Shop Profile - Colorado Engine, Arvada, CO -

Shop Profile – Colorado Engine, Arvada, CO

Colorado Engine has built a powerful reputation for itself by focusing on the whole powertrain

Colorado Engine may have “engine” in its name, but transmissions are also a key component of the business for a shop that deals with the entire powertrain. For over four decades, this full-service auto repair shop has been a cornerstone of quality automotive care in the Denver metro area.

What began as a wholesale distributorship in 1983 has evolved into a premier destination for engine and transmission replacement, guided by the vision and expertise of its founder, George Anderson. Now, as George prepares to pass the torch to his daughter Kara Hamersky, Colorado Engine enters a new chapter while maintaining its commitment to excellence and innovation.

“The first part of the business’s history is wholesale distribution,” explains Anderson. “We sold mainly to shops and dealers, not parts stores. The next part of our history, which began in 2000, involves installations. We figured we had a lot more specific expertise to do engine replacement than many of our customers that were buying engines from us, marking them up and then installing them. Over time, we expanded our offerings to meet the evolving needs of our customers, becoming a one-stop destination for engine and transmission replacement.”

Colorado Engine has flourished, becoming one of the exclusive vendors for domestic and import engine factories in Colorado. With a commitment to staying ahead of the curve, the shop embraces advanced technologies to deliver superior automotive care. Despite its specialization in engines, Colorado Engine recognizes the importance of all aspects of the powertrain, offering comprehensive services to ensure peak performance and reliability.

In addition to offering a full range of automotive services including diagnosis and repair of air conditioning, fuel injection, emissions, timing, cooling, steering, suspension and brake systems for individual and fleet customers, Colorado Engine does about 220 installs per year, with about 20% of that estimated to be transmissions replacement. Similarly, in the over-the-counter direct sales of engines and transmissions, the split is about 80% engines, 20% transmissions. 

Colorado Engine has been located in the same place since its inception: in southeast Arvada, a city in the Denver metro area that is the seventh-most populous city in Colorado in its own right. Anderson describes the location as an industrial neighborhood in which 7,500-sq.-ft. Colorado Engine resides, with a half-acre yard and seven hoists in the back. “We have room for nine vehicles at one time, as well as a storeroom where we house engines and transmissions that we’ll keep in stock,” says Hamersky.

Recent challenges

Colorado Engine has, of course, not been immune to the recent challenges in the auto repair industry. 

First and foremost among those is parts shortages.

“It’s getting noticeably better,” Anderson says, “but pre-pandemic we could order an engine and/or transmission and oftentimes get it in two days. The whole process of replacing the customer’s engine and/or transmission could get done in a week. Now we have people who have to wait four to six weeks for the product.”

This prompted the shop to begin pre-ordering to keep engines and transmissions in stock at the facility.

“We actually started doing the stockroom when the pandemic hit and we were realizing the supply chain issues,” Hamersky says. “So we started pre-ordering knowing that they would take about four to six weeks to even get the actual part.

“We work closely with our general manager who knows which ones we do mostly and focus on common models as well as models that we want but are hard to get. So we ordered a couple of those at a time, just knowing those would take almost eight weeks to get, but we’d order them ahead and then sell them ahead. And then once we would sell one, we would order another one.”

This foresight has offered the shop a major advantage in a time in which parts and even the most common models are scarce.

“We’ve had several customers who have been calling around unable to find a certain product, and we happen to have it, and they bought it on the same day,” Hamersky says. “So, it absolutely has helped. We’ve been able to focus on which product we would like to keep in stock or pre-order or just keep our tabs on, knowing that we can get it quickly.”

She explains that, just as the shop transitioned in its offerings 24 years ago and more recently made adjustments to meet changing market conditions, Colorado Engine is entering a new stage in its history, as the family’s succession planning efforts begin to be implemented.

“My dad is still very much involved in the business operation, but he’s starting to take a step back. Though I grew up in the business, I never really saw myself in this position. I had several different career paths, including teaching and marketing. When I realized this actually was a good fit for me, I was excited to find my creativity in another way and have flexibility with my family,” she says.

“When I came in, about two and a half years now, we started implementing some things to make the shop operate just a bit more efficiently,” Hamersky says. “So he’s basically taking a step back, letting me update where I see we need to. He’s given me the opportunity to do several updates and enhancements for the shop’s operational benefits.”

Prior to her joining the team, Hamersky explains, Colorado Engine operated with a paper ticket organizational method. With the implementation of the ShopMonkey operating system, she says they’ve experienced dramatic improvements. 

“It helps to streamline our scheduling and helps with our parts ordering procedures,” she explains. “It’s really helped to just organize everything that we were doing.”

Hamersky says the emphasis hasn’t only been on shop efficiency – she has made strides to improve employee benefits as well. 

“Another area we improved was in our HR platform. We moved into something that was better and more useful for our employees,” she says. “We improved our health insurance and other benefits, because our team is worth it.”

Of course, technician shortages are not newsworthy in this industry in recent years but Hamersky says things were troubling for awhile. “We have an amazing team of 13 with several people who have been with us for more than 10 years each,” she says. “We did have some turnover following the pandemic, a period where we were sort of a revolving door of technicians, but we have a really strong team now”

 “We’ve got a really solid crew: younger guys, as well as our core older guys who have been with us for 10-plus years,” Hamersky says. “I think that has helped keep our core group going.  It’s a really good mix and a really great team of ASE-certified technicians and managers. It’s just a really positive close-knit group.They work really well together.”

“We’ve got three techs who manage the operations of the shop. They do everything from answering phones, dealing with customers, sales, determining which vehicles need to be worked, ordering parts, and just ensuring that the jobs are getting out correctly and on time,” Hamersky says.

“And with the volume we do and the size of the operation, it requires a lot of attention ordering the correct part for the repair and then making sure that you get it in a reasonable timeframe,” Anderson adds.

“As far as our technicians go, we have the seven techs and we vary their jobs depending on the technician and their skill level,” Kara continues. “We have four main installers who are consistently doing transmission or engine installs, and then we have two guys who can do installs, but are also proficient in service work. In addition, we have the rest of the team handling more of the service work, anything from oil changes to alternator replacements. 

She says the more experienced techs mentor the younger team members as needed, ensuring that each tech is getting the correct job to get it out on time, efficiently and with quality.

Hamersky says she still feels the same mentorship from her father.

“He’s still very much involved, but he allows me to take the reins in a lot of areas, and continues to guide me in the right direction,” she says. “And then in other ways, I’m helping to encourage him (and us all) to go in another direction, just to keep our shop updated and efficient.”

Standing out from the crowd

So what makes Colorado Engine stand out?

“If you come to visit,” Anderson says, “you will notice the myriad of vehicles that we’re working on, private party owners and businesses. We have a lot of fleet accounts, so if they need a transmission, they automatically come to us. They don’t shop around.”

Notable fleet customers at Colorado Engine include United Airlines and the U.S. Postal Service, as well as Consolidated, GE, Capital and Enterprise.

“Overall,” Hamersky shares, “I would say we split our retail customers vs. fleets almost 40% evenly with maybe a small percentage being newer walk-in customers (non-install related). While it may seem like a lot to manage with our shop, our shop scheduling system allows us to maintain consistent flow and provide high quality fast service.

“The quality of work just speaks for itself,” she adds. “A majority of our customer base comes from word of mouth and from our reviews.”

Colorado Engine maintains a 4.6 star rating on 173 reviews on Google, and a similar 4.5 star rating on Yelp.

That, Hamersky notes, requires “hiring the right people, taking care of our people and just knowing that we are only as good as them.

“We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have the successful legacy we’ve built,” explains Hamersky. “Our reputation is a huge piece of how we get our customers. A lot of it is word of mouth. A lot of it has been our relationship with other shops, relationships with our tow truck companies and our fleets. They all share information and recommendations.”

She continues, “I think most of our marketing comes from the fact that our customers trust us. And I think in this industry, it can be hard sometimes for customers to believe they’ve found the right shop. People are looking for someone they can trust with their vehicle, and hearing it from someone they know helps.”

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