Pat Ahern’s past is in the restaurant industry.
Now he’s firing on all cylinders in the automotive industry.
As the lead detailer at Garber Chevrolet Subaru in Webster, New York, Pat said he has found the right rung to climb his career ladder.
“For years, I worked in the food industry at different pizza shops and restaurants,” he said. “Then Covid happened, and things changed a lot. I thought, ‘Maybe it is time to go for a career change.’ Food was all I had ever done, but I’m glad I made the switch. Once I started working in detail, I found a passion for it.”
While Pat is still relatively green to the industry – he started working as a detailer in October 2020 – he said Garber’s support has him feeling inspired and excited to grow.
This is only the beginning.
From the Restaurant to the Body Shop
When Pat decided to switch from the restaurant to automotive, he wasn’t 100% certain of how it would play out.
“When I jumped industries, I was very nervous,” he explained. “Food was the only thing I’d ever done. It was a big move, but if you are stressed out and not enjoying what you are doing, you should try to find something you like and find your passion. Going to work and making money isn’t everything. You need to be happy where you work. If you are miserable, then what’s the point?”
The pandemic has impacted the world. Like many others, it also inspired Pat to reexamine his priorities. When his friend suggested Pat join him in detailing at a dealership, Pat agreed.
“I had a friend of mine working here at this dealership before Garber took over, and he talked me into working for him,” Pat said. “I learned from him. There were two detailers and we worked inside the body shop.”
Two months after Pat started, Garber acquired the dealership. Pat noticed growth and change right away.
“When I started, there were two of us working in detail,” he said. “Things started to grow, and so we hired people. Now there are four of us all together detailing and that’s more than this dealership has ever used before. Things have really taken off in the past year. Since Garber took over, it has been progressing and getting better. Everyone has a good time and enjoys it here.”
He has grown in his role, too. So much so, he got promoted from detailer to lead detailer last month.
“Once Garber took over, I thought, ‘I want to prove myself,’” he said. “So I took the reins of leadership and it was noticed. It led me to now lead the whole department. Over the past year things have taken off. I have a great crew.”
He said his experience in the food industry helped translate to the dealership.
“When I worked in the food industry, I was a manager at the pizza shop,” he explained. “Being in a different leadership role in a different field, it’s a big change for me but I’ve learned a lot and it’s a different way of leadership. I organize and make sure everything gets done. I’ve grown as a person as far as leadership goes and I can only learn more. John Farah [Subaru Service Manager at Garber Webster] is a big help and he always gives me advice on what to say and what to do.”
It’s All in the Details
Detailing is an art and a craft. Together, Pat and his team are responsible for restoring vehicles to like-new condition, especially from a cosmetic perspective.
“We clean the vehicles up and make sure they look perfect for the customer,” Pat explained. “We want to make sure it can look the best it can look. With used cars that come in, we clean them to our fullest ability to make sure they look as close as they can to brand-new. We give it the whole nine yards to make sure it looks great, like vacuuming and cleaning.”
As lead detailer, Pat is also responsible for the logistical side of things, like scheduling and organizing who does what and when.
The process of detailing is not quick nor easy, Pat said.
“If you want it to look the best it can, as far as a full detail and pull everything out of the seats, it will take some time. The goal is to make every single car look the best it can.”
Pat said on average, the full detailing of a car would be any time between 4 to 6 hours.
Still, he said his hours clocked in the shop are easier to manage than the restaurant industry.
“The main thing in this job is it’s a normal schedule, like 8 to 5, or 8 to 6,” he said. “It’s not crazy food hours. It’s a completely different environment and everyone gets along. It’s a much better environment; it is way less stressful. It’s not working different shifts every day. It’s a lot more organized. I really enjoy it.”
His favorite part of the detailing process?
“My favorite part is when I do a delivery for a customer and the customer goes out of the way to make sure we are thanked,” he said. “It’s all about making the customer happy. If it wasn’t for the customer, none of us would have a job.”
Along with the daily duties of the detailing role, Pat said it’s the work environment that makes his job more enjoyable than his past roles.
“I want to stay here,” he said. “It’s a big happy family. I love coming in and everyone is so helpful. I love Garber. I’ve never had so much support and help in a job. I feel appreciated, which is definitely a different feeling. It is nice to feel appreciated and it is completely different than what I used to do. I love it.”
Garber’s leadership gives Pat a sense of encouragement, especially in the support he receives from the team, and the way Garber often promotes from within.
“Any time I need something — it can be anything — everyone is willing to help,” he said. “If I ask questions or need to coordinate with service or sales, everybody is a big help. We are a big family here. Everyone gets along, and if there are any problems, we figure it out and resolve it together to keep working efficiently.”
Signs of appreciation are easy to find at Garber, he added.
“Joel Williams [General Manager] will order food or get something catered in,” Pat said. “We’ll get doughnuts on Friday. It’s nice to get together. Plus, who’s not happy with food? That’s definitely very nice when he does that. You’ll walk past Joel and he will ask you how you’re doing and check in. It’s nice.”
Pat said he made the right decision when it comes to switching industries and working at the dealership.
“I’m actually happy now and I want to get up in the morning and come to work,” he said. “Changing industries was the right move.”
First concert? I was pretty young, younger than 10…it was Billy Ray Cyrus at the State Fair.
First car? 2002 Buick Rendezvous. It was terrible in the snow.
Favorite meal? Steak and potatoes. Can’t go wrong with a good steak.
Three words your friends or family would use to describe you? Friendly, funny, helpful
Bucket list item? Go to California and rent a convertible and drive up the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to Seattle