Russian owners of NAPA autopro Drobot Automotive in Beechville, NS give back to the employees, customers and community that give them so muchBy Kristen Lipscombe
Irina and Evgeny Drobot have “never regretted” their decision to pack up their lives in Serbia, Russia; move literally to the other side of the world; and open up a NAPA AUToPRO Service Centre in the small community of Beechville, N.S.
They bought the service centre on the outskirts of Halifax Regional Municipality in July 2010, two years after moving to Nova Scotia, re-naming the NAPA shop Beechville Drobot Automotive.
“We followed our daughter but she moved to the U.S.A.,” said Irina, co-owner and co-president of the small but mighty shop nestled on the heart of St. Margarets Bay Road, in a bedroom community known in Halifax as BLT, or Beechville-Lakeside Timberlea, a slightly suburban but slightly rural are consisting of a close-knit community that welcomes newcomers with open arms.
“We preferred to live in Canada,” Irina told Auto and Trucking Atlantic. “We visited Nova Scotia, and we found that it’s a very beautiful province, and we wanted to live near the ocean and in a very nice city, so we decided to move here.”
Irina and Evgeny had already been experienced automotive business owners in their home country, and even with any cultural barriers, it didn’t take them long upon arriving in Nova Scotia to tap into the local market and find that the Beechville service centre was for sale.
“We invested, we took over the shop within only five days, and then we built the other part of the building and we installed two more hoists for heavy vehicles,” Irina said, “so now we can serve fleets and there is almost no restriction on the (size of) vehicles we can serve.
It also didn’t take them long to recruit manager Leonard Myra, who was set to retire from Speedy Auto Service in Lower Sackville after three decades working in the automotive industry.
“I went to a NAPA that I know and I was talking to the manager there and he said, ‘go out and talk to this here Russian couple; they’re going to be looking for a manager,” Myra recalled.
“They hired me,” he said with a fond chuckle. “They stole me from my retirement.” Irina and Evgeny immediately put their trust into Myra the day Drobot Automotive opened its doors to the public just over a decade ago, then leaving it completely in his capable hands to “grow the business.”
During that time, “we’ve accomplished that, two-fold, ,” said Myra, who works alongside about a half dozen other dedicated employees. “Big and small, any size, anything,” Myra said. “You break it, we fix it.”
It certainly helps that the two Russian owners share the same values as their Nova Scotian shop manager, with a strong emphasis on providing the best customer service in the industry and a philanthropic passion for giving back to the community.
“We do our very best for customers,” Myra said, and as a result, “we have customers that actually travel 100 kilometres that come to us and we have customers that live across the road.”
Not even COVID-19 restrictions seemed to slow this shop down for long, particularly since Drobot fixes larger fleet vehicles that need to be on the road providing essential supplies. Shop workers continue to clean and sanitize their equipment and workspaces daily, following all regulations for physical distancing and protective equipment to help keep themselves and their customers safe.
“We are big on service,” Myra said. “I make sure that all of our customers get thanked when they leave; we make sure that we tell them we appreciate their business; we do not use any of those cheap parts that people put on cars and we have shuttle services.” Irina points out that the shop also offers a “tire hotel” for customers to store winter tires. “It’s all about service for us,” Myra said.
Drobot Automotive also believes in giving back to the community that supports their business.
That includes selling tickets to customers for raffles to win toys and equipment ranging from remote control trucks to leaf blowers in support of Christmas Daddies, a not-for-profit organization that holds a large telethon over the holidays to help out less fortunate children across the Maritimes.
Drobot also supports programs at BLT Elementary School by allowing teams and other student groups to use their parking lots to host car washes and other fundraisers. “We’re happy and proud to be part of the community,” Myra said. “If you take care of the community, the community will take care of you.”
For Irina and Evegny, it’s also important to take care of their employees and families, who they have become to trust and love since emigrating to a completely new country with a completely different culture. “We celebrate the birthday of the company every single year,” Irina said. “Usually it’s a party with nights stayed in the countryside, in the cottages, and we have a big party for our employees and their spouses.”
Although the global pandemic put a damper on this year’s 10th anniversary celebration, Irina and Evgeny still managed to host a small barbecue in their parking lot with safety precautions in place for employees and customers alike.
“Our employees spend more time with us, working for us, working for the company, than sometimes they spend with their families,” Irina said, “so we celebrate birthdays, we celebrate Christmas.” “We proudly work for Drobot Automotive – all of us,” Irina said. “We are family.”