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Meet Chris Hatzopoulos of Golf Crawford Auto Service in Evanston

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Hatzopoulos.

Chris, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was a second year student at UIC when my father passed away. I had lost focus on my studies and dropped out. I was always a “gear head” and decided to pursue a career in the automotive industry. My first job was as a tire mounter, which is truly the most entry level position there is in this industry… I started night school at Lincoln Technical Institute (Automotive Trade School) and work by day and attended school in the evening. Coincidentally I met my wife Johanna at Lincoln tech. After graduating, I worked my way up the ladder until I reached master mechanic status. I had always wanted my own shop and so when the opportunity came to become a manager and take over the front end of the business I jumped on it.

I worked as a manager for about 5 Years when the itch to find my own shop had to be scratched.

After a few years of searching I was introduced to the owner of Golf Crawford Auto service who was looking to retire. We both felt the best way to go about this was for me to work for him and get to know his business and clientele.

After 15 months, I acquired a small business loan and purchased the business on September 1st 2015, and the rest is history.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has been the biggest emotional roller coaster I have every experienced. The amount of stress I have put on my family and myself to pursue my dream of being a business owner has been enormous. Two years into this adventure and I still find myself worrying. I have been told that the worry never goes away. As far as struggles, there are many.

Namely leaving a comfortable job to take on an ownership position I have to say was very scary and perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome. Then of course securing financing. Unless your independently wealthy or have an angel donor, SBA (small business association) is the basically the only way to get a loan which is not easy to secure. After taking the business over the worry of cash flow and your employees becomes your next biggest worry. As a business owner, you are responsible for the wellbeing of your staff and making a bad decision that adversely effects the business can harm them as well. Of course, taking care of your customer is my foremost responsibility because without them… well that’s obvious.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Golf Crawford Auto Service has been servicing the North shore since 1985. We specialize in foreign and domestic, however, we service a high amount of Volkswagen and Audi vehicles as well as Volvo. What makes us unique is we also have a 50,000-lb. rated lift and the garage space to service mini shuttle buses, school buses and well as medium duty trucks. Which is not available in this area. I am most proud of our customer service. Our main goal besides fixing vehicles is to provide the best customer service possible. When we inspect a vehicle, even if you come in for a simple brake inspection, we go over the entire vehicle and give you a list of work needed now and work that can wait. This is important because it allows the customer to prepare/budget for what’s on the horizon rather than being surprised.

What were you like growing up?
I have always been social and loved to talk to people (sometimes kinda of too much of a talker lol). My biggest interests have always revolved around cars. If I wasn’t tinkering on mine, I was tinkering on a friend’s car.

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