Kevin Johnson’s interest in fixing cars started like a lot of American teenagers. Although he was able to scrape up the money to buy his dream car — a used Aston Martin — he lacked the necessary funds to pay a mechanic.
His parents’ driveway became his auto shop, and by age 17, friends and family members were already seeking out his expertise and ingenuity.
In the years that followed, Johnson began working for a variety of independent auto shops and dealerships, and he became known for his knowledge and meticulous, detail-oriented work.
“Part of my job was traveling around to various shops to diagnose cars,” said Johnson.
“When mechanics were stumped, they’d call me.”
In 2003, Johnson took a leap of faith and opened Gold Country Automotive on Joerschke Drive in Grass Valley. Originally he was the sole employee in the 4,100-square-foot garage. Eleven years later, it’s clear Johnson’s business and technical acumen have paid off. In addition to his Grass Valley shop, Johnson opened a second 5,200-square-foot shop three years ago on Cattle Drive in Penn Valley.
Today, Johnson has nine employees and two managers — Ryan Jenkins in Grass Valley and Jim Meiggs in Penn Valley.
Johnson, a father of five, lives in Grass Valley.
“The first time I met Kevin he was a kid in the driveway of his parents’ house in San Jose,” said Meiggs, with a chuckle.
“He’d made a homemade air compressor out of a water heater — it was hilarious. But he even then he was good at what he did.”
Meiggs and Johnson went on to work together at two different shops before Johnson hired Meiggs many years later to oversee daily operations at his Penn Valley shop.
Although Johnson originally specialized in Ford automobiles, early on he branched out to include other makes, including foreign cars.
Today both shops offer full automotive repair and maintenance for foreign and domestic cars.
Their full spectrum of services includes oil changes, tune-ups, work on differentials and axles, transmissions, engine diagnostics, brakes, tires and diesel repair, as well as heating and air conditioning.
“We believe preventative maintenance prevents costly repairs in the future,” said Johnson.
“And we’re confident we offer the best prices.”
Because the Penn Valley shop is slightly off the beaten path, Johnson and Meiggs are eager to remind nearby residents of their convenient, state-of-the art shop.
“People say the only thing more stressful than taking your car in for repairs is going to the dentist,” said Meiggs.
“We want to put our customers at ease. We’ve built up trust with our customers, who keep coming back. We’re honest, conscientious, and our technicians don’t take any short cuts. Just give us a shot — check us out one time. You won’t be disappointed.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.