It appears that customers of Elite Auto Service truly find the service elite.

The evidence is in the hundreds of thank-you cards and letters — most of them handwritten — that line the walls of the auto repair business on the east side of Colorado Springs.

“It’s one of those things that just brighten your day,” says Elite’s owner, Brian Ferriter.

During the holiday season, customers’ appreciation can also widen the waist.

You really do not want to come in here at Christmastime if you are on a diet,” Ferriter says. “People bring us food like you wouldn’t believe. The brownies, the baked goods, the Christmas cookies, it’s ridiculous.”

Ferriter launched the business in 1998 with a partner, Ken Bowling. They had both managed auto repair shops and worked together for Snap-on, a tool company. In that role, they consulted with a lot of auto shops and realized, Ferriter says, “You know what, these guys aren’t any smarter than we are.”

So they launched their own business. It was just the two of them at first. “We just did everything, from cleaning the bathrooms to emptying the trash to fixing customers’ cars to picking them up. We did whatever we needed to do.”

Elite started in a small facility on a small lot at Powers Boulevard and Victor Place. It outgrew that space in five years and Ferriter and Bowling had a 10,000-square-foot facility built east of Powers on Platte Avenue. The business now has 13 employees.

But it doesn’t have one of its founders. Bowling died in 2008 from a blood clot that stopped his heart. His photo is on display in the shop.

“He was just a really good guy,” Ferriter says. “A big piece of me died when he died. You spend 12, 14 hours a day with somebody every day. … We used to joke about having the same brain. Personalitywise, we just meshed really well.”

While Ferriter, with a background in accounting and finance, handled a bit more of the financial side, Bowling “was far better on the customer side of it. He had this infectious smile. If the two of us were sitting there and a total stranger walked in, they would gravitate toward him because he was so warm and friendly.”

Communication is the foundation of Ferriter’s customer service philosophy. “We will send people texts, but I still like to talk to somebody and let them know what we’re doing on their car. … I think the customer likes to be involved.”

Keeping up with a rapidly evolving and increasingly tech-heavy automotive industry is challenging, Ferriter says; it requires constant training and investment in new diagnostic tools.

“Unfortunately, it can be expensive when that tech breaks,” he says. “It also can be challenging diagnostically. So many of the systems are interdependent on other systems.”

At the same time, though, “I don’t think we’d want to go back. It’s sure nice to hit the remote start button and have heated seats and satellite radio and all the creature comforts.”

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