Without so much as a sign advertising his business tucked behind U.S. 31, Dick Smith will soon celebrate his 80th birthday with a business that runs as smoothly as the cars he fixes every day.
Avoiding a conventional business strategy, and convention in general, has served Smith well in his 56 years as a mechanic in Kokomo, where he operates his own three-car garage at 3473 North, 00 East/West, servicing the vehicles of customers who have been coming back to him for decades.
The methods have changed from the simplicity of fixing carburetors, distributors, points and plugs and condensers to diagnosing car problems over the Internet, but Smith’s business model has remained the same: Be honest, be fair and try not to take anything too seriously.
“Everything is word of mouth,” he said. “I’ve never had a sign in all of the years that I’ve been out here. That’s something I’m really proud of. I’ve got a clientele that I’m really proud of.
“I try to be fair with people,” he added. “I think that’s what it’s all about. Just try to be honest with them, that’s the name of the game.”
Adding a little humor never hurts, though.
Smith takes as much pride in his reputation as a prankster as he does in being a reliable mechanic, always quick to pull a fast one on friends and even customers when they least expect it.
From doctoring friends’ food when they’re not looking at a restaurant to slamming on the brakes of his car near an unsuspecting stranger on the sidewalk, it’s all in the name of good fun, Smith said.
“I just feel like you’ve got to instill a little bit of laughter into the day, or you’ve lost something,” he said. “With the friends I’ve got, it’s pretty easy to get involved in some of that. For the most part, it’s good, clean fun.