Frank’s Automotive vies for Top Small Business Award

Andy Daniels at Frank’s Automotive in Tulare, Ca.(Rigo Moran)

Tulare business Frank’s Automotive earns distinction from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as one of 70 top small businesses in the country

TULARE – Family-owned business Frank’s Automotive is up for a national award recognizing its success in growth and community engagement.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a national lobbying organization composed of local chambers from around the country, announced on Sept. 21 that Tulare’s own Frank’s Automotive is one of 70 preliminary finalists for its America’s Top Small Business Award. The award is meant to highlight small business achievements and contributions to the nation’s economic growth.

“It’s just a privilege to work here and to serve here with the people that we have,” Andy Daniels, who owns Frank’s Automotive with his wife, Jennie Daniels, said. “I hold it as a high honor for all of us. It’s not just me; it’s the team.”

Frank’s Automotive is a general automotive service and repair shop affiliated with retailers’ cooperative NAPA Auto Parts and the American Automobile Association (AAA). Frank Daniels Sr. opened the shop in 1960 as Frank’s Mohawk gas station and eventually sold it to his son Andy Daniels — whose full name is Frank Andrew Daniels Jr. — in 1992, according to the shop’s website.

Tulare Chamber of Commerce CEO Donnette Silva Carter said she recommended Frank’s Automotive apply for the award because of its history as a multigenerational business deeply rooted in the community.

“They are one of those businesses that take seriously community stewardship and what their engagement should be,” Silva Carter said. “The Daniels family truly has a heart for Tulare, and they show that through all the entities they support, by their personal engagements in different organizations and (they’re) just a great family-owned business.”

The auto-“motive” behind the shop

Before it was Frank’s Automotive, the shop was Frank’s Mohawk on Inyo Street in Tulare, where Frank Daniels sold gas and had one life to service vehicles. According to the shop’s website, he also gave credit to those who came to him for help, allowing locals to start their own businesses “because of Frank’s generosity.”

In 1967, Frank’s Mohawk moved to K Street and became Frank’s Enco until the 1970s, when the Humble Oil Corporation rebranded its gas stations from Enco to Exxon. As the business grew, Frank Daniels built a dedicated standalone auto service and repair shop next to the gas station.

Andy Daniels worked with his father at the shop throughout his childhood and joined full-time upon his graduation from high school. He eventually purchased Frank’s Automotive from his father and transitioned it away from a gas station and truck stop to solely focus on general automotive service.

However, Daniels said that it wasn’t until the last 12 years or so that he started to really dive into the business aspect of Frank’s Automotive. Since then he’s focused on “working on the business instead of working in the business.”

“I really started pouring myself into being a leader and working on my leadership skills and business owner skills,” Daniels said. “I just knew that I needed to find the best people possible to bring in and work with me.”

Aside from its history, Silva Carter said the culture at Frank’s Automotive is what makes it stand out. She said that the Tulare Chamber of Commerce often hears that the shop treats its employees well.

That’s something that Mandi Bernal, an executive assistant at Frank’s Automotive who helped with the award application, said makes the business special. When hiring new technicians, Daniels lets the rest of the staff meet the candidates and give their input, creating a culture of teamwork and respect, Bernal said.

Bernal added that the level of customer service provided at Frank’s Automotive shows the commitment Daniels and the rest of the staff have to the community.

“Anywhere we go, everyone recognizes (Daniels) because he is such a prominent member of the community,” Bernal said. “A lot of people know him … and they trust him because he’s made himself available and he’s dedicated his life to serving the community.”

Daniels himself said that he is just there to be a “humble servant,” which makes being a preliminary finalist difficult for him to wrap his head around.

Nothing “small” about this business award

As a preliminary finalist for the America’s Top Small Business Award, Frank’s Automotive is being honored as one of the best small businesses out of 15,000 award applicants, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The shop was named alongside nine other preliminary finalists from the chamber’s western region, which includes California, Arizona, Hawai’i, Utah and Nevada, and will be judged alongside those businesses for a spot as a finalist.

“I think (the award) helps to remind people across the United States that the small businesses in our community everywhere — and especially in what are considered more rural communities — are just as important as businesses of all sizes everywhere,” Silva Carter said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce determines award finalists by scoring the business’s response to application questions and ranking them by region. The highest scoring business from each region will be named as a finalist, and the chamber will then name one of those businesses as the overall winner, dubbed “America’s Top Small Business.”

The award evaluates small businesses based on community engagement, business growth, innovative strategies and ability to overcome challenges, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website.

For Frank’s Automotive, Bernal said its hiring practices, growth initiatives — like focusing on marketing and a new website in the last year — and community involvement are just a few things emphasized in its application.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will announce finalists by the beginning of October and reveal the overall winner at its small business summit in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 19.

Regardless of the outcome of the awards, Silva Carter said it’s a significant honor for Frank’s Automotive itself to be recognized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and it “speaks well of the kinds of businesses that we have in our region.”

“It’s very fulfilling as a chamber of commerce to see one of our businesses rise to the top like that,” Silva Carter said.

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