Smiley’s Glass is still going strong in Richmond, Va., after more than 55 years. The family- owned company started with patriarch, Warren Smiley. According to his daughter, the current owner, he noticed there weren’t mobile auto glass repair and replacement businesses in the area.
“My dad worked odds and ends for years, then he got his truck and started doing mobile work on the east side of town,” Sandra Smiley-Carrique, said. She bought and took over the family business in 2007 after her mother passed away, in the same year her father retired. “At the time my husband and I didn’t live in Virginia, but I knew I had to come home and help my father,” Smiley-Carrique said.
She grew up in the shop, working and learning the business from the ground up at an early age and continued as she became an adult. “I remember when I was 18 I decided I wanted to work for a real company so I started working in a different auto glass shop. It wasn’t long before I came back, I noticed there wasn’t a chance I’d make the same amount of money working anywhere other than the shop I grew up in,” Smiley-Carrique said.
Today, Smiley’s is in full swing with about 30 jobs per day throughout the week. The business has had continued growth of 12 to 15 percent for the past five years through its radio advertisements, according to its owner. Its regular automotive glass division makes up most of its business, while the remaining portion centers on its flat glass division. And family isn’t too far behind, especially since her son work there too. “My son wants to make this a third generation owned business and I’m scared for what’s ahead for him if he takes over the business one day,” Smiley-Carrique said.
She also shared some concerns about constant battles in the industry. “I’ve had so many battles with whether or not to invest in a recalibration machine, and every time when it comes down to it I don’t choose to buy it. I don’t want to take on more than what the business needs right now and I’m not guaranteed to make a return on the investment,” Smiley-Carrique said. Currently Smiley’s sends its customers to the dealership when calibration needs to take place. “It takes the liability off, that’s for sure, but has its disadvantages” she added. Since her company goes through the dealerships they have to buy auto glass directly through them, which can take away from her overall profits.
Overall in the years she’s run the business she’s learned several lessons, the most important is to treat your staff well.
“Did I ever think I’d own this place – no, but I’ve been blessed with a strong foundation, guidance, support system and team. I’m so proud of what Smiley’s has accomplished,” Smiley-Carrique said.