The outsider was now an insider, running a department of 85 employees, blending his own ideas with those enduring practices forged by Chitty as well as Kuni's own traditions (and those of its 2016 buyer, Holman Automotive Group).
One source of pride is the seamlessness between departments. Don't let VandeLinde hear you referring to "sales" customers or "service" customers. At Kuni, they're all "guests." No adjectives.
That said, the customer lounge tilts toward service clients. Kuni does about 150 repair orders a day, and half of those guests wait for the work to be done.
"Seventy-five or 80 waiters a day put a lot of pressure on an organization," VandeLinde says.
Freebies range from chocolates to tire fixes. Technicians' uniforms are provided free, too, unlike at many dealerships. VandeLinde says he treats his mechanics like athletes — conscious of the toll their work takes on the body.
Three years ago, he started two employee groups to tackle some nagging challenges, including those related to processes, growth and recognition.
Among the initiatives today: an express check-in and check-out system and flexible schedules for service advisers.
"The more we focus on our own people, the better we do on the guest side of the business," VandeLinde says.
No surprise, then, that he says he gets his biggest kicks out of seeing his employees thrive.
Down the road, it would also thrill him to have younger colleagues look to him as a fixed ops godfather, in the same way he looks up to folks such as Chitty.
Does he have a chance? Have a look for yourself.