Drivers Seat

NB|AZ helps steer historic auto repair business to continued success.

Wilhelm AutomotiveWilhelm Automotive has been a family-owned business since before most people had ever seen a car. It began as a blacksmith shop that opened in 1889 in what is now the city of Peoria.

Nearly a century later, the company’s third owners, Joe and Mary Margaret Wilhelm, sold what had become a thriving auto-repair business to Charley and Mary Jane Gyder, a West Valley couple looking for a business to own and operate.

Today their son, Thom Gyder, is the CEO of the company. Still headquartered in Peoria, Wilhelm has expanded to seven locations—five in the West Valley and two in Phoenix. And the successful business has long emphasized the importance of giving back to the community.

All of the company’s employees are encouraged to participate in a food drive each year during the holidays and many participate in the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. They participate in and volunteer at fundraising events sponsored by a philanthropic organization called the Mavericks. Wilhelm president Chris Garman is an active member of the Mavericks, and he and other members raised $100,000 last year for various charities in the West Valley.

In addition, the employees at each Wilhelm location often participate in fundraising events in their own communities. The Goodyear location, for example, joins the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life every October at the City of Goodyear Ballpark.

Gyder and his family have always been supportive of the theater arts and they were instrumental in helping raise funds for the Peoria Performing Arts Center, a 20,000-square-foot theater complex that opened in 2006. Gyder personally donated $120,000 in a 2003 fundraising campaign held in memory of his mother.

“Philanthropy is something I was raised with by watching my parents,” Gyder say, “and there was an expectation that wherever you live and whatever you do, it’s important to give back to the community to make it a better place. It fits perfectly with our company, as our emphasis is on taking care of people.”

Gyder also understands the value of embracing new technology in his business. In early 2014, Wilhelm Automotive began partnering with the Hybrid Shop to become one of only two certified hybrid-vehicle repair shops in Arizona that serve as a dealer alternative.

“While history and tradition are a big part of the Wilhelm brand, it’s also important to keep up with the latest technology,” Gyder says.

National Bank of Arizona has been helping Gyder and his company with their financial needs since 2009. He estimates that by refinancing several loans with NB|AZ, he has saved about $180,000 in interest charges.

“I’m impressed with Thom because of his passion to run his business not only from an economic standpoint, but from a personal perspective, as well,” says Mary Holman, a National Bank of Arizona senior vice president who manages the bank’s Credit Solutions Group. “He looks at the big picture and then guides his team of professionals to achieve the results together, which makes the entire company successful.”

Holman also credits Gyder’s collaboration with other NB|AZ bankers, including Mike Hasenkamp, Sue Quaintance and Dawn Eckert.

“Thom is a very savvy businessman,” says Catherine Arvizu, a vice president and business banker at NB|AZ. “He runs his business based on excellent customer service and he cares about both his customers and his employees.”

“The philosophy that Joe Wilhelm established early on was very simple: Perform quality service, do everything you can to accommodate your customers and always give back to your community,” Gyder says. “It’s a philosophy that has stayed true to the current day.”

Story by Debra Gelbart
Photo by Mark Lipczynski

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