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Big changes lead to happiness for auto shop owner

Jimi Brown has been running Impact Auto Repair, formerly Starr Automotive, since April 28. He said business has been good so far.

Jimi Brown isn't the type to shy away from major life changes. That much becomes clear pretty quickly when you ask him how he came to own Impact Auto Repair in Farmington.

Brown didn't set out to own a repair shop. From the age of 16, when he got a job sketching playground equipment for a well-known company, he planned to be an architect. He went to school for that, and he spent several years working in the field. But by the time he was about 25, he was burned out. When his best friend, a Tires Plus manager, suggested he make a move to auto repair, Brown decided to give it a try.

It wasn't a natural move. Brown grew up loving cars, but he was far from a trained mechanic.

"My parents thought I was nuts," Brown said. "All that money for college."

The move worked out, though. Brown liked his new job, and he spent a lot of nights reading up on the basics of auto repair to ensure he knew what he was doing.

Still, after a few years, he started to feel like the atmosphere wasn't quite right for him. He wanted something smaller, more personal. He wanted to make connections with his customers and get to know them.

So, he started looking at his options. He wanted to find an existing shop that had a good reputation and a good base of customers. He wanted something where the owner was looking to retire, not get out of town because he'd run up too many bills.

Through the local NAPA store, Brown and a few friends he describes as silent partners in the new shop found STARR Automotive. The owner was looking to sell, and after about six months of discussion, they struck a deal. Brown and his Impact Auto Repair crew took over April 28.

"He had been in business for 21 years," Brown said. "He started from the ground up. It was important to him to find someone who was going to do business right."

So far, things are going well. Brown doesn't work on the cars. He has more experienced mechanics who do that. He handles the office, and the customers who come in. He knows enough about the repairs to explain to them what's wrong with their cars, and what work needs to be done.

Business has been brisk, Brown said. His first month was well beyond what the business plan said he needed to break even.

"We thought it was going to take six or seven months to get an alignment machine," he said. "Within three months, we had an aligner."

Work is nearly complete on a remodeled waiting area that has also come much sooner than Brown thought would be possible. Brown, reaching back to his days as an architect, designed the renovation.

It's been a lot of work, but Brown is confident going out on his own was the right decision.

"I've never worked more hours or been more poor, but I've never been happier," he said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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