MEET YOUR MERCHANT: Owner of Gold Country Automotive handing over daily operations to his son
Gold Country Automotive
Grass Valley location:
175 Joerschke Drive, Suite J, Grass Valley
Penn Valley location:
17272 Cattle Drive in Penn Valley
Hours of Operation: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Closed weekends.
Kevin Johnson was 16 when he popped open the hood of his first car, a used Aston Martin. It didn’t take long to discover that he had a knack for all things mechanical, and soon friends and family members were coming to him with questions about their own vehicles.
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.”
LEAP OF FAITH
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.
But today, nearly17 years later, it’s clear Johnson’s business and technical acumen paid off long ago. In 2011, Johnson opened a second 5,200-square-foot shop on Cattle Drive in Penn Valley and both businesses are going strong.
Now it’s Kevin’s turn to take a back seat, as his son, Nick, 30, is currently in the process of taking over daily operations. While Nick enrolled in the auto mechanic ROP program as a Nevada Union High School student, his most valuable classroom was always his dad’s shop. As a teen, Nick’s first vehicle was a 1990 Toyota truck, which he promptly turned into a rock crawler.
But today, with small children of his own, he’s got to have room for car seats.
“I started working with my dad at age 16,” said Nick. “I’ve pretty much learned from him my whole life. I learned everything from repair to diagnosis, to how to run a business.”
ONE STOP SHOP
Both locations boast state-of-the-art diagnostics and repair equipment, ASE certified technicians and a certified SMOG station. Most recently, they’re proud of the fact that — after heavily investing in factory software — they can now install software in clients’ cars, a service often hard to find in the area.
Kevin originally specialized in Ford automobiles, but 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 and more.
“Essentially we do everything except paint and body work,” said Nick. “I think we have a lot of longtime customers because we’re honest, we have experience, competitive prices and have developed good relationships. Some people actually come in just to hang out. Our office manager, Kourtney Eishelman, is a real people person. She’s the life of the party.”
Thanks to their capable staff of nine, as well as Nick’s competency and love of the job, Kevin now says he can confidently take a step back and reduce his hours at the business he founded. This summer, there will be a ski boat on Englebright Lake calling his name.
“I’m still going to be around to some degree,” said Kevin. “But as for Nick taking over, I don’t worry. He’s got this.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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