire on a spinning tire balancer. One visitor, Geoff Vontz, said “I had no idea what balancing a tire meant—why just a one-ounce lead weight could make your steering stop shaking at 65 mph.” I explained to him the difference between high and low quality tires, in that the better the tire, the less weight is required, and the rounder they are. Not all tires are round (I tell people you CAN balance a square, but just end up with a balanced, spinning square). So buy good quality tires. Seven-year-old Henry, holding a LEGO race truck, stood in amazement as the technician explained step-by-step how to balance a tire. Henry continued to spin the tiny LEGO tires afterwards.
Our growing crowd of participants moved into the parts room, converted to buffet. The lunch menu was simple–smoked pork, dill potato salad, coleslaw and cowboy baked beans, prepared by my wife Polly and son Lee. My sister Margaret joined us to serve the food and share stories about our father Paul Rupp Sr., who owned a farm implement dealership in Western Kansas, where I got my knack for business.
After lunch we drew names for the “Name That Part!” prize winners—“CAT converter” being the easiest to identify and “evaporative emissions canister” the most difficult. The most creative guesses included doo-flingy and springy-thing. Prizes included oft coveted car-related items such as a large MAG lite flashlight, a California Duster and a Snap-on model racecar (won by a 10-year-old boy who is predicted to be a future gearhead). Not to be outdone by the men, two of the eight winners were women. Lastly, we drew for door prizes, including a gift certificate to PetSmart, won by dog fanatic Kevin Bainter.
All in all, it turned out bigger and even more fun than expected. Severe storm predictions threatened to keep everyone at home, yet we were thrilled to see more than 50 guests during the three hours—just enough time for me to talk to nearly everyone.
Polly and Paul pose one more time before collapsing from exhaustion.