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From the ground up: Dunn Transmissions trades on a long history and a strong reputation

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The founder of Dunn Transmissions, a shop which has become a staple of the East Texas city of Tyler, was Truman Dunn, a World War II veteran who worked on cars in his spare time. He opened a repair shop called Dunn’s Transmission Shop in 1950, specializing in what was, at the time, the latest in technology: the automatic transmission.

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Ewell Dickerson, a longtime employee, bought the shop from Dunn in the 1970s, and passed it to his nephew Roscoe Dickinson after his death in 2013. Roscoe, the current owner, has worked in the shop since his high school days in the 1980s.

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Truman Dunn.

The shop remains at the same location where Truman Dunn opened it. The size and scope, however, has ballooned to the point where Dunn Transmissions currently occupies an entire city block.

Dunn Transmissions today

Today, Dunn has ten bays and 11 lifts, and its city-block-spanning campus includes a service office, a large shop building, a warehouse and a separate parts building and warehouse—all built around that original shop from 1950.

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The shop currently has 17 employees, many of whom are members of the Dickinson family. Dickerson family members currently working at Dunn other than Roscoe include Richard Dickerson, Roscoe’s father; Mary Hale, Roscoe’s sister and the office manager; Chad Dickerson, a builder and Roscoe’s brother; Junior Brown, builder and cousin to Roscoe; Diane Hawkins, marketing manager and cousin; and Terry Hawkins, maintenance staff member and cousin.

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Back row, left to right: Armando Hernandez, Jody Holley, Roscoe Dickerson
Middle row, left to right: Brandon Braddock, Yolanda Nicholson, Junior Brown, Chad Dickerson, Melinda Campbell, Richard Dickerson, Terry Hawkins
Front row, left to right: James Hicks, Mary Hale

Diane Hawkins, who spoke to TD for this story, says that “other Dunn team members have worked together so long that they are like family too.”

“It’s working with your family – basically we’re all one big family, whether you’re a Dickerson or not,” Roscoe Dickerson said. “There’s a high standard of excellence, and we’re all working together for a common goal. This company has a high level of integrity, and we’re all proud to be part of it.”

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Service advisers Armando Hernandez and Yolanda Nicholson.

The shop details

“We are a transmission shop only, though we have been known to do some mechanical repairs when needed to get a customer back on the road,” Diane shares. “We also have a large parts business, and we provide quality transmission parts to do-it-yourselfers and to other repair shops throughout East Texas. We love working on classic cars and often have a few on the lot.”

Around the shop, the service team uses Mentor Touch Scout, Launch, Allison and Genisys EVO scanners for diagnostic testing. The service advisors and shop foreman use Shopkey ProDemand, sometimes in conjunction with Identifix.

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Dunn has not been immune to the parts shortages that have run rampant this year—no one has.
“Most automotive shops in our area are running weeks behind, and we are no exception,” Diane says. “Right now there is up to a month’s wait before we can even start on a vehicle. The demand is huge since new and used cars are scarce and very expensive. We are fortunate to have a large parts warehouse and a great parts staff. Having most parts in stock helps us to have a faster turnaround.”

Read more of TD’s Shop Profiles here.

What makes Dunn Transmissions stand out

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Owner Roscoe Dickerson with his dad, Richard, celebrating Richard’s 50th anniversary in 2020.

“Our shop is founded on the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,’” Diane says. “We’ve been in business more than 70 years because of that foundation. We pledge to our customers that we will do the most minor repair necessary to get them back on the road, never recommending an unnecessary service. We are a business based on integrity, and we stand behind our work.”

Awards received by the shop over the years include the Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics (awarded to businesses that maintain a solid commitment to conducting their business practices in an ethical fashion) in 2006; the Better Business Bureau Award of Excellence for businesses that have excelled in quality, management and service; and a BBB Small to Mid-Sized Business of the Year award in 2014. The shop maintains an A+ rating from the BBB.

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But when it comes to what makes the shop stand out, “most of all, it’s our team of employees,” Diane says. “We have many talented, committed people working together, and the result is a great shop providing great service.

“Our employees stick around,” she says, noting that the company’s longest-tenured employee, the aforementioned Richard Dickerson, has been there for 53 years; and that parts manager Melinda Campbell has been at the shop since 1978.

“There aren’t many shops that have been around for 70-plus years, and there are even fewer that are family businesses,” she says. “Since the ‘60s, there have been Dickersons working together at Dunn. We have great natural mechanics, people who have training but also have intuition—and with that combination, they can fix just about anything.”

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