by Joshua Maloni
It's no secret Americans distrust auto mechanics. In a 2013 Gallup poll of 1,031 adults, car doctors ranked in the middle of the honesty and ethical standards in professions list - just a few notches above TV news reporters, lawyers and (gulp) members of Congress. Just 29 percent said mechanics have high or very high morals.
Frank Manarino is trying to change that perception.
The Niagara Falls resident, who recently took over Marshall Automotive & Transmission, wants to be different from others in his profession. He said the most important thing in his business is "try to just be honest to everyone."
"I don't want to be like some chain you see on every corner that's a big-name chain and they try to get you for everything because they have to meet a quota. I don't have to meet a quota," he said. "You don't know who the owner is. I like to greet people and let them feel comfortable ... not just, 'Oh, my god, I'm going to get killed in there.' "
"I think that you need to be upfront with everyone," Manarino added. "I tell people all the time, if you come in here for something, and we see that something's wrong, I'm going to tell you what's wrong. I'm not going to try to sell it to you and say, 'Listen, you've got to do this or you can't drive it anymore.'
" 'It needs attention. You don't have to do it right now, but think about it for down the road. It's a safety issue.'
"If I see something, I'll let them know. ... Because that's what we're supposed to do."
For Manarino, customer service is more than just honesty and fair prices. He can often be seen helping senior citizens into his building or giving them a ride home while their vehicle is in service.
Manarino's wife, Adell Hoover, called Marshall Automotive & Transmission, "the cleanest shop around - from a woman's perspective." More importantly, she said, customers "feel comfortable."
"When you walk in here, the guys don't make you feel like, because you're a woman, you better go get your husband really quick because they're going to, like, kind of put you in a circle.
"It's very honest here. They do whatever they can - they make everyone feel comfortable here."
Youngstown resident Melissa Fincher Mergi, one of Marshall's customers, recently emailed Frank and Adell to thank them for their service. She wrote, "Over the last few years, I have had work done on my Volvo XC70 by Marshall Transmission. Each and every time I have called for assistance with my vehicle, I have been pleasantly responded to, my questions about my car have been answered both honestly and forthrightly, and, most importantly of all, I have never been made to feel like a stranger in a strange land. I never felt like I had to 'send my husband in for me.' Things were clearly and respectfully explained. The work was done as predicted with quality products. The work done was very reasonably priced compared to quotes from other shops in the area."
Marshall Automotive & Transmission is open seven days a week, and "We do everything," Manarino said. "We cover everything from diesel engines; we cover one-ton dump trucks; small race cars. We build engines; we build transmissions. We can fix anything. Anything you have, we fix it. Electrical, brakes, transmissions, radiators, air conditioning - we cover it all."
Manarino works with mechanics Dan Lum and Maurice Connor, whom he calls "two of the best around."
"It's not some young kid fresh out of school that needs to learn," Manarino said. "These guys have got a (lot) of experience."
Lum, whose family ran a repair shop for more than three decades, said Marshall Automotive & Transmission is different because of "the quality of work that we do."
"The cleanliness of the shop. The personality of the owner, and the mechanics are very personable. It's just a nice environment to be (around)," he said. "It's fun, but yet we do things the right way. That's basically what it boils down to. It's a joy coming to work. I'm not saying that all the cars we work on are a joy ... but we get everything done that needs to be done."
Manarino's shop recently marked 50 years in business. He said his goal in taking over was to maintain former owner Jimmy Marshall's good reputation.
"We don't want to change everything. We want to keep the good name - it's always had a good name," he said.
"I think 50 years is a statement," Manarino added. "It's more of a family place. I'd like to keep it like that. We work on grandmothers' cars, and their sons, and their kids. I want to keep it like that."
Prior to taking over the shop, Manarino worked in construction for 12 years. His wife's uncle and grandfather knew Marshall, and that he sought to retire.
"It was a good opportunity for me, so I took a chance and dove right in," Manarino said.
"I came here; I liked what I saw," he said. "It was a cool-looking shop - and clean. I like clean and neat."
"It's just something different every day," Manarino added. "You never know what's going to come through the door. It's a different challenge every day. I like the feeling of, somebody comes in, they're a nervous wreck, they think it's going to cost them a million dollars, and their car's not worth it. We can fix what's wrong with it, and make them happy, and it won't cost them as much. (We'll) get them a little more life out of their vehicles."
With an attitude like that, Manarino might yet make a good name for auto mechanics.
Marshall Automotive & Transmission is located behind the Fashion Outlets Mall at 2115 Fashion Outlet Blvd., Niagara Falls. The shop is open Monday through Saturday. To make an appointment, call 716-297-0341 or 716-297-0392.