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Chamber of Commerce President Eric Fiebelkorn presents the scissors for the ribbon cutting to certified AutoBrokers' co-owners Travis Smith and Chris Taylor.
Chamber of Commerce President Eric Fiebelkorn presents the scissors for the ribbon cutting to certified AutoBrokers' co-owners Travis Smith and Chris Taylor.

Certified AutoBrokers: Providing service from a servant's heart

Sat, Jul 30th 2022 07:00 am

Story and photo by Alice Gerard

Chris Taylor, who co-owns Certified AutoBrokers, 1693 Grand Island Blvd., with Travis Smith, said that his business, which recently expanded, has experienced tremendous growth and that he believes that it has great potential for continued growth in the future.

“We hope to grow this facility to its maximum capacity. There’s a point where we will be at capacity. We still have a long way to go. We can sell a lot more cars,” Taylor said.

The continued growth of Certified AutoBrokers was celebrated at its June 17 ribbon cutting. The party that occurred that day went far beyond expectations, Taylor said, explaining, “By our estimates, we were a little bit north of 300 at the actual event, and I don’t think that we anticipated that. It was a wonderful surprise, and it went really well.”

 Taylor said that that he anticipated that the service department would lead the facility’s growth. “Everybody sees the front, but they don’t necessarily see the back. The back is by far the largest square footage portion of this operation. We’re developing a state-of-the-art service facility that will be kind of unmatched by anybody, whether they sell new or used vehicles, anywhere. You come here, and our service department’s top of the line,” Taylor said.

Technology is the key to the future of automobile service, Taylor said. “Our service department has a concierge service so we can pick up and drop off your vehicle. One of the things that people don’t want to do is to come to the service department. If you’re home or you work on the Island, we will come to pick up your car.

“Some of the complications of that is how do you discuss what the car needs when the car needs it? We use a video chat service. You can be at work. We will come and pick up your car. We’re working on your car and let’s say your car needs front brakes, we’ll actually send you a video showing you the brake pads and where they measure at. We might say, ‘Hey, we’re doing the oil change, and we see you need front brakes.’ You can make that decision. You can text, ‘please go ahead’ or ‘I’m going to wait it out until my next oil change’ and no problem. We’re trying to make it as simple and as easy as possible. Time is not on anybody’s side these days.”

The service department will work with any car owner, whether or not they purchased a vehicle from Certified AutoBrokers. “For instance, some people might buy a car from wherever,” Taylor said. “Let’s say you buy a new car. The average customer keeps a car for five years. While it’s under warranty, you might take it back to the dealer. For basic maintenance, we can do everything that a car dealership can, with the exception of manufacturer recalls. We can do it all here. We report the same way they do so your warranty and all that is kept intact. We just truly believe that we’re providing better service. Our number one goal is just to knock everybody’s socks off with exceptional service. I think that we’ve lost that in the car business in a lot of places. They expect you to come back. We will earn your business.”

Certified AutoBrokers has worked at earning customers’ business since its start in 2011, Taylor said. They first opened in a former real estate office at 1693 Grand Island Blvd. “It was a gravel lot when we started. We expanded the lot. Then we expanded the facility by adding the service facility in the back of it. When we did that, we also expanded the lot further. In the third phase, we did a big remodel of the interior and some exterior changes of that building. Actually, that was a very small job for our developer, Ledge Creek Development. It’s an amazing general contracting company. About the time we were completing the remodel, the plaza, this property we’re on now, was up for sale. And it sold before we had the opportunity to buy it. The deal fell through, thankfully. We saw that as a sign and decided that we would go ahead and make an offer. That offer was accepted, and we were very happy for that. Basically, we just sat on it for a couple of years. We started getting the plans going. Then COVID hit. I really thought our plan was dead at that point, at least for a good while.

“It was scary, yeah. Shortly after, I could see that we were going to survive and be okay. We made the scary, but conscious, decision to go ahead and proceed with the project. The costs on the project went up dramatically, as did everything else, which was scary as well. But we decided again to proceed with the project. The costs went up over one million dollars.

“We scraped together every penny we could. We worked with Key Bank, the lender that financed the project. We scraped up as much money as we could to cover the difference. The balance that we couldn’t cover we worked with the developer and with Key Bank, and we were able to come to terms. They were tight terms, but we were able to get there.”

Now a business with 40 employees, Certified AutoBrokers focuses on doing both business and community service with “a servant’s heart,” Taylor said. All of the vehicles that the business sells are preowned. Taylor explained the safeguards that are taken to make sure that customers aren’t buying vehicles that are in constant need of repair.

He said that certified “means that the vehicles go through an inspection process. We have a higher level of reconditioning than you’ll find at most of your pre-owned stores. Our concept is that you buy a car, and you don’t have to worry about putting money into it down the road.

“New York State has an inspection process that’s pretty good. It still leaves a lot of holes that can cost the consumer money. Nobody enjoys that. That’s part of the car business getting a bad name. You spend a lot of money, and you have to spend a lot of money shortly after. We made the decision early on to avoid that in our certification process.”

The servant’s heart also shows in the form of community service, Taylor said. In December 2021, Certified AutoBrokers donated a car to Elizabeth Triggs, founder of the Buffalo nonprofit “None Like You/We Care.” He said that he not anticipate the media response to the donation. “The media showing up. I was shocked by that. I had no idea. But that was put together by the District Attorney’s Office. So I think that they called all the media folks.”

He said, “We have a major concept of community service. The community has supported us in ways that I can’t even fathom so we always try to give back as much as we possibly can. We usually decide to do it a little bit quieter. We try to support folks on the Island. We do a lot of work for the VFW and local sports teams and things like that. And that’s really important to us. The opportunity to give back is awesome and one of the most fulfilling parts of this whole thing.”

Taylor said that supporting veterans’ organizations is important to him because “One thing that we’re proud of here is that we have a very strong military presence. I’m a veteran so this is a veteran-owned business. My general manager is a veteran. Currently, I think that we have another seven veterans who are part of our team. That’s one thing that we’re very proud of. We’ve got every branch of service covered here.”

When asked what he would like people to know about himself and the business that he co-owns, Taylor said, “I’m an Islander since forever, and it means a lot to me to be able to operate a business on the Island, and I guess that goes to Certified AutoBrokers. We are truly here to serve. We do this from a servant’s heart. We come at every opportunity. It’s not transactional here. Truly, it isn’t. We’re here to serve our customers. We believe if we go at every interaction we have with a servant’s heart that the rest will come. The company will be successful. We’ll make money. That is certainly necessary but, first and foremost to us is serving our customers. That will always be the case. We will never lose sight of that. I think that’s helped us get to this point.”

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