Faissal Abou-Faissal's passion for cars made itself known early.
“My mother says I drove out of her womb, making those car noises,” the owner of Expert Auto Center said with a grin.
His favorite American TV show while growing up in Beirut, Lebanon?
“The Dukes of Hazzard,” of course.
Favorite personal vehicle? That's a tough one.
He's owned everything from a ’71 Dodge Challenger to a Shelby GT500 to his current Porsche 911 Turbo.
Despite employing a staff of 17 mechanics between his two Expert Auto locations, About-Faissal gets under the hoods of cars every day. Asked when he takes care of all the paperwork that comes with owning a business, he said, “After hours, basically. You have to make that commitment.”
The commitment is bigger than ever today. In July, Abou-Faissal opened a second Expert Auto Center at 5230 E. Central. It's a full-service shop, but one specifically designed to offer quick oil changes, tires and what Abou-Faissal says is the best alignment work in town.
“Our goal is to do a lot of alignments and sell a lot of tires,” he said. “They go hand in hand.”
A grand opening for the Central location is scheduled for Sept. 14, with giveaways by many of its suppliers.
Abou-Faissal followed relatives to Wichita in 1991, studying auto repair at Wichita Vocational Technical College. He worked for a national automotive services chain for four years before opening his first Expert Auto in the Indian Hills neighborhood on West 13th in 1997.
He owned another one on West Street from 2000 to 2007, selling it because of pending road construction in the area, and another in Derby from 2004 until its sale last year.
He figured the time was right to open another one because the economy seems to be improving and because the east side “needed a shop like this.”
“We want to grow,” he said. “You can't just sit back and watch.”
The shop on East Central features an underground work bay to make oil changes a 20-minute process. Employees complete a 19-point check list with each oil change, including vacuuming the interior, washing the windows and presenting the customer with a $10 coupon for the car wash next door. Used oil is collected and will be burned to heat the garage this winter.
Although the shop on West 13th is nearly twice as big as the new one, Abou-Faissal said the latter employs more mechanics and is capable of handling more vehicles per day.
On Tuesday, half the cars in the main garage were eye-catchers – a ’70 GTO, a ’57 Chevy Bel Air station wagon and a sparkly blue Pontiac GT. Abou-Faissal said such specialty cars make up about 10 percent of his business.
Abou-Faissal said the key to making it in the automobile service business is “treating people like you want to be treated.”
Keeping good employees around helps, too. Tim Frenette, the manager of the 13th Street location, has been there since it opened. Shawn Hanson, manager of the new store, formerly owned his own garage and has known Abou-Faissal for years.
Among the features of the shop on Central are two Hunter HawkEye Elite alignment systems that Abou-Faissal says “are better than factory, by far.”
“You always want to be ahead of the game.”