By CASEY CROUCHER
After a hail storm in mid-May damaged many city vehicles, Richard Altieri Jr. came back to his hometown to help his brother with the family business.
"It feels awesome having my brother back here," Anthony Altieri, owner of Altieri's Auto Inc., said. "He put me back on my toes again."
The auto business originated when the brothers' father, Richard Altieri Sr., opened the shop in 1955 on Broad Street, Amsterdam. His main goal was to provide a better lifestyle for his large family, the brothers said.
Richard Jr., oldest of seven children, started working at his father's business after high school in 1968. However, in the 1970s he experimented with computers to improve business efficiency and developed KIS computer software, which was one of the first companies in North America to develop computer software for autobody repair systems. After this development, he left the family business to pursue a passion for helping body shops improve their processes and performance.
After he left, Anthony purchased his father's shop and took it over in 1985.
"We took different paths," Richard Jr., said.
After hearing about the hail storm in the city May 22, however, Richard Jr. came back to Amsterdam to help his younger brother out at his Erie Street body shop.
"I called [Anthony] up and asked him if he needed someone to help answering the phone and servicing the customers," Richard said. "Thirty years passed since I've been back here, working in the shop, but it feels like nothing's changed."
Because of Richard Jr.'s extensive consulting experience, he was able to help Anthony's shop be more efficient during a busy time.
"When the hail hit we got hit with a lot of customers," Anthony said. "Rich was a big help because he helped me get organized. I'm not as lax and laid back as I used to be; I'm now responsible for my duties as owner. When you're your own boss for a long time you get into a routine and sometimes it's not a very good routine; Rich has helped me get back into a better routine."
As for Richard Jr., being back at the shop is good fit.
"This hail storm created a great opportunity for [Anthony's business] and for me summertime is slow; I don't do much consulting. So when it wasn't busy for me I called him up and asked, 'Hey, you want some help?' and I came here to answer some phones, take some of the burden off and it's been over a month later," he said. "I like being back."
"Even though we haven't worked together in years, we're a close family," he continued. "I came in here and I changed the way phones were answered, we hired almost 10 new employees and I helped make some changes, but the business itself is all Anthony."
Richard Jr., said his brother's body shop has been successful without any help. He said he's hoping to add a little more to make the shop even better. The reason the business has thrived in the past, he said, is because of how Anthony treats his customers.
"He cares very much about his customers, almost to a fault," he said. "He'll take a customer and spend 30 minutes with them or take them to get their car; he's truly quality-driven, which is unusual to the extent where he's just got this technical hands-on expertise I never had. He's very conscious of quality, very focused on his customers and very focused on his business."
Anthony joked, saying he's back working for his brother like he did when he was in high school.
"No, Anthony used to work for me but now I'm working for him," Richard Jr. said.
The older brother stressed how Anthony didn't need saving, he was already successful.
"I didn't come in here and save the day. Anthony was doing fine on his own," he said. "But anytime a hail storm hits a city, an auto repair shop goes crazy. I like to think I helped him out."
"He did, he helped a lot," Anthony said, patting his big brother on the arm.
Richard Jr. said he's not sure how long he'll stay in the shop, but he plans to keep in touch with its success.
"I won't stay here full-time, I'll probably stay for the summer until the hail dent customers subside," he said. "But I'll always be there to help Anthony, that's what family is for."