Demand and larger facility drive Rocky Mountain Cruiser’s rapid expansion
Englewood, Colo.—After two years of ownership, Stephen and Sabrina Cox said they have increased Rocky Mountain Cruisers’ annual sales by more than 70 percent, tapping into a niche industry of Toyota Land Cruiser aficionados and moving to a larger facility where they perform restorations, collision repair, and service work.
“We have a great team here,” Sabrina Cox said. “Within eight months of ownership, we were almost at shop capacity.”
Stephen Cox said he is a veteran of Toyota repairs and has worked as a technician, service writer, and manager. But when he went to work for Ron Korzen, the previous owner of Rocky Mountain Cruisers in Englewood, he said he saw their future when they had the opportunity to buy the business.
Cox said he had noticed how often Korzen had to say no to potential customers. “He had been in business since 1994 and had a good reputation, but at only 2,500 square feet, the shop was too small. There was just not enough room to handle the demand,” he said.
After purchasing the business, he said, they immediately started looking for a larger facility and found an ideal spot at 4560 S Federal Blvd., also in Englewood, not too far from the old location. It formerly was a Cars Collision facility and had 12,000 square feet, as well as street-front exposure, he said.
“We moved here before we needed this much space, but we did not want to move twice,” Cox said. “If we continue growth at this pace, we may outgrow this facility soon, and that is all right with me.
“This market has not been affected by the economy as much as some others,” he said. “We’ve had to invest a large amount in tools to work on the more current models, and we continue to put a high percent of profit back into the shop. But we have an aggressive growth plan, and so far we have been able to meet our business goals in less time than predicted.”
In addition to the larger shop, Cox said he’s recruited a great staff, diversified their services, and works about 80 hours a week to be successful, he said.
“We still specialize in FJ40s restorations, as did the previous owner, and that community of vehicle owners are very close-knit,” Cox said.
“Word-of-mouth referrals have been outstanding,” he said. “About 80 percent of our restoration work is from out of state. We also do service work on FJ40s and are able to locate parts for repairs that others simply can’t find.
“We go above and beyond to satisfy our customers, one time even buying an entire car to get one part we had to have.”
Another good market has been engine conversions, Cox said. “We can put a new or rebuilt Toyota motor in an older Land Cruiser model and increase mileage from the original 12 miles per gallon to 22 miles per gallon, and reduce emissions by as much as 85 percent.
“We also can install high-performance engines and convert older Cruisers with modern conveniences such as power steering, disc brakes, and even navigation units with a new dash that will look as though it was factory built,” he said.
“We also keep a fairly good stock of items that Cruisers typically need, and parts sales have increased dramatically,” Cox added.
“There is a high value in specialization, both for the shop and the customer,” he said. “Because we specialize in Cruisers, our diagnostic time is usually much less. And our ability to estimate the costs to service and even restore Cruisers is usually more accurate than most shops.
“It is also a benefit for our technicians to specialize because once they have performed a process, they become more experienced and faster.”
“FJ40 owners are serious about their cars,” Cox said. “They will come in with three- ring binders of everything they have had done to the vehicle. Many are original owners. It definitely helps us when we are diagnosing problems to know what they have had done previously.” Parts can be a logistical problem, he said, but surprisingly some are still available from Toyota, and about 75 percent of the time Rocky Mountain Cruisers can easily locate a part with its current vendor list. “There are times we have to fabricate parts, and fortunately we have a great technician, Jerrod Jewell, who can fabricate almost anything,” he said.
“I have always liked the FJ40s,” said Jewell, who has been a Toyota technician since 1999. “I enjoy coming to work because I’m not doing the same stuff over and over. I enjoy the daily challenges this shop offers.”
In addition to specializing in FJ40s and other older Cruiser models, the shop now works on all models of Toyota trucks and SUVs, Cox said.
Sabrina Cox said she handles administrative work and is learning to estimate damage and order parts. While she had never worked in the automotive field, she said she is learning by reading all she can, as well as discovering first-hand all the intricacies of Cruisers.
“FJ40s were available starting in the mid-1960s, followed by FJ60s, FJ80s, and FZJ80s through the late 1990s,” Cox said. “Toyota then switched to the 100 series models, and now the 200 series are the current production model of Cruisers.
“You really have to learn your Cruisers, but even that doesn’t always help with parts,” she said. “Often, the production date is the only way to get the right parts as some of the model designs had minimal changes, frequently in the same year that significantly alters parts needed.”