1314 West Oxford Avenue
Englewood, Colorado 80110
Phone: (303) 761-6280
Fax: (303) 788-0679
Hours of Operation:
Monday - Friday: 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Discover, MasterCard & Visa
Affiliations & Certifications:
I-CAR Gold Certified Shop
BBB Gold Star Member
Established in 1946
DuPont & Enterprise Rent-A-Car
About Sam's Automotive Reconditioning Center
When the hands-on founder of a family owned business dies, the company often follows suit. Typically, his autocratic style and resistance to delegating authority has crippled the decision making process to the point where once he is gone, the void is too deep to fill.
That could easily have been the case for Sam's Automotive Reconditioning Center. But Sam J. Chavez was smarter than that. The well-known Denver businessman knew that diabetes would eventually claim his life, but he was determined it would not claim his company too.
Twenty years ago, he created a Board of Directors to oversee the decision making process for the business. Not long after he divided the day-to-day control into five areas, he appointed either a family member or long-time employee to direct those departments. Sam Chavez did not win the 1972 Colorado Small Businessman of the Year award for acting foolishly. He took the necessary steps to ensure his business would survive, then he backed away from the day-to-day control and let his hand-picked people do their jobs.
“A lot of people didn’t realize Sam hadn’t been active in the business for several years,” says Larry Olander, the man chosen to be the company’s sales manager. “After we lost Sam, nothing really changed around here. As for our credibility with banks, with our customers, with our employees, nothing really changed.” Fred Grassmann, the company’s controller, believes Sam’s actions allowed the company to survive. “The reason the transition was so smooth was the board of directors Sam set up,” he says. “All decisions were handled through them. We probably wouldn’t be here today if Sam hadn’t turned over ownership before he died. I feel he knew how sick he was and started prepping everybody for taking over when he was gone. And it worked.”
Today, a little over 15 years after Sam Chavez died of complications from diabetes, Sam's Automotive Reconditioning Center lives on in the Englewood, Colorado area. His widow, Marie, remains on the Board of Directors. His son, Mike, his son-in-law, Larry Olander, and Fred Grassmann are now the owners and management of Sam's Automotive Reconditioning Center.
The company projects sales of over $5 million this year, which would make it one of the largest automotive paint and repair businesses in the country. “There’s a Dallas dealership repair shop and he’s the only one I know of that comes near us,” Olander says.
From the time Sam J. Chavez started the business in 1946 with a gas station and a handful of employees, to the six acre, 40+ employee company that exists today, Sam's Automotive & Reconditioning Center have kept a firm grip on industry leadership in the Denver area. Sam's Automotive Reconditioning Center stays on top by being the one-stop shop for automotive repairs – everything from chipped paint repairs to total reconstruction of damaged automobiles-enhanced by a AAA approved mechanical shop, a strong customer service ethic and a dedication to keeping on top of technological changes within the industry.
Many of those technological changes have come in since the new leadership took over. In the paint shop they’ve added a new bay that uses waterbourne paint which is environmentally friendly. Another booth combines the downdraft feature with a built-in baking chamber that sets the paint, which enables the entire process to be completed in one area. Little wonder that Sam's Automotive Reconditioning Center is recognized as the PRO SHOP for most insurance companies including Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, American Family and Hartford.
On the repair side, the company has invested in state-of-the-the art computer diagnostic equipment. In adding new services to its line-up, the company has expanded from its original 10,000 square feet of space to 60,000 square feet on six fenced acres – a facility so large that foremen drive golf carts between shops. Its truck paint booth is the largest in town, capable of handling a semi trailer. A sophisticated computer system keeps track of all parts, orders and jobs currently in-house.
The customer service angle is handled in number of innovative ways. Paint jobs get five-year warranties from both Sam’s and DuPont. Every car that comes in gets a wash, vacuum and interior cleaning, and those undergoing body repairs get a complete detail. The company opened a satellite facility to get closer to the customer. The shop, which handles estimates only, is also a way for the company to expand without incurring major construction costs.
Sam J. Chavez knew that customer service must come from the heart, so he raised employee benefits to new levels for the industry. After three months of employment, workers are eligible for a 401K plan and health insurance. The new owners realize the long-term benefits of maintaining a loyal workforce.
“We have a very low turnover of employees,” Mike Chavez says. “We have guys working who have been working here over 20 years. In this industry, where a lot of workers are like gypsies, we’re pretty proud of that.”
“The average length of employment is 13 years.” adds Grassmann. “If people have a problem and need to bring their car back at a later date, they will be dealing with the same people.”
Time after time, Sam's planning represented text-book-examples of the proper way to handle a family business. It is a lesson many businesses learn too late. But Sam J. Chavez had a secret formula, simple in concept, but sometimes difficult to execute. Sam's son Mike pins it down: “He always saw everyone here-the customers, the employees, the vendors-as an extra extension of his family.”
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