COVID-19 Isn’t Putting The Brakes On This Brooklyn Automotive Repair Business

Mar 25, 2020

Hugh’s Riverside Automotive, in the city’s Brooklyn neighborhood on Chelsea Street,  has been a fixture in Jacksonville for 70 years.

Manager Eric Juchniewicz considers his business essential, doing maintenance work on a range of vehicles that includes everything from government agencies to plumbers.

About 80% of his business is from these "fleet customers," which he said is allowing him to keep his six full-time employees and one-part time employee on the payroll and working. The remaining 20% of the business comes from individuals.

“With current trends today, I can probably keep going indefinitely,” Juchniewicz said.

Like nearly all companies, Hugh’s Riverside Automotive and its vendors are taking extra steps in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic to limit employees’ potential exposure to the virus.

A prime example is how billing from delivery drivers is handled.

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

“They've changed how we're billed. We have a signature on file and we simply acknowledge with the driver that, yes, that's our signature rather than physically putting a pen to paper anymore. Just to limit contact. So they've made some good strides there to keep themselves quote, unquote, ‘socially distant' from us.”

Unlike some businesses, Hugh’s Riverside Automotive also has enough inventory to go on quite a while, even if all deliveries came to a halt.

“We probably have enough to go here - oil and transmission fluid - as such, for about 18 months without a single delivery,” Juchniewicz said.

But that doesn’t mean the local automotive repair industry isn’t hurting.

Juchniewicz said one local auto dealership had layoffs this week. WJCT News hadn't independently confirmed those layoffs by this story's publication but will update this story if it does. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Tuesday that daily claims to the state’s reemployment assistance system have jumped from what could be 250, 500 or 1,000 a day to between 18,000 and 21,000 a day.

“I think what the big fear is now is the fear of the unknown. Nobody really knows what to expect on the horizon. This is an unprecedented hit right now,” said Juchniewicz.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.