Creig P. Sherburne/Atascadero News • Jonathan La Rosa shows off his shiny new shelving, sheathed in steel and laden with oil and filters.
ATASCADERO — A little more than five years ago, Jonathan La Rosa was ready for a change. He wanted to get remarried and raise a family. He was ready to leave San Jose, the town he’d lived and worked in for his whole life.
A bit of research — he said he liked the low crime rate and school system — brought him to Atascadero. He re-opened his automotive shop across the street from Sunken Gardens and hit the ground running.
In the five years since he opened up shop, La Rosa has added services and expanded his capabilities with equipment, employees and software.
La Rosa’s Automotive is located on El Camino Real at West Mall Avenue. Its parking area backs right up to the pedestrian tunnel, the area around which La Rosa very recently landscaped a little bit.
“It was six feet of weeds,” he said of the area.
Instead of unkempt weeds, the La Rosa side of the tunnel is now flanked by small trees and flowers. Why? Because, La Rosa said, every day, he looks out his office window at the Sunken Gardens and Historic City Hall. He didn’t want to look the other way and see a dump.
He even put his own trash cans out on the sidewalk near the tunnel entrance for cigarette butts and other litter. It’s just a matter of taking some ownership and some responsibility for how the town looks, he said, and it’s not particularly hard.
“The community you serve reflects you,” La Rosa said, “just like you reflect the community you serve. … I love my town.”
And it’s a good thing, too. He just signed a 15-year lease on his building and opened a brand new lube bay in what was previously used as storage.
The lube bay has style. It’s a drive-thru structure that can service two vehicles at a time. And rather than simply build two-by-four and plywood shelving for oil and filters and such, rather than leave the steel walls of the building, he sheathed everything in corrugated, galvanized steel.
“We wanted to have some character,” La Rosa said. “We wanted the visual of an old-school auto shop … and what can you clean oil off of better than galvanized steel?”
La Rosa said that, assuming there’s no line, it takes about 20 minutes to get an oil change in his shop. And because all that aforementioned storage space, he has a wide range of oils and filters, which means he and his crew can change oil in just about any vehicle brought his way.
While La Rosa’s Automotive is a full-service shop and can handle most of the work that comes his way, he has a good relationship with other local shops. He said that he frequently sends transmission work up the road to Specialty Gear & Transmission; Specialty Gear’s owner James Duty said in April that he often sends work La Rosa’s way, as well.
Further, La Rosa works closely with Napa Auto Parts, O’Reilly Auto Parts and AutoZone for replacement parts. He said he prefers those companies over dealer parts almost every time.
“They have a way better warranty than the dealer,” he said.
Part of what gives La Rosa his edge is his reference library. When a car’s “check engine” light turns on, it’s because one or more sensors in the car is reporting something out of the ordinary. A code is produced. La Rosa can quickly find what that code is and, using his secret weapon, can find out in seconds what that code means — including if it will require new parts or not — and approximately how long it should take to fix.
“We don’t do guesswork,” La Rosa said. “I just can’t afford it.”
That diagnostic tool is also part of what makes La Rosa’s Automotive so quick at smog checks. He knows within seconds why a failing car didn’t pass, what to do to fix it, and how long it will take and how much it will cost.
All of which is very important to La Rosa. In addition to that 15-year lease he just signed, his oldest daughter, Jaslin, 5, is heading to Monterey Road Elementary School for kindergarten this month. He said he knows that if he does shoddy work or rips somebody off, he’s going to hear about it at school. Or at The Ravine, where he and his family spent his youngest daughter’s, Juliet’s, 3rd birthday last week. Or at a Kiwanis Club or Elks Club or Atascadero Historical Society meetings — he’s a member of all three.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” La Rosa said. “If you treat people right, they’ll treat you right. It’s not hard.”
For more information, call 466-5300, go to www.larosas
auto.com or swing by the shop, 6700 El Camino Real next door to Atascadero Main Street and the pedestrian tunnel. And certainly swing by on Hot El Camino Cruise Nite on Friday, Aug. 17 — La Rosa’s Automotive will have a bounce house, free grilled hot dogs and four or five race cars on display during the automotive parade.