Small Business

Former mechanic buys Brown's Auto Repair in Boise

zkyle@idahostatesman.comMay 21, 2014 

Rod and Carolyn Bartlett of Brown’s Auto Repair

Rod and Carolyn Bartlett have been running Brown’s Auto Repair for about a month with plans to grow and expand into a one-stop shop. In the back of the shop, they work on restoration projects like Carolyn’s 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.


After growing up working on cars and spending his adult life working in car shops, Rod Bartlett wanted a repair garage to call his own. He and his wife, Carolyn Bartlett, accomplished that by buying Brown's Auto Repair at 2900 S. Cole Road.

The Bartletts are first-time business owners, but Carolyn Bartlett says their careers trained them with the skills they need to succeed. Rod, 36, worked as an assistant manager at Kuna Auto Repair and has worked on and off at Brown's for the past eight years. Carolyn, 28, works part-time as an Avon representative and is nearing completion of a business management and accounting degree from Stevens-Henager College that has prepared her to handle the front-of-the-shop part of the business.

The Bartletts are the fourth owners of Brown's Auto Repair since it opened in 1939. They have three employees and repaired 70 cars in April, their first full month of ownership.

The shop is also a local U-Haul Neighborhood Dealer and installs Smart Start interlock devices for court-ordered motor-vehicle breath-alcohol testing. Carolyn Bartlett said they'd like to do more classic car repairs and restoration as well as high performance vehicle customizations in the future. The garage has eight bays and four technicians.

The couple splits ownership 50-50 and celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary May 19. They have a 12-year-old son, Chevlin, who goes by Chevy for short, even though Carolyn Bartlett says her husband is more of an Oldsmobile guy.

Q: What are your backgrounds, and how did they lead to buying an auto shop?

A: Rod has a talent for welding, fabrication, repair, high performance tuning, and auto customizations. I has over 10 years of customer service, clerical, accounting, marketing, workers compensation, inventory, and program management experience.

Q: What led you to think that an auto repair shop could be a viable venture for your family?

A: Our combined skills and passions lead us to pursue an auto-repair shop as our family business. Rod drag races at Firebird Raceway and participates in and supports local car shows and cruises. He also enjoys boating events, motorcycles, uniting and auto events. I grew up with a father who did both automotive repair and body work. I was raised around the car scene and am comfortable to be one of the guys in the shop.

Q: How have you spread word that the business has new owners?

A: Word of mouth has been our strongest ally thus far. We are also calling previous customers to make sure they are satisfied and have not had issues after receiving repair services. We would like to do service-reminder texts or calls for customer convenience. We understand how busy customers' lives can get and a nice reminder for something like an oil change, air conditioning service or tire rotation can be helpful.

Q: What are the advantages of taking over an established business?

A: Taking over the goodwill that comes from an established business.

That includes existing customer and vendor relationships, a building with equipment and inventory that is ready to go, and an established history that you can study to find areas to improve.

Q: What's the most fun part of the job?

A: Having a place to work on our own projects and surprising people by telling them we are the owners.

Q: What's the least fun part of the job?

A: Hiring and firing employees is the least fun part of our job. It's difficult to tell someone that they didn't get the job, or that their performance or behavior hasn't been satisfactory.

Dealing with difficult people is the second least fun part of our job. We want to see all of our customers satisfied, and it is difficult and disappointing when someone comes in already upset and expecting bad service. It's sometimes difficult to break through that barrier and put a smile on their face.

Edited for length and clarity.

Zach Kyle: 377-6464, Twitter: @IDS_zachkyle

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