Northampton is a medium-sized town in semi-rural West Central Massachusetts. In 1990, Joe O’Rourke was handling sales for a new radio station in town when an order for Ryan Imported Car Repair crossed his desk. The morning guy knew the owner, Joe Ryan, and he told O’Rourke, “Get to know Joe Ryan, he already knows your car.”
Radio Ink: What got you interested in radio?
Ryan: Well, it made sense to me. You got cars, you got radios in cars, and people listen to the news in the morning while they’re driving to work. WRNX and WRSI at the time were locally owned, and I knew the owner and one of the air personalities, Buddy Rubbish. Buddy told me that I needed a catchphrase, so he coined a phrase for me: “Get to know
Joe Ryan, he already knows your car.” I liked it, so every ad I ran on the station always ended with the catchphrase.
I have people that see me on the street who ask me, “Are you Joe Ryan?” I say yes, I am, and they say, “You know my car — what is it?” I laugh and then say something like, “You
look like a Ford guy.” Sometimes I guess right and sometimes I guess wrong, but we play this little back-and-forth game and sometimes it results in a new customer.
Radio Ink: Tell us about your business.
Ryan: I’ve owned my business since 1978. I bought a small garage from a fellow who wanted to move south to go racing. I said, “Good luck!” About 90 percent of the people who try it don’t make it. It was a VW Beetle repair shop. In 1978 they stopped producing air-cooled Beetles, so it’s kind of hard to have a shop called Beetle Service. I’ve always worked on European cars, so I changed the name to Ryan Imported Car Repair. We still did Beetles, but I work on other makes too.
Radio Ink: Your shop looks interesting. It’s like a garage with a house on top of it.
Ryan: I’m in the historic district of downtown Northampton, Massachusetts. So when I wanted to add a second floor to the shop in 2012 the Planning Board said, “Well, you can’t do that.” What I could do was make the addition look like a Victorian house, and that is what I did. They even told me what color schemes I could use. So it looks like a big gingerbread house.
The upstairs is office space and storage, and the whole downstairs is dedicated to repairs. There are four lifts on the larger left side of the downstairs, and the other side has equipment we use, like a tire-mounting machine. We have four technicians, myself, and an office manager, and we are always busy.
Radio Ink: What type of spots do you run?
Ryan: We do seasonal ads, like, “If you got the summertime blues because your air conditioning is broke and your car is a joke” or “When winter comes
along, don’t forget your car needs to get winterized — go see Joe.” Also, we talk about the experience of the guys that work on your car. A couple of them have been with me for 20-plus years. They’re like family.
Radio Ink: How do you know people are listening? How has the response been?
Ryan: It’s been great. If people see me in the store with my [logo] shirt on, they often ask me if I’m the Joe Ryan who knows their car. I say yes and ask them where they heard that. I also am a big sports fan, especially in the summer and fall with the Red Sox and the Patriots. I advertise on the Sports radio station where they do a morning Patriots talk show during football season. Sometimes I do UMass basketball.
Radio Ink: You have been working with your sales rep for almost 30 years. That shows a lot of trust.
Ryan: Joe O’Rourke, my radio sales guy, brings his car in when he needs work done. We talk about cars, but we also talk about my ads and he gives me ideas sometimes of what to run and when. Whenever I ask him to do certain things, he is always there to help. I listen to a lot of radio and I hear ads I like and others I don’t like, and Joe and I talk about those things.
Radio Ink: What advice would you give people considering using radio to
Ryan: I’d say try it, and do it in some way that makes it interesting. Do something in a way you can track things, like, “Mention this ad and get a discount” or service of some sort. That way you can get some idea as to who is listening and if your ads are working. Always talk to new customers about how they heard about you. Some say they heard about it on the radio, and others say, “Someone told me about the great work you do” — you know, word of mouth. I think the radio advertising has definitely helped improve my business.
Joe O’Rourke on Joe Ryan: He just advertises. To him, it’s as routine as
turning the lights on each morning and at the end of the month paying the electric bill. Month after month. Just like the big successful national and global brands do it. Joe Ryan has been on at least one radio station, usually two or three, 52 weeks a year since the fall of 1990. The schedules are modest but consistent. That’s quite a commitment for a little four-bay car repair shop!
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