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Hamburg detail shop co-owner talks California and cars

WE CAN DO IT – Hamburg native Kathleen Pellette has a self-proclaimed love of cars. After living in California, she returned back to the Southtowns and opened Classic Car Auto Detailing, emphasizing car care, natural products and customer connection. Photo by Alicia Greco.
HAMBURG — The walls are painted, curtains adorn the windows and there are vases of fresh flowers throughout the garage. Classic Care Auto Detailing is a women-owned beauty shop for cars.

The shop is owned by sisters Kathleen and Michele Pellette. The former runs the garage and detailing, while the latter manages, markets and advertises.

Kathleen Pellette started working on cars in 1984. She is originally from Hamburg, but headed out West to California, where she lived and worked for many years.

While she was tending to cars at Five Star Auto Detailing in Long Beach, she noticed a man drive up on a consistent basis, to fill the tanks of Mercedes-Benz cars. She learned that his name was Keith Hill and he owned Classic Care Auto Detailing. The two talked about cars and soon became business partners, despite Hill’s hesitation, due to a bad experience with a partnership in the restaurant business.

The duo’s business relationship flourished, as did their personal, and they became best friends. Hill eventually passed away from cancer.

“I love my Keith,” Pellette said, as she looked at an old photo of him from their California shop.

She said that she first fell in love with cars when she was a child. She said she remembers being 5 years old, around the holidays; President John F. Kennedy’s funeral played on TV, while she played with toy cars. Automobile affection runs in the family; her oldest brother is a professional drag racer.

What does she love most about cars? “Just to make it perfect, and feel it,” she said.

To be a woman in a male-dominated profession does not phase Pellette, she said, “after 28 years working in a guy business. I don’t even see a gender when they pull up,” she added. “I just see a car.”

The small shop offers a more personal company-to-customer connection. Pellette said that she emphasizes Classic Care’s quality, customer service and experience. Since the interactions are one-on-one, Pellette said that she believes this makes her business’s service better than bigger chain automobile shops. In addition to the service on the car, Pellette said that she tries to educate the customer about how to maintain his or her vehicle.

“A big part of it is trust,” she said. In cleaning out the inside of cars, she has found many items, ranging from the odd to the important, whether it be a missing earring or $400. She said that customers can trust those at her shop, more than at larger chains.

The Classic Care owners said that they make sure that gender stereotypes have no effect on the performance of their service, but gender does play a role in the shop’s personality. Instead of utilizing harsh chemicals, the products used to clean are all natural. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day© products come in scents such as lemon, lavender and eucalyptus.

The space is clean, and includes patterned curtains on the windows and reading material in an organized holder that sports “Buffalo Spree Magazine” and “Artvoice.” Carpet lines the floors and an aquarium sits on one of the counters. Pellette completely stripped the bathroom and renovated it, giving it more light, a fresh paint job and a few pieces of art. The sign for the shop was created by Alan Mazurowski.

A green, floral couch with a furry, cheetah-print pillow sits in the main office. The hardwood furniture in the garage belonged to the sisters’ late mother. Prisms dangle from the windowpane, refracting rainbow lights into the two-bay garage.

The Pellettes are currently working on developing the lounge area, where customers will be able to sit comfortably, while waiting for their cars. As the lounge develops, Kathleen Pellette said she hopes to display local artwork and host wine and art nights on the weekends.

Behind the shop is a spread of open land. With Eighteenmile Creek nearby, Pellette said that she is reminded of her home in the country. On her 35 acres of land, she raises honeybees and has 34 chickens, a turkey and a German Shepherd.

“I just love it [in Hamburg],” she said, adding that she has no intention of moving back to California. One of her stated goals is to open a second detail shop in Hamburg and she said that she would eventually like to add a coin-operated dog wash in her current shop. “We’re very dog-friendly,” she said, and encouraged customers to bring along their pooches.

Her personal values shine through the shop’s services. Pellette said that she loves to network and provide donations, giving assistance to organizations such as Ten Lives Club or Alzheimer’s foundations.

The sisters’ tagline was created by Hill and Pellette said that they plan to hold true to it: “When a good job just isn’t enough.”

Classic Care Auto Detailing is located at 7242 Boston State Road in Hamburg. For more information, call 649-4649.

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