While her line of work is clearly about cars and car repair, Gina Creone knows it takes an emphasis on communication and customer service to keep the enterprise running smoothly each and every day.
So, for a woman who envisioned someday working in a profession where she would be of help to people—one with the gift of gab and a masters degree in social work as well— being co-owner of the Carx Doctor and point-person for customer relations has turned out to be a perfect match.
“You know, when you’re in college they like to tell you to find a job doing what you like to do,” said Creone, guru of scheduling for the automotive maintenance and repair enterprise. “I like people, and I like helping people. It’s so important to me that people understand what’s involved and what they’re paying for.”
Investment in a home-based business appears to have paid off for the Creones, Gina and husband Lauren, who founded the company shortly after relocating from New York City to Friday Harbor in spring 2004. The couple will celebrate 10 years in business together this coming year.
“You have to work at it every single day,” Gina insists. “But it’s more successful than we ever thought it would be.”
It didn’t come easy. They worked hard, worked together, scrimped and saved, and passed on purchases deemed non-essential, a rough compromise for a woman with a thing for handbags.
“It’s been kind of tough, I’m a shopper,” Gina said, “but I just had to cut it off.”
They worked out a strategy for the business and putting down roots in Friday Harbor as well, buying the cheapest house in the neighborhood, fixing it up mostly themselves, expanding the business slowly, in stages, careful not to overextend. They figured out a formula that capitalizes on their individual strengths and skills. Collaboration and respect for what each other brings to table make the business hum.
“We kind of balance each other out a bit,” she said.
Born and raised in Queens, Gina, 35, a self-professed “people person” prides herself on being able to explain the mechanics of automobiles in a way that just about anyone can understand. It’s important that people know, she said, why changing fluids is important, not just that it’s needed.
“The more you know about your car the happier we are,” she said.
The couple first met in New York City. While attending graduate school, Gina was working at a convenience store that shared space with an automotive repair shop that Lauren was managing at the time. A native of Port Orchard, Lauren spent 15 years in New York City training and working in the auto repair industry after living and working in Friday Harbor for a spell as a young adult. He’s got 22 ASE certifications to his credit.
“He really cares about the cars,” Gina said.
While visiting relatives in Port Orchard in 2003, the couple spent a few days on San Juan Island, long enough to convince Gina that Friday Harbor would be their new home. She recalls communicating clearly to her husband what his task would be.
“I told him you’d better get busy figuring out a way to get us to be able to move there,” she chuckles. “And when we got here, we just started working.”
And they’ve been working together, and working well, and enjoying each other’s company while building a business from the ground up ever since.
“We’re super proud of the work we do,” Gina said. “We want people to be educated about their cars and we want their cars to keep going.”