It’s been more than a year since James Price retired and handed the keys to JR Discount Muffler & Brakes and Mechanic Shop to his son Shane. The younger of the Prices notes that his father set the framework for the shop to continue, and Shane has made a point of putting his own touches to the business.
Before the transfer of ownership was made Shane decided to give the exterior a fresh coat of paint. A new roof on the back section of the building followed after he got the keys, and he replaced four lifts. He’s also added LED outdoor lighting.

“It just needed a little sprucing up,” he said.

Located in the east Texas town of Palestine with a population of nearly 19,000, the shop sees an even mix of cars and pickups that on average are 10 years old or older. Palestine, along with other towns in Anderson County, are populated with farmers and blue-collar working-class residents. The town has two Walmart warehouses, five separate prisons operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and Sanderson Farms, a poultry plant that is fairly new to the area.

“Most of the residents work at one of those facilities,” Shane said.

The shop opened in 1994 with James mainly taking on exhaust work, but adding brake and suspension work by the end of the decade. Over the years, more and more services were added. A machine shop for grinding engine heads and general mechanical work made the shop’s menu almost complete, with the exception of alignment work.

Engine and transmission R&R is included in that mix, but Shane said he lets the customers purchase the replacement units.

The reasoning is simple, he said. The motorists are on a tight budget and normally want to install a used unit from a salvage yard. In earlier times, Shane would buy the unit, but if it went out after only a month or two, the salvage yard would only provide a core return and the shop was stuck with the remainder of the bill. Now, it’s up to the vehicle owner to find the engine or transmission – remanufactured or used – and Shane will have one of his ASE technicians install it, but with no warranty.

Custom bending

Shane waited until July of 2000, at the age of 23, to join his dad in the business. Over the years he has become a perfectionist, according to many, when it comes to custom exhaust. It’s not uncommon for former residents to drive 50 miles for exhaust work. In fact, some former residents have traveled from as far as Arkansas and Oklahoma to have him perform exhaust work on their vehicles. “I always use a tape measure because I want it to look uniform when I take a picture of it. I don’t want someone saying ‘Why is the top of this different than the other side?’ Sometime you don’t have a choice depending how the vehicle is built, but I want the exhaust system to flow. Flowmasters and Flo Pro round truck mufflers are the preferred brands of most pickup owners, he said. Shane noted that he has purchased a substantial number of the mufflers from B&B Muffler Warehouse and Frank Supply Co. over the years. Cat-back duals continue to be popular in his part of the country.

Undercar still rules

Today, custom exhaust, brake and suspension work comprise about 70% of the business at the shop where repair tickets average in the range of $300 to $500. The shop charges an hourly rate of $70, but exhaust work is charged by the type of job, not the hours. Fleet business plays a large part of the shop’s business, servicing four new-car dealership trade-ins and seven used car lots.

“We have an agreement that we need to service the everyday motorist first, if at all possible,” Shane said. “Right now I’ve got eight cars from sales lots waiting for parts.” The latest fleet contract from the shop comes from the Anderson County Sheriff’s Department. Its vehicles will get top priority.

Shane’s bending skills put his Huth bender to work on a variety of non-automotive products as well. “I’ve made picnic tables, swings, deer skinning hoists that fit on the receiver hitch of a pickup, roll cages and even a Baja tire rack for show trucks. With vehicle exhaust and the extras, he recently invested in a Mitey tubing expander.

Marketing

Shane admits that his best marketing tool is the work performed by his three technicians, Roy Sampley, Bobby Dunnam and Jeff Hilliard. “You just can’t beat word of mouth,” he said. However, the shop does benefit from Facebook and the yellow pages. His latest marketing venture was placing an ad for his shop on the paper prescription bags used by the local pharmacy that offers a 50% off on rotating tires. “My business is the only advertiser on the bag so it gets the customer’s full attention,” he said.

Charity

As the saying goes, “Charity begins at home,” and the shop does its best to help those in Anderson County. He has worked closely with the Rev. Robert Smith of the River Life Church in nearby Fairfield. Over the past year the group has provided food for 5,000 individuals with all types of food from fresh onions to potato chips. “Last year we gave out over 3 million pounds of food. And that doesn’t count the disaster relief food, because during a disaster you don’t have the time to count or weigh the food. “All the glory goes to God, who makes everything possible,” Shane said. Central Texas Food Bank has provided the group with a fork lift and an 18-wheeler trailer for the food, and might provide another soon, because we are moving that much food.”

Shane also plans to aid area rescue squads that include the local fire department and its emergency medical technicians. He drops off a half pallet of bottled water whenever he can.

Auto Repair Horrors

Over the years Shane has made a point of photographing some of the most unprofessional repairs made by my do-it-yourselfers and other repair shops on vehicles that eventually show up at his shop to get the job done correctly. Shane posts many of them on Facebook and he’s been encouraged to publish a book showing off these awful excuses for repair work.