Ilya Rosenthal: Speaking the Language
By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter
SAN MATEO — When Ilya Rosenthal first immigrated to the United States, he wasn’t yet fluent in English, but he had no problem speaking the language of auto repair. “I came to the U.S. from Russia in 1989, when I was 20 years old,” he remembers. “I’d previously worked at an auto body shop and wanted to stay in the field, so I took a job at a gas station. I didn’t speak much English, but I knew cars, so it wasn’t long before I was promoted from pumping gas to working in the service garage.”
Eventually, Ilya opened his own auto repair shop, but that was just the beginning of his professional development. “After I’d been running my shop for a while, my customers told me I should do body work, too. I thought, ‘Why not?’ and started taking auto body classes. Later, I added smog inspections, and now we’re one of the few automotive shops that handle repairs, body work, and smog.”
Today, as manager of Luxurati – California Auto Body & Repair & Smog, Ilya says his favorite part of his job is taking care of his customers. “I get a lot of satisfaction from fixing my customers’ car problems and getting them back on the road. It’s very important to me that my customers leave happy, so I always make sure that happens.”
A resident of San Mateo (where he lives with his wife, Elena), Ilya cites the city’s central proximity as a benefit for his business. “One good thing about operating out of San Mateo is we get customers all the way from San Jose to San Francisco. We used to be in San Jose, but we moved here eight years ago and it has continued to go very well for us.”
Outside of work, Ilya enjoys spending time with family. “We’re very family-oriented people,” he affirms. “Most of my family is here in the Bay Area, including my parents, my sister and my older children, most of whom have moved out and are living on their own. We’re always getting together for birthdays and holidays.” Additionally, when the opportunity arises, Ilya enjoys fishing. “I don’t have a lot of time for fishing these days, but whenever I get a chance, I enjoy getting out on the water and baiting my hook for some halibut.”
In regard to his professional career, Ilya believes that success in business depends on a combination of honesty and knowledge. “When it comes to serving customers, honesty is number one, but it’s also important to do the job right,” he explains. “That’s why I make sure everyone who works for me has the right skills and knowledge but also cares about our customers and puts their interests first.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Ilya says he’d pass his shop to his employees. “If I had enough money, I would leave my business to the guys who work for me. Some of them have been with me for more than 20 years, so there’s a lot of loyalty there, and giving them my shop would be a way to show my appreciation for their years of service and partnership.”
Ask Me Anything!
Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: Both—I like to stay up late and wake up early.
Q: What’s your favorite holiday?
A: New Year’s Day. It’s the biggest holiday in Russia.
Q: Coffee or tea?
Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Miniature car models.
Q: What’s your favorite snack?
A: Ice cream.
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