During this pandemic, we’ve watched as our lives have been divided into activities that are considered “essential” and those that aren’t. Sometimes, these decisions have been made by state and local governments. Others have simply been personal choices that each of us has made to combat COVID-19.
When it comes to transportation, however, most Hawaii residents would consider their cars essential, especially considering that concerns remain around the safety of public transportation.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell agreed, and when he issued his first “stay at home, work from home” order in March, he placed auto repair operations on the list of essential businesses.
As part of our Local Spotlight series, highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on the small businesses of Hawaii, we talked with Nick Gerard, co-owner of Neue Auto in Honolulu. Nick’s perspective will give you a look into how an essential business like his has continued to operate during the pandemic—and how it’s giving back to the community.
Meet Nick Gerard: Co-Owner of Neue Auto in Honolulu
Approved Freight Forwarders: Tell us about Neue Auto. What services do you provide and who’s your customer base on Oahu?
We’re a complete auto care center offering bumper-to-bumper service. If you need suspension, brakes, engine or transmission repair, bodywork, electrical—or your check engine light comes on—we’re the place to go.
We deal with businesses, maintaining their fleets, and working with used car lots and dealerships, as well as consumers.
Approved Freight Forwarders: Did you close for any period of time?
We waited to see [what would happen] as far as regulations go. But as soon as automotive repair was considered an essential business, we were rocking and rolling from there.
Approved Freight Forwarders: What kind of changes have you seen to your business?
We knew businesses were going to cut back [on the work we do for them]. But we knew consumer business was possibly going to remain about the same because people need to go places—like the store—and their vehicle gets them there.
We’ve reduced the numbers [of cars we service] per day to accommodate for people coming in. We don’t want customers to have to interact with other customers, and we want to respect how everybody wishes to conduct themselves in this pandemic. So we’ve been limiting the cars per day, and spacing them out extra—just so there’s no interaction. It also gives us time to clean anything that’s a common area.
“If you own a business in this time, you have to stay on top of it. This is your environment. And on top of that, you want to do as much as you can with your community because community is everything.”
Approved Freight Forwarders: What about supplies? Have you had trouble getting the parts you need?
I’ve been following [COVID-19] from the last week of January, and we were anticipating that it was going to come to us. So we planned accordingly as a business. You have to have foresight as to what’s going on around you.
I confirmed with our vendors to see if they were going to stay open. They did. They cut their hours, but it was kind of business as usual.
There have been a lot of rumors like we’re going to have a lack of food and supplies here in Hawaii. But I reached out to some stevedore friends of mine, and they told me it wasn’t true. Supplies were still coming in at the docks.
Another thing that we did was, because we have access to certain vendors, we actually stocked up on masks. We ended up donating them to Pali Momi Medical Center, Queen’s Medical Center and a few other medical establishments. They reached out on social media and said that they were lacking medical supplies. We just knew that people were in need. It’s the community. When you have the opportunity to lend a hand, it’s one of those things you just do.
Approved Freight Forwarders: What do you think the future holds?
We just all feel blessed and very grateful that our business is an essential business. Everyone has a vehicle, and we can still conduct business and take in people who need their vehicles fixed.
But as far as the future of Oahu, I just hope that we have foresight. The decisions [the government] makes today on the 14-day quarantine and the stay-at-home orders are going to affect us for two or three months, and I believe we’re going to see effects throughout the whole year—and economic impact that will probably last us for years to come.
This is an unprecedented situation. Hawaii as a whole has to be very creative moving forward as far as how to keep business flowing.
If you own a business in this time, you have to stay on top of it. This is your environment. And on top of that, you want to do as much as you can with your community because community is everything.
We know that people are struggling. So we’re offering a 20% quarantine parts and labor discount, throughout the whole quarantine. We know that right now might not feel like the greatest time to take your car in. But this discount is one of the ways that we want to give back to some people in need. [We’re all] doing as much as we can, and that’s all I think we can ask for.
Discover More About Neue Auto
To discover more about Neue Auto and book an appointment to get your car serviced, visit https://www.neueauto.co/. Neue Auto will be offering their 20% quarantine discount throughout the 14-day quarantine. Reach out through their website for more information.
In our next article in this series, we’ll be talking with our freight experts in Kauai, Oahu and on the Big Island to get their perspective on what they’re seeing. If you’d like to see your business featured—make sure you don’t miss it, subscribe to our newsletter below!