A Mom in Charge

Keeping the wheels turning at a local business.

Americans have been celebrating Mother’s Day for more than 100 years. Every May, moms are honored – from the women who gave birth to others who have made a difference in less traditional ways. Vienna mother of five Julie Holmes – the owner and president of Virginia Tire & Auto – is a “mom” to many as the matriarch of her growing family-owned business.

“Part of being a mom is always thinking about accountability,” Holmes said. “When you hold someone to a certain standard, which is what I do with both in business and as a mom, you do it because you care for them. You want them to be the best they can be. We have a Virginia Tire & Auto way of doing things, and our associates in all the stores are held to that standard. We want them to have a rewarding careers; we care about everyone and want them to advance. In turn, our customers have rewarding experiences with us, too.”

For Holmes, Virginia Tire & Auto has always been more than an automotive services provider.

“My parents, Myron and Carole Boncarosky, started Virginia Tire & Auto in 1976, and it has always has played a very positive role in my life because when I was a child, my parents always spoke very positively about the business,” said Holmes, the only child of the local business’s founders. “They always looked at it as a gift, and not a burden, to offer a livelihood to all employees, offering the kinds of services that everyone needs. It was always part of our dinnertime conversation, rehashing the events of every day. That’s how it is in our family now. There is nothing else I’d rather be doing. My five children today hear about it and they are getting a similar positive impression.”

Holmes and her husband, Mike, took over the business in 2014, which now includes 13 shops throughout Northern Virginia.

“Things remain really good, and we’ve also seen a lot of positive change,” Holmes said. “Since my husband and I took over, we have worked on growing the business. We’ve also formalized the core values of being professional, attentive, genuine and forward-thinking. We’re making sure we are making all day-to-day business decisions with these values at the forefront of our minds.”

She was already the mother of three children when she took on the role of president. She has since added two more children, all the while developing a corporate family with hundreds of employees.

“I am an only child, which is another crazy angle to the trajectory of my life and this business,” she said. “I had a wonderful childhood with just my parents but now I have four girls and one boy. Still, we’ve changed a lot in the business over the last few years. We’ve strengthened development in our own employees so that they can best serve our clients with an element of trust and honesty you don’t always find in our industry. Let’s face it: this industry doesn’t always have the best reputation. We differentiate ourselves by having highly-trained, really good people.”

Holmes added that several other female leaders at Virginia Tire & Auto have been integral in realizing this kind of investment in people.

“We hired a director of talent development, Cindy Weinberg, who is also a mom,” Holmes said. “We’ve worked hard to form a leadership team that is very focused on organizational health, and with this team, we’ve been able to establish clarity around our values. It’s all about continuing to protect the gem we were given.”

Sarah Price, Virginia Tire & Auto’s training manager, is a single mother and longtime automotive professional. “I have worked in the automotive field for 20 years now,” she said. “This industry is typically very demanding. The other shops that I have worked for expect you to give all your time to them. Most of my career, I have worked in the shop on the vehicles. It’s still very male-dominated and there is not much empathy for single moms. That is not the case with Virginia Tire & Auto.”

Kris Crouch, Virginia Tire & Auto controller, has also watched the business transform into a community force.

“I think being here for 29 years speaks volumes about growth opportunities and culture,” Crouch said. “I have spent my whole career here because it’s been so beneficial for me, both personally and professionally. Julie places such a high value on the importance of all of those relationships, she is understanding when any of us need to be present at special events and milestones for our children or other family members.”

Holmes said, “Work-life balance is important not only for the obvious personal reasons but also to recharge and be the best you can be professionally. The small family culture that exists at each of our locations is genuine. We spend many hours together and develop strong bonds with our co-workers. We celebrate their successes and support them through their darkest times. I have met some of the most influential people in my life through my time here.”

There is also more tangible evidence of a mom in charge.

“There is a child play area in the waiting rooms in all our stores,” Holmes said. “Also, as a mom, time is my most valuable asset, and I know that’s the case for everyone we deal with. I know what it’s like to be treated well and have your time valued. We want to make sure we have loaner cars and shuttle services. When say we are going to have a car done by a certain time, we make sure to have it done by that specified hour. We’ve also gotten behind a huge initiative locally, providing free monthly free car seat clinics. We pay for any of our associates to get certified to install car seats. People can come to any of our stores at no cost to make sure their children’s seats are installed correctly. This is very near and dear to my heart as a mom. We have people technologically savvy and trained to greatly enhance a child’s chances of surviving a car accident.”

Virginia Tire & Auto, which is opening three new locations in the next year, is a place that she hopes to call “home” for generations to come.

“I’ve worked around the business since high school,” Holmes said. “It’s where I learned from my dad that, if there’s time to lean, then there’s time to clean. Then I went to law school, clerked for a judge on the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals and then practiced corporate law. Then, I came into the business after my second child was born, overseeing marketing. I’ve since worn other hats. It’s demanding, but it just doesn’t feel like work. I would love for one of my children to have passion for the business and want to take it to the next level.”

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