Colson’s Auto Repair in Carpinteria, CA, has been family-owned-and-operated for 70 years.
The current owner, Frank Colson Jr., or simply “JR,” learned a lot from his father, Frank Colson, who opened the shop in 1949. Having wandered the shop since he was able to walk, JR grew up with the company.
The best business advice he’s received he learned indirectly from his father.
“I’ve worked with my dad almost my whole life, and I don’t think he ever gave me too much business advice,” said JR. “But what I’ve picked up is to treat people the way you want to be treated, and to be fair with your customers. I don’t ever try to sell something that people don’t need.”
This concern for customers not only keeps generations of Carpinterians coming back, but visitors, too.
“I see a lot of people from the (Carpinteria State Beach) campground come here and say, ‘I remember visiting with my mom and dad, and I can’t believe you’re still here!’”
As cars have evolved, so has the business. What started out as a garage progressed into a body shop, a radiator shop, and then to a full-blown towing business.
But as restrictions and liability increased---along with the grind of running a 24-hour service---Frank said, “We were busy, but towing’s changed through the years and it wasn’t fun anymore. So, I made the decision to sell the trucks and put all my business into repairs, tires and alignments.”
JR said, “I had an opportunity where I was asked to become a tire shop from a company that opened in Ventura. It started to snowball. I needed to get a better balancer, a better machine, and my dad was kind of like, ‘Yeah, that’s pretty good!’”
JR also installed a drive-up rack to keep services in-house instead of sending jobs elsewhere.
“You have to switch with the times,” JR said. “If you’re not into social media or getting a nice webpage, you could be left in the dust.” (Colson’s Instagram handle is: @Colsonstowing_autorepair.)
One thing that hasn’t changed is an advertising budget---JR doesn’t have one.