Brocke ‘n’ roll: Foothill Car Care owner goes the extra mile for his clients
Special to The Union
WHAT: Foothill Car Care
WHERE: 716 E. Main Street, Grass Valley
HOURS: Monday-Friday,7:30 AM – 5:30 PM
INFO: Call 530-477-5712 or visit FoothillCarCare.com for more information
When he was done with his morning classes of readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic each day, an eager Nevada Union High School student drove across town from the old Empire High School site to 716 E. Main Street. There he worked on cars as part of his 49er ROP classes every afternoon during his junior and senior years.
That was in the early 1980s, when Robert Brocke was dreaming of a future career as a gearhead. Today, Brocke owns the repair shop and operates his successful Foothill Car Care business at the same location where he first plied his trade.
“I never thought I’d own the building where I started my career,” said Brocke, who bought the property in 2014. “This place has a lot of history, making automotive music in here in one form or another since the late 1940s.”
After graduating from high school in 1982, Brocke continued working at the Grass Valley Datsun/Nissan dealership as an employee. In 1989, he left to open his own shop at a leased building on Maltman Drive.
“I borrowed $2,500 from my dad, sold my last Datsun to raise more money, and dragged my tool box into a building I shared with another guy,” Brocke said.
Brocke was only 24 years old.
He worked alone at his Foothill Small Car repair shop for several years before hiring a brother to work with him. It wasn’t until 1994 that he hired an employee who wasn’t a family member.
Growing the business
For the first few years, he operated a small boutique auto repair business geared toward small import cars.
“The space was so small, we could only work on small cars so we specialized in imports,” said Brocke.
After 10 years, the business started performing maintenance, repairs, and service on domestic as well as import vehicles. At its current location, it boasts a special lift that allows technicians to work on recreational vehicles. There are five service bays, and this summer Brocke will convert areas currently used for storage into two additional bays.
Brocke plans to hire up to two more technicians to complement his current team of three vehicle mechanics/technicians and two office service advisors. Continuing the tradition started more than three decades ago, Brocke has taken on two interns from Nevada Union Tech and is sharing his expertise and experience with them.
His customers are fiercely loyal.
“I’ve known Robert Brock professionally for over 15 years,” said Andrew Twidwell, owner of ABT Plumbing, Electric, Heat & Air. “We were both members of a local networking group back then, and now were both members of another group, Business Network International. Robert is an amazing business man, great mechanic, family man, and all around good guy. It’s been fun watching him grow his business into what it is today.”
Brocke knew he was destined to be a mechanic when he was just a toddler. His Foothill Car Care website boasts a photograph of three-year-old Brocke working on a car alongside his father.
“My dad used to work on his friends’ cars at our house,” recalled Brocke. “Whenever he was working, I was hovering, watching, and helping. I liked to take things apart, figure out how they worked, and put them back together. I was the local bicycle mechanic when I was a kid and up until high school. Then I moved on to motorcycle and cars.”
Brocke’s appreciation for fancy wheels continues today. He owns six vintage Datsuns and nine motorcycles.
“It’s a bit of an addiction,” he said. “Some are fancy, some are old. My wife and I go on long trips on our touring bike. It’s my passion. We’ve been to Canada four times, Baja twice, Colorado, New Mexico, and Cabo San Lucas.”
Going the extra mile
His wife, Terrie, has been Brocke’s rock throughout their marriage, especially when he went into debt to open his own business.
“It was a big risk,” said Brocke, now 53 years old. “My wife was supportive and said, ‘Whatever you want to do, I’m behind you.’ Our first son was a newborn at the time. There were stressful times but for the most part, it went well. Now I’m ruined; I could never work for someone else.”
Brocke credits his success with how he treats customers.
“I’ve always tried hard to take care of my customers and I’ve built a reputation for doing that,” said Brocke, who offers a free shuttle service within a seven-mile radius. “I wanted my business to be a female-friendly place, where no one talks down to female customers. We try to educate women instead of confuse them.”
Mary Jane Parker is one of those women who appreciate how she’s treated at Foothill Car Care. Brocke and his technicians have worked on all three of her vehicles, and Parker said she’s never been disappointed.
“They are extremely courteous,” she said. “Once I was at a restaurant and my car wouldn’t start. Robert sent a technician to help me, and he discovered the guy at the car parts store had put the cable on my new battery wrong. Robert’s guy reconnected it, drove it to his shop, and made sure it was going to work right. Robert wouldn’t allow me to pay for all that. Another time they were working on my car and I had errands to run. They took me to the bakery, and even to the Senior Center to deliver the cake. They’re good people. Robert is my knight in shining armor when I’m the damsel in distress.”
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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