Clunk, clunk, clack: Cars that are making weird sounds around Evergreen Park can have one of the members of the Von family check it out.
Evergreen Park Service Station, 3328 W. 95th St., is owned by Richard and Kelle Von, longtime residents of the village. The family business began when Richard Von's grandfather decided to put together a business for his four sons to come home to and help run after World War II, Kelle Von said.
"He decided to have a business with his sons and he contacted Texaco for a fuel station and auto repair (shop)," Kelle Von, who runs the front office, said, adding that the shop no longer offers fuel service. The EPSS has always been in the same building that the grandfather built decades ago.
After the four sons took over the business, eventually only two of them ran the shop until Richard Von took over the whole thing, she said.
"We're having a fourth generation (to pass the shop to)," Kelle Von said. "Our son works here as a technician. It's all family here."
Today the shop's only employees are family members, although that wasn't always the case, Kelle Von said. She and her husband have three sons, and when they were younger, they hired outside of the family.
"You can't hire a seven-year-old," she said. "We have, in the past, had non-family (employees), as things have ebbed and flowed."
The shop, which is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, services vehicles for everything excluding engines and transmissions, Kelle Von said. She added they do not take it for granted that the family business is still open after so many years and in today's economy.
"We're here, we're paying our bills and we feel fortunate that we have a wonderful, loyal customer base," Kelle Von said. "Some (customers) come from far away to have their cars serviced here. We don't really advertise; it's a lot of word-of-mouth. We get a lot of good recommendations that way. That's our plan (to stay open). They'll come back again when they need something else."
The family, who is involved in the community through the Chamber of Commerce, is motivated to keep the business as strong as possible simply because they know they're lucky to have the business, she added.
"We're working, and in this economy, working is good," Kelle Von said. "We want to keep it going for the next generation."
One of the key pieces of advice Kelle Von said she can offer to other family-run businesses to stay successful today is "stay positive, do your best work and be honest with your clientele."
Kelle Von said the shop will probably see a lot of vehicles with battery problems as winter quickly breaks in the village.
"Winter is particularly hard on batteries," she said. "We tend to have a run on batteries with the first couple of cold snaps."
Owners should be aware of what their vehicle owners' manual recommends for upkeep and follow those suggestions, she said.
Kelle Von said one of the best things about running the EPSS is being able to spend so much time with her family. While not all three of her sons currently work at the business, they all have at one point or another, she said.
"It's a good thing. It's nice to be able to work together with family," she said.
The shop is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To get in contact or to make an appointment with the Evergreen Park Service Station, call (708) 422-2490.