Personal Service Remains Key To Success


Helms Brothers, established in 1934, originally began with Studebaker and Packard brands. In 1957, Studebaker was given distribution rights to Mercedes-Benz, one of the first on Long Island. Helms Brothers now has three dealership franchises, which include Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, and Volkswagen.

Sean Callahan, David Austin, Kirstin Callahan Austin and Douglas Callahan

Bayside Volkswagen is an award-winning dealership that was started in 1994 and is a split-facility with its service center in Great Neck.

The company’s newer addition, Volvo Cars of Queens, began in 2016. This past spring, Volvo moved to a newly constructed showroom, just steps away from Helms Brothers’ flagship location. A new service center is also opening soon.

The business continues its tradition of being family-owned, originally by the brothers, Charlie and Frank. In 1977, Doug Callahan and his father purchased the dealership, now operating it along with his children, Kirstin and Sean. They have just celebrated 45 years in April.

Kirsten Callahan Austin

“I grew up in the business,” Kirstin says. “I was always working there over the summer, and I did the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) for successorship program.”

She took an extended maternity leave to raise her children into their college years.

“My dad has done an amazing job with this business,” she says. “We are so proud of him, and we have amazing employees, part of the Helms Brothers family, like Suzanne Cochran, the dealership’s Mercedes-Benz general manager, who has been with us for more than 40 years as well as other managers who have been there 20 and 30 years.”

Not only the long-time, loyal employees, but many of their own sons, daughters, and nieces also work for Helms Brothers now.

“It is an amazing thing to see,” Kirstin said. “It is a true family business; it is what I love about it, like another home.”

Not only the staffing dynamics and chemistry, but the industry’s new features and products make working in the business worthwhile.

Helms’ showroom, circa 1970

“With all of the new electric vehicles coming out and all of the new technologies it is all so exciting,” Kirstin says. “All of our facilities have been upgraded to accommodate electric chargers as we continue to invest in new technology and training to ultimately ensure a smooth transition to an electric future.”

She admits that in the beginning not many people understood that the industry would have to shift its sales mindset when electric cars came along.

“People would question, ‘they are just electric cars; why do we have to change the way we sell cars,” she says. “People want them; people want convenience and to use less gas.”

Reggie Jackson, a Helms Bros. customer

Trends and technology have changed the way nearly all businesses operate. Their ability to adapt and operate seamlessly are some of the keys to their modern success. Conversely, with the constant change in the industry due to modern convenience, it is personal and familiar service that attracts new buyers and keeps long-time customers returning.

“People also want that family feel; it is important to our customers,” Kirstin says. “Try to get Amazon or any large corporation on the phone and get anything done if you have a problem with a purchase.”

Customers still highly value convenience, especially New Yorkers.

“It still all comes down to the people part of service,” she says. “We care; we are an advocate for our clients.”

She said with all of the new innovation, that requires them to constantly be prepared for the unknowns and all of the changes with new and unfamiliar things.

“We make sure our technicians are all up to speed with the technology,” Kirstin says.

Helms Brothers employs approximately 250 residents, and the business takes pride in giving back to the community through drives and donation collections. They most recently donated more than 400 backpacks to the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Queens and are ramping up their annual breast cancer awareness walk participation. Last year for Operation Warm, Helms Brothers donated more than 800 coats to local children.

“It is important for my dad to know that our efforts are going to someone local and not just writing a check,” she says. “We are here; we are the people on the corner, in the community and our doors are always open.”

The boulevard business, circa 1970

Helms Brothers’ reputation far exceeds the boundaries of Long Island.

“Many of our customers are now down in Florida and we are regularly arranging reputable transport for their new purchases,” Kirstin says.

She recalls that there have been circumstances when the manager will swap cars with a customer so that the vehicle service is able to be expedited.

“This is the type of relationship that we have with our customers.” she says.

She adds that the company is committed to convenience and personalizing their clients’ experiences.

Helms Bros. Mercedes is located at 208-24 Northern Blvd. in Bayside. Visit or call 718-631-8181 for sales, service assistance and to schedule a test drive.


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