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F.C. Resident Relocates Business to Vienna

After more than 20 years serving customers in Rosslyn, Falls Church business owner Shaun van Steyn will be moving his auto shop to Vienna. But those who have come to enjoy the photos that adorn the walls of this shop need not fear. The art is coming with him.

After more than 20 years serving customers in Rosslyn, Falls Church business owner Shaun van Steyn will be moving his auto shop to Vienna. But those who have come to enjoy the photos that adorn the walls of this shop need not fear. The art is coming with him.

The photographer and owner of Arlington Motorcar Service had to relocate the business to its new home on Leesburg Pike, in the old Don Peacock car dealership building. The auto repair shop occupies the repairs section of the old dealership, with its entrance off of Tyco Road. A furniture store is located within the showroom space.

The Tysons Corner location was not the first pick for van Steyn. After learning that his old place of business had been sold and would be torn down, van Steyn had only a few weeks to relocate. He found a suitable new location in a building in Alexandria, which was being sold, and agreed to rent it. Shortly after moving into the new space, plans for purchase fell through and van Steyn was left without a landlord. Van Steyn then decided to purchase the building himself, but a cash offer was accepted and Van Steyn was forced to yet again relocate.

“All of a sudden, here we are. “After being established for years, you can imagine all of the stuff we had,” van Steyn said.

After settling on the Tysons Corner location, there was still much work left to do in order to make the business fully functioning, included extensive repairs to the new shop.

“It was a real mess,” van Steyn said.

So far, van Steyn said the cost of getting settled has been about $100,000.

“It hasn’t been an easy transition,” van Steyn said.

In addition to the costs, the hours have been piling up.

“When you open a place, you’re there really 24 hours a day,” van Steyn said. “Even weekends.”

But van Steyn has the help of his cousin and General Manager Bill Woodard in making the switch from Arlington to Vienna, and the duo is leaving its artistic mark on the new building.

Upon first entering the shop, customers are greeted by a waiting room decorated with many of van Steyn’s prints from his career as a stock photographer. The stand-out piece in the room is a working replica of an English telephone booth – paying homage to the owner and manager’s place of birth – that the duo were able to find and bring to the new location through a free listing online.

“It’s a mockup, but it’s exactly the same,” van Steyn said, adding that the booth’s telephone was in working order.

Soon Woodard, a silver spinner and stone turner, will be contributing his own work to the waiting-room-meets-gallery-space.

Other plans for the future include expanding the business. While their Rosslyn space was 2,500 square feet, the Tysons Corner shop is nearly three times that size, with a bay that can hold more cars.

But for now, the cousins are waiting for business to pick back up.

“You can’t be down for any serious amount of time without losing part of the client base,” Woodard said. Through a 1,000-customer email database, customers were notified about the move and are coming back to the business despite the change in location, van Steyn said.

“They’re already coming,” said van Steyn, who added that in the first week and a half that the business had reopened, they saw 100 customers.

“When the general public has found someone they like that will service their automobile, they will stick to them like glue,” Woodard said.

And while the business has moved to a new location, it shouldn’t be too hard for customers to recognize its new location – van Steyn took the sign with him. Rescuing the decades-old sign from the old location was no small feat, as it stood atop a 30-foot pole in front of the business. But with the help of a cherry picker and a large truck, van Steyn was able to bring the bright yellow sign to the new location, this time a bit closer to the ground, as it is now affixed to the front of the building.

While customers find their way to the location, van Steyn has not had enough work for his full staff from Rosslyn. He said, however, that they are still on the payroll.

“I paid them not to work because they are good technicians and they have been with me for years,” van Steyn said. “Customers haven’t been flying in the door, but I’ve had enough for two technicians to work.”

One of those technicians, Carlos Zaragoza, has worked with Arlington Motorcar Service for 10 years, and has seen the automobile technology change considerably.

“Carlos is very adaptable,” van Steyn said, adding that the changes in the ways cars are built since his business’s opening in 1983 have led van Steyn to send his technicians in for classes so that they can stay abreast of new technologies.

For van Steyn, much has changed since his introduction to the automobile industry, which came by way of his step-father’s business producing automobile parts for the Israeli army in the 1950s.

After learning the basics from his step-father, van Steyn’s knowledge of automobiles expanded through work on his own vehicle.

“Most people in England work on their own car,” the English-born business owner said.

He first worked in car repair at a business in Washington, D.C., but said he left the business because he disagreed with its practices.

“They were selling cars parts they didn’t need,” van Steyn said. “So I said, ‘OK, I’ll open my own place.'”

Van Steyn attributes some of his business’ success to his technicians’ willingness to repair and not replace parts, a trait he says he learned from his English upbringing.

“People in this country throw too much away,” van Steyn said. “If we can repair something, we will.”

And while the unexpected move might have set the business back, van Steyn is not worried for the future.

“We will continue to be successful,” van Steyn said. “People have to eat, and they have to have their cars.”

Arlington Motorcar Service is located at 8590 Leesburg Pike, Vienna. Shop hours are 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, call 703-748-1267 or visit Arlingtonmotorcar.com.