By Tom Bostock

When John Erb borrowed the saying “it’s nice to be nice to nice people” to honor his late friend, Patrick Keenan, it became more than just a saying to him; it became his way of doing business at John Erb’s Auto, Truck and RV Service Center. A contradiction in terms, John says, “we care about people. I hate cars; I love people!”

Located on what John calls his “campus” at 16133 N. Dale Mabry, just across the street from Gaither High School, John’s people-centered automotive service business consists of a 5700 square foot main building that is always bulging at the seams with loyal customers’ cars, trucks, vans, and recreational vehicles. Another 3400 square foot oil change facility houses his “Oil Frog” oil change operation. It is located behind the main service center.

It is normal to see a high-performance Mercedes E320 Bluetech, sitting in John’s crowded customer parking lot next to a Lincoln Navigator which, in turn, is parked by a Suzuki economy car, each waiting its turn for expert service by one of John’s experienced, certified mechanics.

John credits his staff for the continued success of his operations. He made special mention of 4 of his employees, Bill Casey, Henry Strapp, Hector Corneil, and Warren Boswell. John attributes a Craigslist ad for securing his chief mechanic, Bill Casey, about 12 years ago. Henry Strapp, the son of the beloved former assistant principal of Gaither High School, is his general manager. When I asked John if he was a “jack of all trades,” he corrected me saying that he was a “master of all trades.” John’s added that Assistant Manager Hector is his bi-lingual “super, duper, people person.”

The 4th employee, Warren Boswell, is an especially interesting story. A service consultant for John for a little more than a year now, Warren is a former, medically-retired Tampa police officer who used to have his vehicle serviced by John’s company. Warren was especially complimentary of the work ethics at Erbs. He said that the reason that he went to work for John was both ”the honesty” and “family feeling” that he has experienced at John’s company. He stressed that they did the right thing and stood behind their work.

If it has to do with an engine or mechanical repair, John’s staff as well as himself, also a certified master auto technician, are well equipped to handle the job, regardless of the size or complexity. John noted that Erb’s is becoming known as the diagnostic service destination for problem repairs. ”John says, “If you have a problem, I am the mechanic you need.” If it can be fixed, John and his 14 employees can fix it.

That isn’t surprising since John began helping his Dad at his service station, putting air in tires when he was still in elementary school; by the time he was 12, John was already changing automobile tires. At 21, he was a fully certified mechanic. Originally wanting to be either a doctor or a cop, John was 25 before he accepted his career path.

From Plainview on Long Island, New York, John noted that coming to Florida was an eye-opening experience. He had heard about prejudice, but it wasn’t until his Dad’s Gulf gasoline service station on the corner of Kennedy and Dale Mabry in Tampa, opened with a men’s room, a lady’s room, and a “black” restroom, that he experienced it, first hand. After remarking about how some people will always find something to hate, John proudly announced, “this is a hate-free zone!”

All of the products and services provided at John Erb’s Auto, Truck and RV Center are the highest quality, state-of-the-art available. Although he is a Goodyear Tire distributor, he is still an independent dealer, able to provide his customers with any brand of tire that they want. “I can get Michelin’s if they want them,” John says.

Preventative measures, like “chemical tune-up,” and “interim brake service,” staples of John’s business, are the result of his mechanical foresight and desire to help his customers extend the life of their vehicles. The chemical tune-up involves proactively cleaning both the car’s full injection and air intake systems before a problem arises. If properly flushed with Valvoline Synthetic Brake Fluid, there is even a 30,000-mile warranty.

With brakes lasting longer than ever, their interim brake service program lubricates a car’s brake caliper’s pin, which, properly oiled, prevents premature brake failure. These are “the ounce of prevention that prevents the pound of cure” remedies that John’s staff employ to keep customer cars running for years to come.

A father of 5 and grandfather of 13, John is a strong member of his local community, sponsoring this year’s championship Lutz softball team, “Toxic.” He has also sponsored adopt-a-school programs but is especially proud of his membership in the Owls Club, an organization, as John says, for “older, wiser, lively seniors in Northdale.” Besides being their resident automotive expert, he brings up to 80 pounds of delicious barbecued beef, pulled pork, succulent chicken and tasty coleslaw with its own special cilantro tang to some of their functions.

If it clunks, bumps, or just need an oil change, John Erb’s Auto, Truck and RV Service Center is the place to go. Call 813 908 3333 for your appointment today. 16133 North Dale Mabry … your car’s best friend.