Best of Marin 2015: Car services

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1ST YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST AUTO BODY REPAIR/DESIGN

Blake’s Auto Body is not only celebrating their Best of Marin win this year, but also 35 years in business. Specializing in state-of-the-art auto collision repair and painting, Blake’s—with four locations—works on everything from VW bugs to Maseratis. Company-wide, they repair around 850 wrecks a month, and offer 24-hour towing and a lifetime repair warranty. “We strive to have the highest technology available,” says Rebecca Brunk, director of sales and marketing. Many of the employees have been there for years, and more than 90 percent of the customers are repeat customers. “I know that when I tell someone—refer my family or friends—I always know that they’re going to get great repair and be very well taken care of,” she says. Brunk says that Blake’s was the first to bring eco-friendly automotive paints to Northern California, and two of their locations are solar-powered. Anthony Algood, who has been with Blake’s for 16 years, says that he likes the challenge of restoring a car that’s been in a wreck. “And then the customer’s face when you see the shock in their eyes,” he says. “They say, ‘Wow, is that my car?!’”

Blake’s Auto Body

 31 Bay St., San Rafael, 415/459-6115, blakesautobody.com

 

2ND YEAR HALL OF FAME: BEST TIRE STORE

“Try to pronounce my last name,” says Pat McAlonan, owner of Cains Tires. A legend himself, McAlonon has been with Cains for more than 60 years. Cains was the name of the original owner (they had been in business for 100 years), which is why McAlonon decided to keep the same name. “We are absolutely honest with customers,” he says, “and it’s hard to be honest in a business that is so full of deceit.” But Cains’ customers are like family. With a list of repeat customers that have been coming to Cains for 15 to 30 years, it’s no wonder that Cains earned a spot in the coveted Hall of Fame. “I teach my employees that the most positive thing you can have is spunk,” he says. “You can teach a person to sell tires, but you can’t teach enthusiasm.”

Cains Tires

 1531 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/ 453-2942, cainstire.com

 

BEST USED CARS

Bill Singerman, CEO of 18-year-old California Motors and a native of Marin, says that he started buying and selling cars out of the Drake High School parking lot when he was in high school. Today, he has two California Motors locations and more than 200 cars and trucks—mostly pre-owned—available. “We pride ourselves on customer service,” Singerman says. “The customer is always right.” He and his employees stand behind the cars and trucks they sell, offer rates that are often below Blue Book value and take care of their customers, “unlike most dealers.” The business sells more than 100 vehicles a month, and is in the process of offering a full-service department, with certified mechanics, at a wholesale rate. “It’s all about seeing them smile,” says Izah Sparks, Internet director, of customers leaving the lot. “Purchasing a car is a big decision to make, so I’m glad to be helping in fulfilling their dreams.”

California Motors

10 Bellam Blvd., San Rafael, 415/457-3325, californiamotors.com

2ND Jack L. Hunt Automotive Sales & Service, San Rafael

3RD Marin Imports, San Rafael

 

BEST TIRE SHOP

Elite customer service sets Toscalito Tire & Automotive apart, says Dave Steacy, inventory manager. “We pride ourselves on our nice, clean showrooms and our professional, can-do attitude.” With more than 43 years in the business, six locations and around 75 employees—many who have been there long-term—Toscalito has a family atmosphere, Steacy says, and offers customers good pricing on everything from tire and auto repair, to air conditioning service, to engine rebuilding. Steacy says that the most important thing is to keep customers happy and satisfied. “We say our focus is to maintain their cars so in the long run, they don’t have huge repair bills,” he says. “So they can avoid that big ticket—maintenance is key.”

Toscalito Tire & Automotive

668 Irwin St., San Rafael, 415/456-2324, 5800 Paradise Drive, Corte Madera, 415/924-8810 and 101 Roblar Dr., Novato, 415/883-8473, toscalitotire.com

2ND Diamond Tire Center, San Rafael

3RD Tie: Able Tire & Brake, Novato and H & J Tire, San Rafael and Novato

 

BEST FOREIGN CAR REPAIR

Look no further than Easy Automotive for all of your Japanese car maintenance needs. The family-owned and operated business has more than 30 years of experience working on Toyotas, Hondas and other Japanese-made autos. An AAA-approved shop and ASE-certified mechanics let customers rest easy, whether they’re in for an oil change or a new engine. “They say that we’re fair and honest,” says Debbie Linder, co-owner with her husband, Mark. “We hear a lot that it’s hard to get an honest repair shop.” And Easy Automotive goes above and beyond: If a customer is looking for a repair on a type of car that they don’t repair, Mark says that he’ll look up a number of someone who can help. “We always try to help people, whatever their question may be,” he says. “That’s kind of our attitude here.”

Easy Automotive

747 Lincoln Ave., San Rafael, 415/457-1688, easyautomotive.net

2ND Japan Auto Repair, San Rafael

3RD Swiss Garage, Larkspur

 

BEST DOMESTIC CAR REPAIR

Experience and good quality are what you look for when you have to get your car fixed, and it stands to reason that you could trust a business that’s been around since 1927! Brad Hunt and his brother Jack manage Jack L. Hunt Automotive Sales & Service, a family business, and everyone working there has at least 20 years of experience. Hunt says that part of the reason that they do such quality work is because they are ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) certified, which takes a lot of work to get, and AAA approved. He adds that in addition to a dedicated repair staff, they also have a large staff up front to deal with customers. “We believe that hard work pays off, “Hunt says. “Even if we have to lose money on a job, we believe it is worth it to get it right for our customers.”

Jack L. Hunt Automotive Sales & Service

1714 Fourth St., San Rafael, 415/453-1611, jackhuntauto.com

2ND Tie: D & K Auto Services, Corte Madera and Gomez Automotive, San Rafael

 

BEST AUTOBODY REPAIR/DESIGN

What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this? Laura Bertolli, of Bertolli’s Auto Body Shop, Inc. went to business school and says she wanted to be a corporate CFO. But her father wanted someone to carry on the family business, and the rest is history. Bertolli’s has been offering quality repair services to the community since 1977, including alignment, a computerized paint system, free walk-in estimates and pick-up and delivery. Bertolli, who was born and raised in San Rafael, loves Marin County. “We live in the best place to live, play and work in the world,” Bertolli says. “So we try to make our business the best it can be, by always being honest, and employing fine craftsmen who really care about quality repairs.”

Bertolli’s Auto Body Shop, Inc.

1345 Francisco Blvd East, San Rafael, 415/456-1992 bertollis.com

2ND G&C Auto Body, Novato

3RD Anthony’s Auto Craft, Inc., San Rafae

 

BEST AUTO DEALER

What you see is what you get at Toyota Marin. Renowned for their transparency, this is a car dealership that reinvents the car salesman perception. “We want car-buying, servicing and the whole experience to be fun,” says Mike Christian, general manager. “It’s the second-largest purchase someone is going to make—it’s a tremendous emotional attachment that people have to their cars.” Operating under a set of ethos that considers the customer first, Toyota Marin is also known for its active role in the community—with a team made up of many born-and-raised Marinites. And if that doesn’t “sell you” on why they are the best—maybe it will be the free car washes for life with any car purchase that will seal the deal.

Toyota Marin

445 Francisco Blvd. East, San Rafael, 415/521-1382, toyotamarin.com

2ND Lexus of Marin, San Rafael

3RD Marin Honda, San Rafael

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