New owners to give Cliff’s full-service restoration
Iconic York County service station purchased by No Limit Auto
By Melissa James, York County Contributor
Ryan Jenkins and Chris Fairbanks, co-owners of No Limit Auto, fell into the auto repair business out of necessity. It was 2009—the height of the recession.
“I was working in civil engineering for Bay Design in Gloucester,” said Jenkins. “When hard times hit and land development slowed, I knew about where I would fall as layoffs started. As it got closer to when I thought I would be let go, I started looking for a backup plan.”
Meanwhile, his brother-in-law Fairbanks was a copier technician who was growing restless with his career. Fairbanks wanted to work for himself and have more flexibility to spend time with his growing family. Neither was in the auto industry at the time, but Jenkins had five years of experience with engine repair from his side job during college. Since the two were both mechanically inclined, they began discussing the idea of opening an auto repair shop together.
“We both love solving problems and helping people, so this industry seemed like a good fit for us,” Jenkins said. “Plus, we felt like it was a good industry to be in during a recession, when more people were fixing their current cars than buying new ones.”
On his way home from work one day, Fairbanks happened to see a for-lease sign at what’s now their shop on Route 17. He immediately called Jenkins. The two knew they had to act fast, as available auto repair space in York County doesn’t last long. They worked with the owner to secure a lease, while also working with their banker to obtain a small-business loan. The next few weeks leading up to opening were spent fixing up the space by night while maintaining their full-time jobs by day.
Although their first few years were tough, they said, the duo went all in—determined to make the business survive. Both worked hard to learn all they could about the trade, serving as the only two employees for many years. They soon began building a strong client base in the area. They implemented a process called Digital Video Inspections that gives customers an inside view of the issue or part to be repaired, which instills trust and transparency. They also decided to offer a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty on their repair work, which is the highest offered in the industry and sets them apart from their competitors.
After about six years, business was going so well that Jenkins and Fairbanks started hiring service advisors and auto technicians.
“Chris and I were able to transition away from the hands-on sales and repair work to now being more of the faces of the business and the management team,” said Jenkins. “After 13 years, the business is now running like a fine-tuned machine. So, with the extra time that gave us, we decided it was time to grow again.”
In 2021, Jenkins and Fairbanks started looking for another location where they could “repeat the recipe.” They had heard that Gary Alderman, the owner of Cliff’s, was looking to retire. (Alderman’s father, Cliff Alderman, was the shop’s namesake and original founder in 1974.)
Alderman was still running the iconic York County service station but had gotten away from larger repair jobs, mostly performing state inspections and smaller repairs as he neared retirement.
“We didn’t know Gary at first, but we got to know him well over the past few months, and we could see why Cliff’s had such a strong reputation and loyal client base,” said Jenkins. “Gary is a great guy with a positive attitude, and his customers love him.”
After 18 months of getting to know each other and working through the details of the deal, Jenkins and Fairbanks purchased Cliff’s service station in early 2022. The business closed for just 10 days to allow for the transition and has since reopened under the same name.
“We plan to keep the name, since Cliff’s is an iconic business in the county,” said Jenkins. “But we do want to do some things a bit differently moving forward.”
Jenkins and Fairbanks said they plan to offer larger repairs and turn the shop back into a full-service facility again. They’ve already started to renovate and upgrade the office area, as well as cleaning and painting the shop’s interior. Over the next 12-18 months, they also plan to make more improvements to the exterior of the building and the property.
“We want to bring it back to its glory days, yet keep the nostalgic feel of the place,” said Jenkins. “We’re proud to be keeping up the traditions of this long-time family business.”
Jenkins and Fairbanks are both family men at heart.
“Our families are very close,” Jenkins said. “We both have young children, and we spend a lot of time together on the weekends. We’re all best friends!”
Jenkins said that their team members are like family to them as well. They treat them as such and regularly recognize them for loyalty and longevity. They recently sent an employee and her family on a cruise, to thank her for 10 years of service.
Outside of work, the pair encourages their employees to develop their personal interests and build strong family relationships. The shop is closed on weekends to allow their team time with their loved ones.
“To help someone—a customer, an employee, a friend—and to see them thrive is such a great feeling,” Jenkins said. “It’s why we do what we do.”