Sunday, January 23rd, 2022

Shopper Client Stories


Tom West continues a legacy of honesty, fairness and high-quality service

by Cristi Sanchez

Tom West, General Manager and Shop Foreman of West Service Center in Chesapeake

Tom West, General Manager and Shop Foreman of West Service Center in Chesapeake

For Tom West, automotive repair is in his blood.  Now the General Manager/Shop Foreman of West Service Center, Tom grew up surrounded by his father's business. That's not surprising, considering that both he and the auto, truck, and RV repair center were born in 1987. Nearly 34 years later, West Service Center continues to provide the same high-quality, customer-oriented, and safety-focused service to its Hampton Roads clients.

West Service Center had humble beginnings when Tom's father, Robert, began repairing his neighbors' cars.  As a kid, Robert had tinkered with things, fascinated by how they were put together and worked.  This interest led him into a U.S. Army career as a Jeep and diesel mechanic.  After leaving the Army he began his civilian career working in various automotive repair shops until he took a job at the Naval Air Rework Facility as a jet engine mechanic. "While my Dad was still a jet engine mechanic, word got out around his neighborhood that he had a knack for fixing engines," Tom recalls.  "After a while, he was repairing cars out of his backyard garage."  

Once word got out, friends and their referrals began dropping by and asking Robert to look at their cars.  Soon he was spending most evenings and weekends working on vehicles, which frequently left the West driveway filled with cars. "My mom's living room was turned into a waiting room," Tom says. "While Mom is super nice, I don't think she was really excited about having a bunch of strangers sitting around in her house," he adds with a chuckle.

In 1987 Robert was faced with a decision that would provide relief to his wife and open the door to going into business for himself full-time. When the Naval Air Rework Facility decided to relocate to Jacksonville, Florida, Robert opted not to go. Instead, he chose to work full time on cars, and the West family business was born.  

Over the years, Robert rented bays from various shops in the vicinity. However, spurred by word of mouth, his business continued to explode and had soon grown so large that he outgrew his rental spaces. He decided it was time to build his own service center. In 1999, the company moved into their new twelve-bay, 3000-square-foot facility in the Cavalier Industrial park, where they remain today.

Naturally, Tom grew up spending a great deal of time in his dad's shop. "I've been exposed to the business my whole life. I started coming in as a young kid helping with things like taking out the trash and cleaning up the shop. Then it turned into delivering parts once I got my license.  I'd get off from school, come here to run parts in the afternoon, and work Saturdays," Tom explains. "I grew up in it, moved through all the jobs, and learned all the aspects of what makes the business run."

Tom dedicated himself to the automotive business in high school by attending the Chesapeake Technology Center for automotive studies and studying automotive repair and business management at TCC. However, his training to run the company didn't just come from school; it came from Robert himself in the form of personal standards for conducting business. "Dad taught me to always be fair, honest, and look at situations from the customer's perspective," Tom says. "Their vehicle is important to them. That being said, we don't want them to have to empty their savings on vehicle repair if they don't have to."

In fact, that is the hallmark of West Service Center's philosophy-quality, fairness, and honesty. "My goal as Shop Foreman is to make sure things are fixed right the first time and that we always deal honestly with the customers," Tom insists. "The number one thing is to be upfront and honest with the customers.  We want people to get the full life out of their vehicles without unnecessary items being sold to them.  It's not about upselling to get extra cash from our customers; it's about making sure that the vehicle is safe and the vehicle is right."

"Dad taught me to always be fair, honest, and look at situations from the customer's perspective.
Their vehicle is important to them.
That being said,
we don't want them to
have to empty their savings
on vehicle repair
if they don't have to.
                                   -Tom West

To ensure the best service possible, West Service Center employs seasoned technicians with many years under their belts. In addition to that experience, West technicians receive continuing education. "We're a NAPA Auto Center," Tom states with pride. "As such, we're held to a higher standard. They require continuing education and provide training for their auto center. So we focus on ASE certifications and on continuing training here."

One of those technicians is Robert.  "Dad's still here. He's mostly on the floor fixing vehicles.  He just enjoys it; he can't pull himself away from it," he adds with a smile.  

West Service Center is unique in that it doesn't service only cars and trucks but serves as a mechanical repair facility for fleet trucks and RVs. It even has a hauling service to transport equipment for rental companies and the government.  "I think our versatility is what sets us apart from other shops," Tom observes. "We do it all, from personal vehicles, recreational vehicles, to company fleets, we can handle a wide scope of jobs."

In fact, West Service Center has become a favorite shop for RV owners and has seen an uptick in business. "RV sales and travel are up," Tom  says. "We have a lot of RV customers because we're a one-stop-shop. We don't only do engine and suspension repairs. We do a lot of inverter systems, rooftop AC's, microwaves, and refrigerators.  That's why we're so popular with RV customers.  They know they can bring an RV here, and we can pretty much work on just about anything on it."
But such versatility is only one reason West Service Center continues to grow after 34 years. "Most of our new customers come here because of the word of mouth and referrals from current customers," Tom notes. "

The power of those personal referrals is a testament to Robert West's high standards. Tom West is committed to continuing the tradition of honesty, fairness, and high-quality work set by his father.

West Service Center

904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, VA 23323