With a sleek and efficient website, a gleaming service area stocked with state-of-the-art equipment and a computerized, eye-catching marquee flashing on Maple Road, Troy Auto Glass is an ultramodern and ever-evolving enterprise.
But what makes owner Gary Laviolette most proud is that Troy Auto Glass is so “old-fashioned.”
“It’s hard to find good, small businesses that work like they did 20 years ago,” Laviolette says. “Social behaviors change, but you can’t underestimate what customer service means.”
And each member of Laviolette’s staff provides customers needing auto and windshield glass replacement the kind of service that generates five-star online reviews and enthusiastic referrals from highly satisfied clients and local car dealerships.
When Troy resident, Laurie Albert, needed to replace the windshield of her Mazda, she called a business she had used in the past.
“They were kind of nonchalant,” said Albert. “They didn’t ask me any details about my car, but said they could take care of the work and the insurance when I came in.”
“I then called the Mazda dealership for their advice, and they recommended Troy Auto Glass,” Albert added.
Albert’s concerns about the replacement process and questions about the windshield product were answered by Laviolette himself, who happened to take her call.
“Gary took time to explain what would happen, that he had the proper inventory, and that he’d easily be able to process the insurance claim. But the best part,” Albert said, “is that work was finished almost an hour ahead of the time they’d estimated!”
“Also,” she said, “the facility is clean, pleasant, and professional. It’s much more like a nice office building than an auto garage.”
The 55-year-old business was started by Gary’s dad, Ronald Laviolette, in Waterford, in 1962 and has been at its current location on Maple Road since 1978.
“As a 10-year-old kid,” Gary said, “I would drive in with Dad on Saturday mornings and do deposit slips, and take orders and phone calls. In high school, I did a co-op program here, attended staff meetings and learned even more. After high school, I was here fulltime.”
“And half of our employees have been here 20 years,” he added. “For some, it’s been 25 or 30.”
In those years, windshield technology has continued to change.
“Along with customer service, our concern is driver safety. We only use OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) products,” Laviolette said.
“Often, people looking to save money will have a service station replace their windshield. But that product may be from China and, in an accident, may not withstand a safe airbag release.”
He added, “And, with sensors, cameras and brackets, after-market and cheaper products cannot provide a safe fit.”
“Even the type of glue used contributes to safety,” Laviolette explains. “Ours is the highest quality, and we provide the proper drying time so that when a job is finished, the vehicle is completely safe. If a customer left here and was in an accident, the windshield would definitely remain intact.”
Laviolette and his staff are ready to meet the challenges of future auto innovations and heightened technology.
“Our technicians are highly skilled – and they care,” said Laviolette. “We are excited to keep up with the future, but we’ll always remain old-fashioned.”
As a 13-year-old growing up in Beirut, Lebanon, Mike Chalhoub couldn’t wait until his school day was done.
Unlike most of his friends, he had more to look forward to than playing ball or riding a bike after classes.
He was going to his job as a busboy at The Summertimes restaurant, where he would soon be immersed in the aromas of cumin and coriander and freshly chopped cilantro, onions and garlic, while the chefs sliced, sautéed and shouted orders to each other for chicken shata or the lamb and chicken shawarmas, for which the restaurant was known.
“My boss saw my passion for food and hard work,” Chalhoub says, “and soon promoted me to cooking.”
By age 18, Chalhoub was running the snack bar, night club and main restaurant of a nearby hotel. At 23, he opened a restaurant on the Ivory Coast.
“Soldiers came and took it over,” Chalhoub said.
He moved to the United States and worked in several Mediterranean eateries until starting the Troy location of Grape
Leaves in 2004.
“It was challenging,” Chalhoub says. “I wanted everything to be perfect: fresh, delicious, healthy and, especially, consistent. And, you know what? Everything, thirteen years later, is still the same consistent quality.
And,” he says, “I guarantee that what you enjoy here today will taste the same when you order ten years from now!”
Each morning, Chalhoub and his brother and general manager, Brian, shop for fresh vegetables and meat and deliver them to the three Grape Leaves locations (Troy, Oak Park, Southfield). The chicken will be marinated; the lamb, roasted; the vegetables, washed and sliced: all readied for the stews, salads, sautees and specialty dishes that will be made-to-order for dine-in or carry-out lunches and dinners, as well as catered events.
“I wish I had photos of one wedding we catered,” Chalhoub says, “with a whole, baked lamb. It was fantastic. Everyone loved it!”
Diners eat there often and are treated like family. “Hello, Squash Guys!” Brian says, greeting longtime customers, Dodie and Warren, as they enter. They hug Brian warmly.
“We started coming here eight years ago,” Dodie says. “Currently, we’ve had to omit dairy, sugar and meat. Here, we can always have the most healthy and delicious meals.” Warren laughs.
“That’s why you get to know the boss! Look! They made me these fresh-cooked cottage fries to go with my cousa (stuffed squash),” Warren says.
“My crew is the best,” Chalhoub says. “Though some of the wait staff leave for other careers after college, 90 per cent of my cooks have been with me for many years.”
And, though Chalhoub now leaves most of the cooking to his staff, today he motions, “Come! I want you to see the creation of my favorite dish: chicken ghallaba!”
He washes his hands and dons gloves, apron, chef hat. With a 10-inch, razor-honed knife, he slices onions, peppers, carrot – even mushrooms – with lightning quickness and tosses them into a sizzling pan. The vegetables are cheerfully thrown in air and then land amid marinated chicken breast he’s added.
“Now,” he says, spooning a red powder over the skillet, “here is for the special taste: my own spice blend!”
Holding the plate of golden chicken with its mound of brilliant vegetables and rice, Chalhoub smiles and says, “If you want to stay healthy and eat delicious food, come to Grape Leaves. A visit a day keeps the doctor away!”