Massachusetts shop pays homage to its location's roots

Aug. 25, 2017
Lexington is so rich in history that Accurate Brake & Alignment operates out of a building that has been continuously operated as a service to transportation since about 1840.

Most Americans have heard of the ‘shot heard round the world’ and the role the Massachusetts town of Lexington played in kicking off the American Revolution. But the history doesn’t stop there; Lexington is so rich in it that Accurate Brake & Alignment operates out of a building that has been continuously operated as a service to transportation since about 1840.

At a Glance:
Accurate Brake & Alignment
Lexington, Mass.
Rob and Jim Shimansky
No. of shops
Years in business
No. of employees
Square footage of shop
No. of bays
No. of customer vehicles per week
Annual gross revenue

“It had started off as a blacksmith shop,” states current proprietor Rob Shimansky. “They were shoeing horses in there. When we put our second lift in we dug up the floor and actually found the foundation from the original forge. In addition, upstairs in the loft was a wagon. We brought it down, put it together and had ‘wheel alignment and brake service’ as a sign on the side of it. For many years we wheeled that in and out every night; it was definitely a conversation piece.”

The notorious Northeastern weather eventually forced them to return the wagon to storage, but by then Accurate Brake had a solid reputation in the community. “Everybody knows who we are and how long we’ve been here,” says Shimansky. “Our word is our warranty. If you have a problem, you come back and I’ll take care of you. That’s the way we’ve always done business; everyone is like family.”

Founded in 1967 by Rob’s father, the shop originally was Lexington Automotive, a full service gas station in another locale. By the time the 80s rolled around, Jim Shimansky sensed changes in the industry and restructured his business to focus on tires, brakes and suspension.

“Eighty percent of our market is undercar,” Shimansky relates. “My father realized that cars were running a lot longer and didn’t have as many engine problems. He got ahead of the curve by doing (this kind of maintenance)--basically what cars are dealing with today--so we changed our name.”

Before he did that however, the elder Shimansky also changed locations. For many years Jim drove past this quaint old garage nestled amid colonial-style homes and was intrigued. “He always looked at it and said, ‘man, if that place ever went up for sale,’” recalls Rob. “When it did he snapped it up, and we’ve been here for the last 37 years.”

Apparently there are no special problems operating out of a 170+ year-old building. “We re-did the roof back in the 80s,” Shimansky admits. “We had a fire in 2001 so we had to pull out all the electricals and re-did that; other than that you can run a garage in a metal box, you just have to get power in there.”

It’s a small shop; Shimansky estimates 1300-1400 square feet. “We have two lifts inside, one outside, and a Hunter alignment machine. We do wholesale alignment for most of the shops in the area. If they put a tie rod on, they bring it down and we line it up for them. Our alignment guy, Jimmy Wiggins, has been with us 36-37 years. We’re going all day long with alignments, so a lot of it is off the street; if you get tires, you need an alignment.”

That infamous weather? It also accounts for bad roads. “Alignments are constantly being knocked out,” confirms Shimansky. “My customer base is—well, I don’t even know; its thousands and thousands--and with cars running longer, people keeping them longer, they’re going through 2-3 sets of tires in the life of the car.

“My issue is space,” he continues. “I just don’t have enough to have one of my bays tied up that long. There’s like 12 customer cars here every day besides all my wholesale alignments. I get here at 7:00, ready to go, and I do my damnedest to get out of here by 5:30.”

A small portion of their business is the restoration market, perhaps 10-15%. “Everybody around here who restores old cars, they end up here,” proclaims Shimansky. “This is their last stop before they put their Deuce Coupe, ’57 Chevy or ’69 ‘Cuda on the road--they make sure Jimmy lines them up.

“We had a ’53 Buick in the other day from two towns over,” recalls Shimansky. “He had heard about us and had had some work done (by someone else) that he wasn’t happy with. We banged it out for him, Jimmy did the alignment, and he was never happier. Now two guys from his car club have already called to make appointments. That’s what our foundation is built on: we’ll give you a good deal, do great work and stand behind it. That’s our marketing.”

Other than that there’s their website, which is clean, easy to use, mobile-friendly. “I have a Google AdWords Express so I can keep my FEO (front end optimization) at the top,” Shimansky points out. “If anybody wants a tip, get this; they have a $150 limit, and when you’re doing business with Google, it’s in their best interest to keep you at the top. When you spend money with other people, a lot of times they’re just getting you to Google, so I kind of cut out the middle man.”

In such ways Rob Shimansky has succeeded his father. “We’ve already transitioned” he notes, “Everything is in my name now and I’m going to go as for long as my knees let me. Thanks to my father we’ve been in business for 50 years and he set a great foundation for it. For 25 years my father and I worked side-by-side; I taught him some of the newer technology, and he showed me everything else.”

Of course Shimansky couldn’t help but go into the business; Rob was eight years old when his parents moved into the house next to the garage, 10 when he began working in the shop, 12 when he began practically living there. “The shop was my backyard,” he smiles. “As much time as I spent swinging a baseball bat or kicking a soccer ball, I was in this garage.”

About the Author

Robert Bravender

Robert Bravender graduated from the University of Memphis (TN) with a bachelor's degree in film and video production. Now working at Masters TV, he produces Motorhead Garage with longtime how-to guys Sam Memmolo and Dave Bowman. Bravender has edited a magazine for the National Muscle Car Association, a member-based race organization, which in turn lead to producing TV shows for ESPN, the Outdoor Life Network and Speedvision. He has produced shows ranging from the Mothers Polish Car Show Series to sport compact racing to Street Rodder TV.

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