As the pandemic becomes less of a focus, the news is abuzz with optimism about returning to pre-COVID routines. Stadiums welcome back fans at maximum capacity, and the requirement to wear masks is gradually being lifted in most establishments.

Reopening plans and mask mandates for all 50 states can be found in an article on

When it comes to Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine recently removed the mask mandate and lifted most coronavirus health orders on 6/2/21. The state of emergency was also lifted on 6/18/21. Moreover, restrictions on nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been eased. Ohio is now fully open for business.

Now that we have returned to a state of normalcy, I decided to take the opportunity to assess the status of small businesses. To do so, I reached out to a local automotive shop in North Royalton, OH.

I reached out to Gary Stinnet, owner of Royalton Automotive, to schedule an in-person interview for a featured blog post about his business. Gary gladly accepted the invitation.

On interview day, I waited in the lounge and was warmly greeted by Gary. I asked him if he had an interview location preference. After a brief pause, he suggested we move to his office. We made our way through a back office and down a corridor until we reached his office. Once settled, I began the interview.

Question: How did you start your business and why?

Answer: After working for a small business in North Royalton for 17 years, I faced a major setback when I developed esophagus cancer in 2004. This led to a lengthy medical leave, and ultimately, the company let me go, however, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it gave me the opportunity to start my own business. In June 2005, I started my own automotive business.

During my surgery, a customer named Bruce, whom I had previously worked with, visited me and asked when I would return to work. I explained that I didn’t have a job to return to and planned on starting my own business. Bruce then presented me with an interesting opportunity – he offered to sell me his piano store, which is now the location of Royalton Automotive. Initially, I hesitated, thinking it wouldn’t work as an automotive shop. However, I had a friend who was an engineer and a customer at the store. He offered to redesign the building, and I saw the potential in his idea. So, I accepted the offer and went ahead with purchasing the building and having it redesigned.

Having witnessed the success of my previous employer’s business, thanks partly to my contributions, I felt confident in my ability to start my own venture. In fact, with the help of my brother, who was able to build a new building, I gained valuable knowledge and experience dealing with the city’s regulations and planning processes. This learning experience proved instrumental when I eventually started my own business and collaborated with the city to redesign my building.

Over the years, I have developed a great working relationship with the city, even becoming their go-to automotive service provider. I have maintained their vehicles for the past 16 years, except for the police department, which has a separate arrangement with a dealer. However, I do take care of the personal vehicles of many police officers.

By overcoming challenges and leveraging my expertise, I have proudly built a successful business that caters to the community’s needs.

Question: How else have you made a positive impact on your community?

Answer: Year after year, I proudly sponsor North Royalton Baseball, providing a crucial outlet for local kids by keeping them engaged and away from trouble. It not only encourages physical activity but also discourages idle time spent on video games. As one of their most dedicated advocates, I generously sponsor between 4 and 5 teams. I also purchase 6 to 7 banners.

Question: How has COVID-19 affected your business?

Answer: COVID-19 had a massive impact on my business, with a significant drop in revenue of approximately 72%. During this time, I had to make the difficult decision to lay off three employees temporarily. However, we have since been able to bring them back as we regain momentum. Thankfully, I received PPP assistance, which provided some relief. While we haven’t fully recovered to 100%, we steadily improve daily as more customers return.

Interestingly, I’m noticing that many customers who haven’t used their cars regularly are now coming in for service. Cars that have been sitting idle for a year and a half suddenly need attention. This is mainly due to the shift to remote work, which has changed people’s driving habits. Despite these positive signs, we are facing new challenges with supply shortages. It’s not just about the demand for personnel but also the availability of necessary parts. Even when the parts become available, there is a shortage of staff to deliver them to us. The entire industry is grappling with these issues, and I know many colleagues actively hiring.

Unfortunately, some individuals are choosing to remain unemployed because they earn more from government benefits while staying home. In my opinion, this is not a sustainable solution for the long term. However, on a positive note, everyone I know in the industry has been vaccinated, and the fear of COVID is not a major concern anymore.

Regarding COVID-19 protocols, we have diligently followed all of the recommended CDC guidelines, including cleaning practices, using masks, and installing plexiglass barriers. We will continue to uphold these protocols and maintain our plexiglass barriers. While we do not mandate masks for our employees, some still choose to wear them, especially when interacting with customers inside their vehicles, even though they are fully vaccinated. Fortunately, we haven’t encountered any issues or pushback from customers regarding mask-wearing or concerns about COVID.

So, overall, while COVID has certainly presented challenges, we are actively adapting and striving to move forward in these unpredictable times.

Question: How is your business crucial for your community?

Answer: You gotta have a car to go places. 🙂 During COVID, my business became a lifeline for first responders like doctors, nurses, firefighters, and police officers. They never stopped working, even during the pandemic. And guess what? They still needed their cars. My wife, a registered nurse, was on call and had to rush to work whenever duty called. COVID only added to the workload of these heroes, and I’m proud to say that my business was there to lend a helping hand.

Question: What tips can you offer other small businesses in challenging times?

Answer: It depends on the business. Small businesses have to hang in there and do all they can to survive. In the wake of COVID-19, many small businesses faced the need to downsize. However, as things begin to return to normal, they are now struggling to find new hires. Walk down any street and you’ll see a multitude of help-wanted signs. Ag-Pro (formerly Shearer) even offers a sign-on bonus of $3000, yet they can’t attract applicants. It’s a reminder that bigger isn’t always better. In fact, I’ve personally found success by downsizing my own business and focusing on fine-tuning my operations.

Question: How do you promote your business?

Answer: I advertise through various channels like the prestigious Royalton Recorder, as well as smaller local platforms and even the popular baseball program, NRBB. If you browse the Royalton Recorder you’ll catch all my promotions!


Gary and his business have successfully weathered the storm of COVID, but in these challenging times, it’s crucial to establish a strong presence and work diligently to sustain a business.

If you’re located in North Royalton or passing through, and require car repairs or a quick oil change, don’t hesitate to reach out to Royalton Automotive at (440) 582-8877. Trustworthy and proficient, they’ll exceed your expectations.

Drean Martin
Author: Drean Martin

My name is Drean and I am a passionate content writer with 10 years of experience in the field. I specialize in creating engaging, SEO-friendly content that helps brands connect with their audience and achieve their goals. I have a knack for crafting compelling narratives and turning even the most complex ideas into simple, digestible pieces. Whether it's blog posts, social media content, or website copy, I bring creativity, precision, and a deep understanding of digital marketing to every project.