After 25 years in the military, including time in Afghanistan, and years of working for big box retailers, Steve Grimes wanted something of his own.
The Vancouver resident was interested in the automotive industry and had opportunities with national companies but didn’t want to move out of state. So he paved his own path and became an Honest-1 Auto Care franchisee.
He opened his first store in southeast Portland in 2007 and is now preparing to open his seventh shop in the region and the second in Vancouver.
Grimes spent 10 years in the Missouri National Guard and 15 in the Oregon National Guard finishing as a lieutenant colonel in 2006.
“When I came back I was definitely eager to do something on my own and look at being a small business owner,” he said.
He now owns the most of any franchisee for the national chain and won the company’s outstanding achievement award in 2014. Grimes is equally complimentary to the national firm.
“I liked that it didn’t have blinders on … it’s complete automotive repair,” he said.
He’s made an impact on the company, which has more than 50 locations nationwide, offers full service automotive care and takes pride in its family-friendly atmosphere. In the Portland area, just one Honest-1 shop is owned by another franchisee.
“There’s just an untold amount of effort that Steve puts in to help us all be successful in this organization,” said Braden Poole, vice president of operations for Honest-1, as he sat with Grimes at Grimes’ first Vancouver shop, 316 S.E. 123rd Ave., which opened in 2014.
“This is one of the most honest guys and straightforward individuals I’ve ever met.”
Behind the front desk of the clean shop — which includes a children’s play area and a computer lounge — Grimes’ wife, Maria Grimes, works two days as a service writer. She has worked at all but one of her husband’s stores.
“He’s that type-A person — if anybody can do it, he can,” she said.
Grimes said he hopes to open the new shop, 4706 N.E. Minnehaha St., by the end of the year. The new location is large and will be the first that Grimes owns, thanks in part to a $1.3 million Small Business Administration loan. His other locations, Portland, Gresham, Clackamas, Aloha and Milwaukie in Oregon and the original Vancouver location are in rented spaces.
Grimes said he’s already received calls from potential customers after putting up a “Coming Soon” sign. “That area is ripe.”
Grimes said he doesn’t know yet if this will be his last Honest-1 shop or if there will be more. Although his expansion may seem rapid, Grimes said he’s taken his time and makes sure his shops, with nearly 40 employees including the new location, remain profitable.
“We’re not trying to overextend things,” he said.