The Hometown Current, June 17, 2020, Volume 9 Number 25
By Erika Sauter
The Dermody family of Just Automotive recently purchased the old fire station, above, located at 303 Welsh St. on the town square in Williamsburg’s business district for a second location that will offer services geared toward light repair and maintenance; specifically services that can be completed while patrons enjoy the amenities offered on the square. ...read more
Justin and Melinda Dermody’s romance began in an auto repair shop. Justin was born in Williamsburg but grew up in North Liberty where he crossed paths with Melinda multiple times while growing up. They went to the same schools, had mutual friends, their brothers were best friends and at one point they were neighbors, but they didn’t start dating until after high school, When Melinda was having her vehicle serviced at North Liberty Auto where Justin was working as an automotive technician at the time, he asked her on a date and the rest is history. They celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary on May 1. Before they were married, Justin moved back to Williamsburg and started doing automotive repairs from home after his regular work day at North Liberty Auto. The demand he saw for services was more than what he could get done on a part time basis. “Just Automotive sort of happened organically,” Melinda said. “Gary Metz, who is the former owner of North Liberty Auto, encouraged Justin to venture out and open his own shop and held a position for him during this transition time. That was nearly 16 years ago. Justin is thankful every day for Gary’s graciousness and affording him the opportunity to seek his own potential.” Located in rural Williamsburg at 2163 M Ave, Just Automotive opened in August of 2004 and serves the Iowa County area. They’ll be celebrating their 16th year in September. Last year, they hosted an open house celebration which included a car show, meal, door prizes, and provided attendees with the opportunity to view their newly remodeled and upgraded facility.
The couple are a husband and wife business team. While Justin is owner-operator, Melinda’s role is in office management and marketing. Their children often assist them in behind the scenes tasks. There are 10 full-time and 2 part-time employees on the team. “We believe in creating a culture and building our dream team. We are a family,” Melinda responded when asked about Just Automotive employee’s strong family bond. “We spend a lot of time together and we strive to provide an atmosphere where each individual enjoys coming to work. We hire employees who share our core values and believe wholeheartedly in the value of putting relationships with people, family and community first. We have a saying the ‘We don’t work on cars, we fix them,’ but more importantly, we’re in the business of helping people,” she added.
Just Automotive hosts a weekly shop staff meeting on Mondays when they have food catered in and discuss anything from goals for the week, things that went well, areas or situations that may need improvement, new procedures, community events, and personal and family news. Melinda referred to this as a round table discussion where all topics, opinions and feedback are encouraged. Following the discussion, they play their weekly shop game which consists of short and sweet “minute-to-win-it” games. Recent games have been a bean bag shoot out, slowest bike ride challenge and a cup flipping competition. Team members win bragging rights, a Facebook shout out and the traveling trophy for the week.
Recently, Just Automotive purchased the old fire station located at 303 Welsh Street on the town square in Williamsburg’s business district. It’s been a dream of Justin’s to own the old fire station,” Melinda said. “It was the Pontiac station way back when. How cool is that?” As for Melinda, she said she’s always had a fascination with old homes and historic buildings. The couple were considering a second location when the fire station became available. “We couldn’t ignore its potential and how well it appealed to both of us,” she said. The main location at 2163 M Ave will continue to provide all services. The fire station will be geared toward light repairs and vehicle maintenance; specifically services that can be completed while patrons enjoy the amenities offered on the square. They’re also hoping to provide automotive detailing services at the fire station location and will be hiring for an automotive detailer. Other positions they’re hiring for are an additional service advisor and technician.
Just Automotive provides on the job training and participates in the Kirkwood Workplace Learning Connection Job shadow program for 10th-12th grade. The Dermody’s strongly believe in expanding knowledge and growth in the automotive industry. The shop family often attends classes and hands-on training. This past March, every employee attended The Vision Expo in Kansas City for training and team building. “We’re super passionate about sharing our knowledge and expertise with high school students and young adults. We have gone as far as hosting our own high school shop class,” Melinda said. “We opened our business to all local high school students. Over five Saturdays, we welcomed students to get their hands and mind involved in the LS engine swap in a 1972 Chevy C10. This experience was free to students." Just Automotive provided the project, space, tools, lunch and free swag each week and 17 high school students participated. The Dermodys plan to continue offering the experience to students annually.
Another purchase to highlight for Justin and Melinda was that the location in town fulfills their desire to be more engaged with the community and more involved in community center events and activities such as Trick or Treat, Fourth of July festivities and Night on the Square. “We feel incredibly blessed to be a part of our local communities,” Melinda said. “We are so fortunate to live here, run our business here and raise our children here. Within the last couple of years both my mom and brother have purchased homes in Iowa County because they too see the beauty, uniqueness and hometown goodness that this area has to offer.” Just Automotive recently donated oil changes for all healthcare workers, distributed gift cards to local eateries in the surrounding area and partnered with Pino’s Pizzeria to show support for local educators during teacher appreciation week. The Dermodys said their vision is to expand their idea of service excellence and customer experience. “Just Automotive strives every day to improve the perception of the auto care industry. We believe in building trusting relationships with our customers. We want to inform, educate, and empower our consumers about the health, safety and reliability of their vehicles when making auto care decisions. Honesty, trust and clear communication are vital,” Melinda said. For now, the old fire station is being renovated with roof repairs, gutter replacement, new overhead doors, fresh paint, new LED lighting and new flooring. Drywall has been torn out where the office area will be located to expose the original brick and a new office front space will be installed. The building will also have a general facelift with cleaning the exterior brick. “We understand this building holds a lot of history in Williamsburg and we welcome the community to come and tour the facility’s updates,” she added. Future plans consist of adding a green friendly location by incorporating solar panels and recycling waste oil for a heat source. Justin said he would like to open the doors in August, in conjunction with Just Automotive’s 16th anniversary in business with the goal of being fully operational by fall 2020.
The couple live with their five children in the country midway between Williamsburg and Marengo. Ashten (age 19) graduated from Williamsburg High School last year and just completed her freshman year at Kirkwood Community College where she is studying Agriculture production. Their other children are Kayden (age 14), Emerson (9), Lexton (5), who all attend Williamsburg Community School District, and their 18-month-old son, Boyd. Aside from running their children to all of their activities which include 4-H, band, dance, competitive dance, school sports and community sports, the Dermodys spend their time frequenting car shows and car cruises. They enjoy traveling the country on the Hot Rod Power Tour and are looking forward to traveling in their RV converted school bus. The family likes spending time at home working on projects together. “This year we are testing out our green thumbs with a greenhouse and aquaponics. We usually have a project or two going at any given time,” Melinda said. Renovation video updates of Just Automotive’s new location can be viewed on their Facebook page, along with their weekly shop game videos and tips and tricks for maintenance on your vehicle.
The Dermodys also own Hot Rod Barn, a specialty shop where they focus on Hot Rods, Street Rods, Rat Rods, Muscle Cars, Turbos and Diesel Projects and is geared toward custom car builds, fabrications and restorations. The Hot Rod Barn opened in 2005 and shares Just Automotive’s M Avenue location. read less