It’s easy to see how Friendly Automotive came by its name. Owner Felix Rifa is an affable guy who prides himself on a business where customer service is part of what has earned it the 2020 Readers’ Choice prize for Best Auto Repair Shop.
It’s the third year in a row the shop has walked with a Readers’ Choice Award.
Friendly Automotive opened a third location in Selah last fall despite some slow weeks at the beginning of the pandemic. Sixty-four-year-old Rifa explained that, as an essential business, he was able to stay open and keep his 13 employees busy. His other garages are on South First Street in Yakima and at Summitview and 58th avenues in West Valley — together they offer a total of 14 bays to work on vehicles of all makes and models.
According to the company website, the business is a Certified Bosch Service Provider, a member of the Automotive Service Association, Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce and Yakima Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Listed services are complete auto maintenance and repair ranging from transmission to suspension and tires to engines.
Rifa attended the University of South Florida-Tampa before “heading to the school of hard knocks.” He has worked his entire career in the auto industry, first running rental car agencies and then as a manager at a tire manufacturer.
The latter brought Rifa to the Yakima Valley 21 years ago. In 2009 he opened a small, two-bay shop at Fifth and Nob Hill Boulevard and in 2014 he purchased the former Christie’s Garage in West Valley.
“I wanted to follow the example set by my dad and be self-employed,” Rifa said. Setting his own example as a local business owner, Rifa begins six out of seven days a week at 5:15 a.m. with a cup of coffee and the newspaper before heading in work at one of the garages.
Friendly Automotive remains so busy that he is considering expanding again to one more location. For now, his focus is “to keep helping local folks.”
“Our job is to listen to problems and try to resolve the customer’s headaches,” Rifa said. “We are friendly people and our goal is to treat everyone fairly.”