Veteran Competitors Join Forces at Auto Sports Center

by George Waldon  on Monday, Jan. 21, 2013 12:00 am  

The two veteran retailers rely on tried-and-true, old-school tactics to combat the pricing advantage sometimes wielded by Internet competitors: Keep and win customers with friendly service backed by decades of knowledge and experience.

“They can’t order service over the Internet,” said Haynes, a race car driver, now a track chaplain and a card-carrying member of the Track Announcers Guild. “We can offer personal service where customers can hold a part in their hands and look at it.”

“We pretty much consider our customers our friends,” Lamia said.

That old-school business vibe at Auto Sports Center extends to its attraction as a commercial-social destination. The break room serves as an unofficial clubhouse for customers and visitors to hang out and talk cars, politics, sports or whatever.

The midday gathering on this particular Wednesday is no exception. Old friends-customers freely ignore the sign posted “employees only” to visit the facilities in the back room behind the counter. A group of men talk and cajole in the break room while Lamia and Haynes take care of business on the phone and on the sales floor.

“It’s pretty much an everyday event,” Lamia said.

Racing gear and customized accessories aren’t the only merchandise carried by the specialty shop. Engine programmers have grown in popularity for auto owners of all persuasions.

Among other things, the computerized devices squeeze more fuel efficiency and more power from engines to save money and improve performance.

The mix of new and old is symbolized by the store’s centerpiece: a 1965 Corvette Sting Ray with a 427-cubic-inch, Chevy big block engine under the hood.

Not mere eye candy to garnish the sales floor, this 800-horsepower hot rod set a 1988 record at the Houston Raceway by running a quarter-mile in 9.74 seconds while hitting a speed of 137.53 miles per hour.

Upgrades over the years now enable the car to turn in a quarter-mile time “in the high 8s” while hurtling down the track in the “150-miles-per-hour range” according to Lamia.

The times and the technology have changed, but the love of the business hasn’t waned for Steve Haynes and Leonard Lamia.



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