Jay Rosenthal worked his way up from auto technician to part-owner of stores in Lawrence and Ewing. Staff photo by Chris Sturgis.

By Chris Sturgis

When Jay Rosenthal was an electrical engineering student at Manhattan College, he took a part-time job on his native Long Island as a technician with Jiffy Lube.

It wasn’t totally out of character for a young man who pumped gas for extra money while in high school and worked on his own car, a 1970 Dodge Dart.

When he graduated college in 1988, job prospects for engineers were dismal. So he tapped his contacts with the oil-change company. Turns out, a group of stores in Ohio was looking for an energetic operations manager.

He first became assistant manager, then manager, then he was given the opportunity to acquire equity in a store. While he was in Ohio, the group acquired four more stores in the Toledo, making Rosenthal the operations manager for 10 stores. Two district managers answered to him.

“I worked my way up from changing oil in the lower bays to an ownership position,” he said, giving a visitor a tour of Lawrenceshop, from the lower bay to the second floor, through the main floor, where safety nets cover the openings in the floor where the vehicles are serviced.

He allowed his electrical engineering ambitions to fade.

“It’s tough to miss what you’ve never had,” he said. “I really like interacting with people. I could not sit and do an office job eight hours a day. I enjoy being outside even when the weather is bad. It’s nice to be out and about.”

Rosenthal got married and started a family in Ohio, where he remained until 1994. He missed East Coast haunts like Long Island, New York City and Atlantic City, so he took a job with Jiffy Lube International, where he became market operations manager for all stores, company-owned and franchise, between Maine and Washington, about 350 stores. He moved his family to New Jersey, where they now live in Marlton.

He eventually tired of the constant travel required by that position. He left the corporation, only to get back into the business at the other end, joining a partnership that owned the Lawrenceville store and one in Ewing at the corner of Parkway and Olden avenues. Rosenthal has contracts to manage the Jiffy Lube store on Route 33 in Hamilton and the one on Broad Street in Trenton.

He finds it very satisfying.

“I’m applying everything that I’ve learned during the past 15 years to the success of these four stores,” he said.

Rosenthal said he wants his employees to work their way up, as he did.

“I’ve got a lot of hardworking kids here. I’ve got lube techs who want to assistant managers, assistant managers that want to be managers and managers that want to be district managers.” Lesson number one: retail is detail.

“I focus on the small things because that’s what matters to the customer,” he said. “The best advertising is word of mouth. It doesn’t matter how much you advertise if a customer has a bad experience.”

For example, Jiffy Lube has always checked customers’ tires to see that they are inflated to the proper pressure. However, some customers are very particular about tire inflation and were unsatisfied by the old method of alternating blasts from the air hose with checks by a hand-held gauge.

So, Rosenthal spent $5,000 for a digital tire pressure inflator, which is much more accurate. Proper tire inflation is not a trivial matter, as it improves gasoline mileage, lengthens tire life and makes driving safer, he said.

Other preventative maintenance services Jiffy Lube performs, such as replacing filters, checking and replacing fluids, and replacing engine belts when needed, save motorists money, he said. The manufacturers recommendations for maintenance are programmed into Jiffy Lube’s computers, so a technician can tell what a car needs according to its mileage, even if the owner’s manual is lost.

Rosenthal is part-owner of the Jiffy Lube at Route 1 and Franklin Corner Road, Lawrenceville, (396-3798), and at Parkway and Olden avenues in Ewing (530-0055). He manages Jiffy Lube of Mercerville, 702 Route 33 East, (586-4596), and Jiffy Lube of Trenton, South Broad and Dayton streets, (695-6050). More information about Jiffy Lube is available at jiffylube.com.