‘The drive came from within’: Through hard work and some help, Christian Carranza has persevered
What: Affordable Auto Detail
Where: 1050 Whispering Pines Lane, Suite G, Grass Valley
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; open Saturdays be appointment
Contact: 530-559-8624 | http://www.AffordableAutoDetailGV.com
On a typical day at Affordable Auto Detail, Christian Carranza is busy juggling incoming calls, dropping off and picking up finished cars, giving estimates, overseeing his hard-working crew and orienting new customers.
Already a business owner at 27, Carranza handles the daily chaos with the demeanor and ease of someone beyond his years. Perhaps he’s just wired that way, or maybe it’s because there are few instances in his life when he hasn’t known challenge and adversity.
Carranza was just a month old when he moved from Washington with his parents to Grass Valley. Things were challenging from the start — as early as second grade he remembers Child Protective Services knocking on the door in response to reports that all was not well within the household. To his dismay, no action was taken, and as he got older he got into physical fights with his father, who was struggling with drug addiction. Not only was he scared to go home, he was hungry. At times, the only meal of the day was his school lunch, he said.
“The drug use was too much — I had to get out,” he said. “At 15 I began couch surfing at friends’ houses and sleeping in my Ford Bronco.”
There were, however, three areas of his life where things were predictable and seemed to make sense: sports, employment, and his girlfriend, Nicole. He joined the wrestling and football teams, and began practicing Muay Thai, also known as Thai boxing. By 17 he was also holding down three jobs while attending Nevada Union High School. Another escape was the Grass Valley skateboard park, but occasionally he experienced hostility when other skaters would target him because of his brown skin and jump him or yell racist slurs. But little deterred Carranza, who had clearly developed strength and determination at an early age.
Despite his attempts to fly under the radar at school, one day everything changed. Nevada Union teachers had found out that Carranza was homeless and sleeping in his car. They called CPS. Despite his initial resistance, at last he got the support he needed when he entered into foster care — food, a bed and assistance from the Independent Living Program once he turned 18.
In a few years, Carranza’s remarkable ambition began to pay off big. He became a volunteer firefighter with the Peardale Chicago Park Fire Protection District, which led to a seasonal firefighting job with the U.S. Forest Service. At 21, Carranza enrolled in the Yuba College Fire Academy. He and Nicole — the girl he’d had a crush on from afar at Lyman Gilmore Middle School — were married. He landed a job at Cal Fire’s Grass Valley Air Attack Base and also worked as an EMT. By the age of 22 he had already bought his first house.
But just as things were coming together for the young couple, yet another obstacle was thrown in their path. When the pair applied for life insurance — mostly because of Carranza’s dangerous job — test results came back for Nicole. She had been denied. A call from her primary care physician woke them at midnight, urging Nicole to go to the emergency room immediately. Her kidneys were shutting down. She ended up in the ICU for the next 11 days.
“If not for us applying for insurance and the doctor immediately calling, Nicole probably would have passed away,” said Carranza. “We had no idea — she had been lethargic and taking long naps, but we discovered that she has Stage 5 kidney failure. The timing of that test was miraculous. Today she has 8% kidney function and is on dialysis for nine hours every night at home.”
Earlier this summer, Nicole, now almost 29, had found a donor match and was scheduled for a transplant in July at the U.C. Davis Transplant Center, but the donor contracted COVID-19. The donor has seemingly recovered, said Carranza, but keeps testing positive for the coronavirus. Until the donor is cleared, Nicole cannot move forward, and often donor waiting lists can result in years-long waits. But the couple remains optimistic.
Because firefighting occasionally took Carranza away from home for 30 to 50 days at a time, it was clear the demanding profession would not work given Nicole’s condition. That’s why he jumped at the chance to buy the Affordable Auto Detail business when he learned it was for sale. His experience at Finer Detail & Upholstery in Grass Valley years before paid off. He bought the business in March with zero employees. He has since opened his shop on Whispering Pines Lane, hired and trained a growing staff and invested roughly $15,000 in new equipment. He just received his window tinting certification and his phone hasn’t stopped ringing.
“Customer service is big — I want to make sure we are always polite and courteous,” he said. “We want to offer the highest quality, consistency and every job is end-checked by me. We want each car to have that ‘off-the-lot’ feeling when the owner drives away. I really value my employees — I pay them well and I like taking them out to breakfast.”
Going forward, Carranza envisions hiring more employees and buying a mobile detailing van. Ultimately, he said, he wants to open a “mega center,” with one-stop oil changes, car washes and detailing. At his current pace, he’ll reach his goal by 30.
“I’m so grateful and appreciative for the hand up I got from foster care and the Independent Living Program, but the drive came from within,” said Carranza, who recently flipped his second house. “Walking to school as a kid, I had holes in my shoes so I always had wet socks. I’d wake up hungry in the middle of the night and often the only meal I got was at school. I just knew I didn’t want this for my future. This life won’t guarantee success, but with struggle and heartache I was able to fight and make it out of the storm.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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