By Ross Coates
As a multiple-unit franchisee for Meineke Car Care Centre, I’ve benefited from Newfoundland’s fast-growing economy. It’s a great market to be in and is always keeping us busy. Being part of a franchise system, I have strong support to help keep up with constant changes in the automotive industry, but also a real sense of ownership.
Working with my hands
I was born in 1960 and raised in Gander Bay, N.L., the seventh of eight children, including four boys and four girls. While growing up, I spent a lot of time playing sports, especially hockey on the ponds during winter and baseball on the fields during summer. Later in life, I took up golf as a pastime.
At school, my favourite subjects were math and geography. I was also always interested in automotive work. As far back as when I was just nine or 10 years old, I would sit with my grandfather and help him fix his car or a friend’s car.
He was a tinsmith, which in those days was an important member of the community, as he would make everything people needed from kettles and buckets to washtubs and even bread pans. He also installed stoves and heating systems in their homes. He worked in this trade until he was in his late 70s. Like him, I loved to work with my hands.
My dad also liked to work with his hands, but in a different field. He worked for 50 years with Abitibi-Price’s paper mills as a boatsman. He was also a craftsman who built riverboats and snowshoes as a hobby. In fact, there’s a documentary being made about him now, as he carries on these traditions at the age of 84. He is the only person left who still builds the old traditional riverboats.
As my dad would leave home for work and be gone for up to six months, our stay-at-home mom had the challenge of raising eight kids. In her earlier years, she had run a convenience store for her father, who was entrepreneurial and always had one business or another going.
I left Gander Bay when I was 17. I moved 48 kilometres away to Gander, working as a tinsmith and heavy equipment operator for a few years. We also repaired our own equipment as needed.
Then I moved to Calgary, where I started out working with heavy equipment again, but soon changed jobs to work in the carpentry business with one of my brothers, as a helper. We ended up spending a little more than 10 years out west and I worked in several different jobs before moving back to Newfoundland.
Back to automotive
Another of my brothers had an Irving Oil franchise in Summerford, N.L. It was a gas station, convenience store and automotive service centre, all in one location. While I was visiting family in Newfoundland on vacation in 1989, we got talking about the business and I told him I would like to run one of my own. He set up the contact for me and the next thing I knew, I was moving to Corner Brook, N.L., and starting a new business as a service station owner.
In the summer of 2000, Meineke Car Care representatives met with us Irving franchisees to see if we were interested in their service centres. After looking at all of the options, I really liked what they had to say.
As it turned out, I would become the first Meineke franchisee to sign up anywhere in Atlantic Canada. I had worked with Irving for nearly 13 years and liked the company a lot, but Meineke presented more of an opportunity to really own and run my own business.
I opened my three-bay shop in October 2000, operating from what had been my Irving location, which we had outgrown. In June 2002, I gave up on renting and purchased my own building, a six-bay shop that used to be a tire business. This allowed us the room to grow under the Meineke banner.
As our business grew enormously, I saw an opportunity for multiple locations. After five years, I opened my second franchise in Mount Pearl, N.L., which had also previously been an Irving building.
In 2008, I bought out two former Midas Canada shops and converted them to Meineke shops. One was also a six-bay building in Mount Pearl, while the other was a seven-bay location in St. John’s, N.L. They were both great locations that had achieved great sales numbers in the past—but in our first year, we surpassed both those sales figures and our own projections.