By Douglas J. Guth | Photo by Gery Petrof
“For starters, sisters Angie and Strauss, in partnership with their father-cum-business advisor Michael Giarrizzo Sr., utilize environmentally friendly technology for a superior repair experience. Customer care is further enhanced with rental cars on site and vehicle pick-up and delivery. A final “feminine touch,” as the siblings call it, is a reception area/art gallery featuring original art from local and national artists.
“Every day we’re coming up with new ideas on what we can do for our customers,” Strauss says.
Adding a high level of refinement to the customer experience allowed LJI to open a second location on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights last March. The South Euclid-born sisters bring a 60-year legacy to the business, one that started in 1946 with the debut of their grandfather’s gas station. Their father took over the company in 1959, building a collision center on the very spot where the new Cleveland Heights shop is open today. Angie joined the family-run enterprise in 1975, with Strauss coming into the fold a decade later.
“Now we’re going back to our roots,” says Angie.
A return to the body shop’s origins has brought with it long-running principles of cleanliness, organization, and dedication to safe and efficient processes, note Angie and Strauss, who operate both locations.
LJI utilizes a waterborne paint coating system designed to reduce the release of volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere. Vacuum-assisted equipment, meanwhile, results in a virtually dust-free work space that nonetheless is thoroughly vacuumed and mopped throughout the repair process.
“In our environment that kind of cleanliness is a standard,” Angie says. “That’s how we were taught. It’s a business advantage and non-negotiable.”
The sisters strive to take a similarly rigorous tack with customer service standards, an experience that includes a lifetime warranty on parts and labor and a 24-hour live answering service manned by LJI’s management team.
Their services are provided for both men and women, as women in particular are taking a more active role in car repairs. To make the visit a bit more pleasant, the owners have installed an art boutique at each location, featuring an assortment of glassworks, greeting cards, pottery, and hand-made jewelry. “We wanted to do something different that the industry hasn’t seen,” Angie says.
The boutique, part of a customer reception area, is something customers can latch onto while waiting for repairs, Strauss adds. “It gives you a feeling like walking into one of the rooms in your house,” she says.
Creating a unique, clean, and comfortable atmosphere is critical for an industry that largely runs on word-of-mouth, the siblings maintain. “We ask our customers their needs and goals and hone in on those,” Angie says. “Providing (this service) is how our business became recognized.”
The shop has always been a part of the sisters’ world. Angie, who entered the business immediately following high-school graduation, would take the bus after classes at Brush High School to sort paperwork or answer the phones. Strauss left Ohio State University with a degree in visual communication. Though she could have taken her career elsewhere, the pull of the family undertaking was too strong.
“I took my dad’s passion about growing the business,” Angie says. “It’s all I ever wanted to do.”
Recent years have brought the fourth generation into LJI. Angie’s two twenty-something sons Daniel and Jeffrey now work at both locations, while Strauss’s 16-year-old son Victor spends his workaday summers at the shop.
The veteran entrepreneurs are grateful to supply a talent pipeline for their long-running, auto-centric venture. With each location open five days a week (and half a day on Saturday), the sisters are almost always together, not even counting social time when off the clock. As long as there are customers to service, they expect that happy trend to continue.
“We truly love working together,” Angie says.
For more information: ljicollisioncenter.com