Working on the business, not in it
Tacoma, Wash.—Kevin and Casey Cooper are confident owners of two shops on the edge of Tacoma because of the quality staff and systems they have in place to handle growth.
“We give the credit of our success to the willingness of our teams to do their very best work and be the best at what a repair shop should offer customers. This allows us to work on our business, not in it,” Kevin Cooper said.
It all began in 2010 when Coopers Auto Repair Specialists opened on 122nd Street East and Canyon Road, a 5,200-square-foot shop with seven bays inside and two in a nearby building. As business grew and opportunities became available, the Coopers purchased a three-quarter acre site on 103rd Street East in 2014 and developed a 4,000-square-foot shop with six inside bays and one outside, plus a mezzanine level office where they have their headquarters. Casey Cooper, who spent years in the upholstery business, handles business operations and advertising, while Kevin, a longtime ASE-certified Master Technician with 30 years of experience in auto repair, works on improving staffing and growing the stores.
With the dedication of offering full service and repairs, customers come from a wide area ranging from Bonney Lake to Puyallup. Clint White, an ASE-certified Master Technician and service writer, is an undercar specialist and manager at the 103rd store. While brakes are the predominant undercar repair, the shops also perform numerous suspension, differential, ball joint, exhaust, and transmission service and replacement service, as well as tire sales and alignments.
Undercar service represents between 20-25 percent of overall business, they said, and with newly purchased Hofmann heavy-duty tire changers and balancers, the 103rd store will be offering additional services.
“Because 30 percent of our business at 103rd involves light- and medium-duty fleets (15 percent at 122nd), we want to tap into that market more and provide outside sales support to fleets (Kevin’s brother, Kyle Cooper, is a former ASE-certified Technician and service adviser at 103rd).” To service heavier duty vehicles, there is a 27,000-pound lift at 122nd and a 25,000-pound unit at 103rd.
EV and hybrid service and repair is also expanding, Kevin Cooper said. “About 10 percent of our business at 103rd involves hybrids and just 5 percent at 122nd, so we want to expand full service, including undercar, in that area. We also provide service on EVs but are ramping up to do more.
“We’re limited by size at 103rd, yet we handle about 2,000 vehicles a year with an ARO of $720 and an annual volume of $1.35 million. We’re blessed to be expanding at 122nd with a 5,000-square-foot addition adjacent to our existing shop. This will provide us with the capability to expand our services and the current $1.55 million annual volume at 122nd.”
The NAPA AutoCare Centers already work together to handle overflows. The 103rd shop is open Monday through Friday, while 122nd operates Tuesday through Saturday. “We also shift the workload between the shops during the week as needed,” Cooper said.
Coopers became an AAA-Approved Auto Repair facility in 2010 and maintains a 100 percent customer care rating. The shops also recycle everything from waste oil to parts.
Its seven techs use a variety of tooling that includes Snap-on, Autel, and OE factory tools. “We work on everything from domestics to imports, diesels to hybrids, plus our fleet vehicles and some RVs, so we need to have the tools and training to perform every task,” Kevin Cooper said. “We have happy technicians because we have created a positive work culture and provide bonuses and excellent benefits.”
In addition to its Mitchell 1 management software system, the shops also use AllData, iATN, and provide complete digital vehicle inspections with Bolt On Technology software. “Over the past two years, providing digital inspections has changed the dynamics of the sale,” said White, adding that customers value the digital photos and better understand needed service and repair.
Training for Coopers involves the Automotive Training Expo (ATE) for the entire staff most years, as well as AVI OnDemand, Future Tech, and other sources. The Coopers also belong to a Bottom Line group to enhance their management and business skills.
As with many shop owners, the Coopers said the challenge for them, especially with planned expansion, is securing quality technicians. “We support our local skills center and we will be participating in the new ITAC apprenticeship program being offered by ASA Northwest so we can ‘grow our own’ technicians with the mentorship portion of the program.”