DENNIS TOWNSHIP - This is not a business that has survived based only on location. There is nearly no passing vehicle traffic on the road - Beaver Dam Road - where Bernie's Foreign Car Care Inc. is located.
In fact, the asphalt road turns to dirt just a few yards from the front entrance to the long-running auto repair facility in Dennis Township, which Ingomar and Linda Koch purchased in 2005.
This makes existing customers and referrals a critical component of business.
"We get literally no drive-by traffic. It would be extremely rare for someone to come by and stumble upon us. The only people who find us are people who know us, are referred to us through word of mouth," said Ingomar Koch, 66, of Cape May Court House. "We don't promote it much."
A self-described car buff who works as one of two mechanics at the shop, Koch got into the auto repair business late in life, in his early 50s.
He spent almost 30 years in the corporate world, as director of marketing and product development at companies that made accounting systems for small businesses.
"One thing after another, your company gets bought, and eventually you're a free agent," he said. "I was ready for something new and different."
The family moved from Bucks County, Pa. Koch first purchased an auto shop in Cape May County in 1998 - Mossbrooks Tire and Auto Care in Cape May Court House - before selling it several years later.
Koch purchased Bernie's Foreign Car Care, which was named after its founder. Glenn Peterson, of the Ocean View section of Dennis Township, is the other mechanic who works there.
The business handles foreign and domestic vehicles, and typically repairs four to five cars a day, Koch said. Business can fluctuate, particularly during the off-season in tourist-heavy Cape May County.
"In the summer, the population here grows so much, and we have a lot of customers who only live here in the summer. Then they go to Florida. So, some of the months the population drops so much ... there can be lean months," he said.
And there is another quirk to the shop's somewhat hidden location. Some GPS systems tend to lead motorists to an entirely different area.
"We depend on keeping the customer base happy, because we're not going to have people stumbling into us," Koch said on a recent weekday morning. "The people who we service are the source of referrals for people who might come this way. You've got to do a pretty good job."
Contact Brian Ianieri:
Car Care Inc.
Location: 72 Beaver Dam Road, South Dennis, Dennis Township
Owners: Ingomar and Linda Koch, of Cape May Court House
Started: Current owner, 2005