For every charismatic and enthusiastic lead singer or lead guitarist, a good rock band won’t become a great rock band without a solid rhythm guitarist.
Metallica’s drive would never be as powerful without James Hetfield. Ace Frehley would never Rock and Roll All Night as well without his KISS rhythm counterpart Paul Stanley. And AC/DC’s Angus Young could duckwalk his way across the stage for miles, but without Brother Malcolm’s rhythm, the storm of Thunderstruck would be little more than a brief squall.
Johnny Weber III is indeed a rock star in the Southeast Ohio city of Dayton, and specifically in the Linden Heights neighborhood. That’s where he, his father and his grandfather have operated Weber’s Automotive service for more than 50 years.
As one of Babcox Media’s first Vehicle Care RockStars, Johnny Weber exudes confidence in his abilities to lead the band through proficiency over pageantry. While his dad thrives in the spotlight as a semi-professional banjo player and full-time community advocate, Johnny says he prefers to lead by reputation.
“Our goal at the shop is fixing everything right the first time,” says Weber, 47. “We make sure that nothing’s overlooked and that the customer has a great experience. That’s why we do what we do. And it’s all about the team. I mean, there are solo artists, but there are a lot of times the rock star must lead a band. I have some great guys – everybody’s got their niche.”
Weber’s suppliers and customers praise the shop’s attitude and professionalism.
They are one of, if not the most technologically advanced shop in Dayton, according to their key contacts at Fisher / KOI Auto Parts, the Weber’s local Federated Auto Parts store.
Of course, technology has changed dramatically since his grandfather started the business in a garage behind his house up the hill from the present shop, and the Webers’ commitment to playing the perfect show for every customer has continued as well.
The main 3,900-square-foot shop, originally an historic two-bay Sunoco gas station, now includes eight bays inside with one outside bay, each with a lift; an additional shop across the street equipped for complete ADAS service measures 4,000-square-foot and has three above ground lifts, a mid-rise lift and a Hunter alignment rack.
Both are part of the Linden Heights community that the Webers have served since 1968.
Johnny has been an ASE Master Certified Technician for more than 25 years. Being that he is only in his mid-‘40s says a lot about his commitment to the industry and his family business.
Johnny says it was a chance encounter with a Hyundai Genesis a few years ago that led him to his passion for ADAS.
“The car had a lane departure error that was new to me. I realized it was new technology I didn’t understand, so I started talking with our equipment suppliers about what we needed to have to do calibrations. I told Dad that the building across the street would be perfect for ADAS calibrations. He talked to mom about buying the shop. She said, ‘Well, if Johnny thinks it’s a good idea, you should do it.’”
Today, the shop is the only one in Dayton that has the new ADAS Hunter alignment equipment – the other closest shop is about 50 miles away in Cincinnati.
While we were with the team, Weber talked about the importance of continued training, as he worked with his tech Steven Montgomery to calibrate a 2019 Hybrid Toyota Avalon XLE.
“I like to say I started here at birth, but I guess I’ve been on the payroll maybe since I was 12. I’ve been full-time employee since I graduated high school in 1995, working all the way through and following graduation,” says Johnny. “Right after graduating from Dayton’s Chaminade Julienne high school, I went to Sinclair Community College. As I would take a class and have an opportunity to take an ASE certification test, I’d do it – so I’ve been ASE master certified now for 25 years.”
Weber says he’s maintained his certifications for his sake as well as that of his employees and his customers.
“I’ve just never let them lapse. I’ve always been one to keep up on my certifications. Just because customers like to see that. And we push our employees to at least be certified in what they excel in. And we’ve always paid back reimbursement if you take a test and pass it, to our techs. That all means something,” Weber says. “I’ll be honest – this is the only job I’ve ever had. It’s really all I know. And I can’t say I could have ever had it any better. It’s been great learning from the people that I’ve worked with.
Weber harkens back to the community aspect of the shop and says that every day he’s reminded again of the legacy his family has built. “I’d say the best thing about our story is, our business has been built on friends’ cars, and working on friends of friends’ cars.
“Some of our employees who don’t come from the area are floored by the fact that I work on my dad’s teachers’ cars from grade school; I work on my high school teachers’ cars. I even work on my high school football coach’s cars,” he shared.
In fact, as we were touring his old high school area, reminiscing about his time under the lights on a Friday night on the football field, his high school coach showed up to talk about Johnny’s leadership skills.
“I call him Mr. Dependable,” said legendary Ohio coach Jim Place. He was on a team with a lot of glitz, a team ranked in USA Today. Behind that glitz, you had the glue that made it work. When I think of John Weber, I think of three things: number one: dependable. He was always there. He always did things right. He never made a mistake. Number two: He was physical, a tough player. And Number three: he was loyal – to his team, to his school, and to me. Dependable, tough, loyal.”
Place says, dependability aside, as a linebacker, Weber was a featured player on defense “If you saw a tackle, you probably saw John Weber on it.”
While Weber tries to give Place a lot of the credit for his success, the coach puts credit where credit is due.
“It all started at the house. His mom and dad gave him all the values and everything else he needed. My job was to challenge him to live up to that. There is tremendous tradition at this high school and his family has tremendous tradition as well.
“I’m so proud of this guy. His success in business doesn’t surprise me at all. If you would have asked me when he was 17 could I have predicted this kind of success for John Weber? Absolutely. He showed leadership. He showed every quality that predicts his success. Today I bring my car to him. He’s the best,” Place said.
Weber admits that his shop doesn’t really have a problem getting work. “I guess that’s probably a lot of why we don’t really have ‘competition,’ even with a lot of the shops around,” says Johnny. “We do a lot of work for other shops if they can’t do it. Likewise, if I’m too busy and somebody needs something done faster than what we can get to, I don’t have a problem giving out recommendations, as well.
Weber is active with the University of the Aftermarket’s “Leadership 2.0” education program and says he continues to learn from peers in other segments of the industry. It helps him realize the value or education and the importance of maintaining high standards.
“What has been valuable about the leadership program really, is what I’ve learned about myself – how to be a leader. Not so much about how to repair cars, but how to manage a shop, manage my employees and manage myself.”
Weber says his perception of a rock star isn’t necessarily about being in the spotlight – it’s more about keeping the rhythm.
“I guess to be a rock star is just to be the best at what you can do. Whether it’s fixing cars or jamming out, it all comes down to pleasing the crowd.”
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