Torchiana Automotive: Building a Tradition

Jan. 1, 2020
Like many boys, Joe Torchiana had a paper route. He delivered newspapers to neighborhoods near where he grew up in Oakmont, Havertown, PA. It so happened that the last stop on his route was a Sunoco station.
Like many boys, Joe Torchiana had a paper route. He delivered newspapers to neighborhoods near where he grew up in Oakmont, Havertown, PA. It so happened that the last stop on his route was a Sunoco station.

Today, there are fewer and fewer true service stations where young boys can get interested in automotive service and possibly find employment. But at 15 years old, he was offered a job there.

"It was 1966, and we still had carburetors, rear-wheeldrive, nothing sophisticated.We did tune-ups and state inspections," says Torchiana.

FIRST SHOPS AND A PENCHANT FOR TRAINING

In 1978, Torchiana bought a shop in Edgemont, PA and with his wife Debbie's help, went solo in a two-bay shop for five years. In 1983, he bought another business and "inherited" Don Smith, a technician who scored the highest in Pennsylvania in the ASE certification tests for two years in a row.

But Joe was ambitious and just running a shop was not enough for him. In the '80s, he started attending classes at ASPIRE, a training company located in Morrisville, PA. According to Joe, he went through every class they had. In addition, he took training from Snapon and Mitchell. Along with his training, he became interested in automotive associations and began participating in their programs and their leadership.

MOVING UP AND OUT

In 1989 he built his present building in West Chester, PA, just a few miles west of his first shop. And when he says he built it, he means literally: "I was a laborer and worked on everything but the steel."

Today, that shop is a training center in its own right where Joe gives back the same spirit of instruction that he received when he was starting out. His shop is a state licensed safety and emissions school. In fact, when you walk into Torchiana Automotive, you walk to the front desk through at least a dozen long tables with chairs. These are permanently set up to facilitate the evening classes Joe teaches. He encourages certification of all kinds and association membership as a must in the business today.

IT'S STILL ABOUT FIXING CARS

Torchiana prefers working on vehicles to the front desk work, and he employs only one tech, Steve Hoopes. Torchiana handles the most difficult diagnostic work while Hoopes works on almost everything else, including some diagnostics.

As far as the front desk, Torchiana says his philosophy with first-time customers is to never discount prices.

"We let the customers do all the talking. If they are requesting routine maintenance, we let Debbie or Cathy handle it. If the repair is more complex, I will come out and talk to them because the explanation has to be more complex," says Torchiana. "We focus on the one thing the car needs . . . the concern the customer came in for.We don't get caught up in four other things.

"Anything else [that can wait], we coach them to come back in 3,500 miles," he adds. "I will arrange it so we space out their payments over 30,000 miles. We counsel and educate the customers and give them explanations."

SERVICING THE INDUSTRY AND COMMUNITY

"With 60-hour weeks typical due to my involvement in ASA and ASE, there is not a lot of time for other community involvement.We sponsor a local soccer team, a high school team and a Booster Club, and we provide parking for various area events," says Torchiana.

His real contributions, though, are to the industry. He has been on the ASE board of directors for six years, the ASE Executive Board for two years, the ASA National Opps Committee for three years and the ASE C1 Test Writing Committee. He participates at many local, regional and national trade shows and training events and is a well-known presence at ASA and ASE events.

Torchiana is particularly proud of the reputation of his shop: "We average 25 to 26 new customers per month," he says. "We're known to fix cars the first time and at the right price.We often get cars from other shops that know we have the equipment and the expertise to fix a particularly difficult problem."

By first building a business based on constant, continual training, Joe and Debbie Torchiana have been able to pass on that tradition of training and industry involvement to hundreds of other shops. Even beyond serving their customers, in the end, this automotive couple will no doubt be most proud of that aspect of their business.

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