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Cars Get New Life At Hicksville's AutoMat

Whether it’s redoing the seats in a 1920s Plymouth Roadster or turning a 2004 Range Rover hot pink, AutoMat is up for the challenge. The Hicksville-based shop started out in a basement workshop focused solely on floor carpeting, and over 58 years has transformed into a leader in car restoration and customization.

AutoMat was founded by WWll veteran Eric Browner in 1956. After the war, Eric began working for a car seat cover company. He quickly learned the ins and outs of the business and realized that he could do it better.

Today Eric’s sons Tim and Roger are the President and Vice President in charge of operations at AutoMat. They describe their father as an innovate entrepreuner.

Roger said, “The company my father worked for would make floor carpeting for automobiles. At the time cars had rubber mats on the floor. They would create the carpet by taking the rubber mats out of the cars and then use them as a template to cut out the shape of the carpet. For years my father tried to convince his boss to make paper templates of the rubber mats because the rubber mats were dirty and they were making the new carpeting dirty. After many years of unsuccessfully trying to convince his boss, my father decided to go into business on his own. He felt he could produce better quality carpets.”

Eric started at a basement workshop and would sell carpets out on the road during the day while manufacturing them at night. As the volume of business expanded, he steadily took on employees. “My father would hire many people from Hicksville that were most in need of employment and take them under his wing. By the 1970s he had almost 50 employees,” says Roger.

During the late 1970s customers who had come to AutoMat previously for carpeting started coming in and asking if they could make upholstery, convertible tops and vinyl roofs which had become popular during the time.

“We decided to evolve as a business and offer more services,” explained Roger. “We became skilled in doing interiors and tops; however we also kept our niche of carpeting.”

During the ‘80s and ‘90s business continued to grow. “By this time we were doing the entire interior of cars. Some of our customers would take their cars to the stereo shop to get new speakers and they would damage the interior when they were laying out all the wiring," says Roger. “People began asking us if we could work on the interior and the stereo system at the same time and that is how we became experts in car audio."

“We offer it all,” adds Tim. “We handle all aspects of customization and restoration. The biggest advantage for the customer is that instead of having to deal with five different shops, we handle everything under one roof. We do mechanical work, electrical work, paint and body, as well as interiors and tops.”

“Even though we do a great deal of high profile advertising on television, two thirds of our business comes from repeat customers and those that they refer to us,” says Roger. “We have always felt that providing high quality work to our customers has been the key to our success.”

Stefany Coulter from Port Washington owns a sail boat and came to AutoMat because she wanted custom pink cushions for her boat.

“I needed specialized rust free hinges on them,” says Coulter. “No one else wanted to do it, but AutoMat said yes. They came out far better than I ever imagined.”

The company gives all their customers a free analysis and does both small and big jobs, from rips in a car seat to a complete car restoration. And with an employee roster that looks a lot like their family tree, AutoMat prides itself on being a family business.

“We are a family oriented business. We have sets of brothers, sisters, and cousins who have been working here for decades,” says Tim. “Here at AutoMat we don’t just work on cars, we work on building customer relationships.”

AutoMat was recently the recipient of the Specialty Equipment Market Association award for being number one in the country in the field of customization and restoration. They are located at 69 Hazel Street in Hicksville. Visit www.autointeriors.biz or call 516-938-7373 for more information.