Shop View: Barrett Automotive

Aug. 11, 2021
Take a virtual tour of a true grassroots success built from the ground up.

SHOP STATS: Barrett Automotive  Location: Cornelia, Ga.  Owners: Justin and Nicole Barrett  Average Monthly Car Count: 190  Total Staff Size: 7  Shop Size: 4,800 square feet  Number of Bays: Annual Revenue: $1.3 million

A Homegrown Success

Not long ago, Barrett Automotive in Cornelia, Ga. was just a backyard hobby shop. 

Justin Barrett had always envisioned a future in auto repair, starting his first shop job at the age of 15, but when the recession hit in 2009 he couldn’t find repair work that could pay enough. He began working on cars for friends and family for fun in an 1,800-square-foot building behind his house, and by 2010 it had become a full-time gig. 

By 2015 business had grown so much that he hired an additional tech and his wife hopped in to help out on the phones, but the crew was soon working in cramped quarters. “We got to a point where we were just out of space and ready for a fresh start,” Barrett says.

Growth Spurt

Unable to find an ideal space to rent or lease, Barrett opted to build from the ground up instead and, based on limitations in his original space, he had a few specifics in mind.

In the original backyard shop the ceilings were too low to accommodate commercial vehicles and there’d been no room for alignment equipment, forcing Barrett to miss out on plenty of key jobs. In the new build, he was careful to designate space for a new alignment rack, requested 14-foot garage doors and 16-foot ceilings, and added a second, separate bathroom just for staff—an underrated perk he says his team greatly appreciates.

Just four years after the new build was completed, Barrett is already looking to grow once more. He’s currently planning a 1,200-square-foot addition to add two new bays and has plans in the works for a second location down the line. 

A Team-First Approach 

Barrett was also dead set on carving out a dedicated space for his team. “I really wanted a place that’s just for them, where they can hang out and relax over lunch, and where we can come together as a team.”

The shop’s multiuse room serves as a breakroom, conference room, and training space. Once a week Barrett orders lunch for the team, and they gather to discuss recent operational issues and team wins. With 10 training hours required per quarter, he’s also outfitted the room with smart TVs so the team can work through training sessions together and has worked to bring instructors in for on-site sessions. 

Fostering a Brighter Future

The new shop has also allowed him to make good on a promise. “I made a commitment that we’d always have young guys or apprentices on the team to build up the next generation of techs,” he says. 

So far Barrett’s officially hired two part-time apprentices from the local high school and technical school as full-time staff. “Sometimes you’ve got to be willing to comp a repair because they’re coming in without the skills, but if they’ve got the right attitude and core values, we want to help them get trained up. That’s a huge value to the team in the long run.”

He keeps his young hires focused on simpler jobs like oil changes and tire rotations, but allows them to shadow his more skilled staff and helps them work toward their ASE certifications as they build up their skills. 

About the Author

Megan Gosch

Megan Gosch is the associate editor of Ratchet+Wrench, where she produces content and oversees production of the publication.

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