East Cooper Auto Pros (ECAP) is currently celebrating its 25th business anniversary of providing quality automotive care in the area. As they are celebrating this milestone, they were also the first National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA) Auto Care Center in the state of South Carolina to obtain NAPA’S Gold Certification.

“I’m extremely proud of my business, my employees and my customers. I love my customers. We know most of them right when they walk in the door by first name basis,” said William “Willie” Hopkins, owner of ECAP.

He and his wife Christine, who teaches preschool at O’Quinn School in Mount Pleasant, own ECAP.

In January 1994, Hopkins opened his own business. He explained he’d been working elsewhere and got tired of things being told to customers that were not being done correctly.

“Plus I figured I’d be good at it. I think that everyone really kind of wants to own a business,” Hopkins said.

His daughter Briggs Fort also owns her business in Mount Pleasant. She opened Affortable Grooming five years ago after telling Hopkins that if he can do it, so could she.

ECAP rented a spot on Lainsing Drive and in 2001 moved to 1198 Shadow Drive, Mount Pleasant off Chuck Dawley Blvd. Hopkins said he likes being in their current location because it gives them the availability to accommodate drop-ins by not being on a major roadway.

Bob McCormack, ECAP’s Service Manager compared ECAP getting NAPA Gold Certification to a car dealership meeting service work criteria to get a five-star rating. McCormack said there are more NAPA Care Centers across the country than any other chain. He appreciates what NAPA has done to tie their businesses together nationally, although they are independently owned and operated.

“For an independent shop to make this step is a pretty big commitment that you’re doing everything right. A lot of places do some things good and other things not so good. It’s just a matter of incorporating everything that you’re supposed to be doing,” McCormack said. “We thought we’d been doing that all along and nationally there’s finally a realization for how important it is.”

Hopkins said that there are only two Gold Certified NAPA Auto Care Centers in the state and possibly more soon. All ECAP auto repairs come with a 3-year, 36,000 mile nationwide warranty because they are a Napa Care Center.

The process for ECAP to become Gold Certified took six months. They received the certification four months ago.

A major criteria for the recognition is to have a full-time Automotive Society of Engineers (ASE) Master Certified employee on staff. ECAP currently has two ASE Master Certified Technicians and plan to have two more soon.

McCormack explained that NAPA is aiming for all Auto Care Centers to get all employees ASE certified, so they hope to have all eight at ECAP certified eventually.

Other criteria for the award included having NAPA branding, which the shop already had. Hopkins explained they had to send in photos of ECAP and then someone from NAPA came to verify this in person.

Hopkins explained the guy who heads up NAPA’s Gold Certification program came into ECAP for a spot check to their shop three weeks ago with no warning. Also, on three separate occasions over the past few months, NAPA employees would call ECAP undercover, sometimes asking for price quotes over the phone. Hopkins said they’re not supposed to give prices over the phone instead they tell customers they can bring their car in for a free estimate.

For Gold Certification, the shop must maintain a high customer satisfaction index score, use a Digital Vehicle Inspection (DVI) program for every customer inspection and participate in a Business Development Group.

The shop can loose the recognition at anytime NAPA deems they aren’t meeting expectations. Hopkins said that NAPA won’t put their name on shops that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do. NAPA holds each Gold Certified Auto Care Center accountable for meeting their standards and verifies qualifications.

Hopkins said that Dan Hodapp, ECAP’s office manager up front, maintains the shops online presence, social media and checking customers in and out. Hopkins praised him for his ability to find information online and hard work to help them meet NAPA’s expectations.

McCormack said that when most shop owners get to this point, they’re looking at how to get out — not how they’re going to step up the game. He applauded Hopkins for his hard work and improving the business.

“I’m excited to have achieved the NAPA Gold Certified Award and what we’ve done over the past 25 years. I’m also looking forward to what we’ll accomplish in the next 25 years,” Hopkins concluded.

For more information visit ECAP’s website at eastcooperautopros.com.