Like famous explorer Jesse Chisholm, A. J. Pickering came to Wichita, Kansas, on a mission – westward expansion. While Pickering didn’t blaze the Chisholm Trail, he has a built a succession of three CARSTAR locations with plans to scale his operation.
The Chicago-native, who started his career washing cars then managing the parts department at Westmont Body Werks in the Chicago suburbs, had a vision in mind when he moved to Wichita in 2015. He wanted to find an underserved market for collision repair and blaze a trail of his own.
He identified CARSTAR as a partner, with its strong brand across Kansas and its origins as a Kansas City company. He soon bought two locations and quickly began building his local reputation for excellent customer service, high-quality repairs and community involvement.
“There is an incredible benefit to being independently owned in today’s consolidated marketplace, but there’s also power in numbers with being connected to hundreds of like-minded CARSTAR owners across the country,” Pickering said. “CARSTAR brought a wealth of knowledge to my operation, helping me from the very start with securing locations, founding my business, building my operations and training my team. The CARSTAR EDGE Performance Group (EPG) program is incredibly helpful as the collision industry evolves, repair standards change and new challenges emerge.”
Since opening his first two locations – CARSTAR East and CARSTAR West, Pickering has doubled his sales and growth. With CARSTAR’s support in early 2023, he opened a third location, CARSTAR Old Town. Pickering also set a strategy to build his brand and get involved in the community.
“Your brand recognition as a quality repair facility is incredibly important in your local market,” he noted. “On top of that, being locally owned is very powerful in this community to our insurance partners and car dealerships who want to know to whom they are sending work.”
Pickering and his wife Kelly rolled up their sleeves and put in the sweat equity in building their local brand, with many hours of community service to their credit.
“I didn’t know anyone when I moved here, so I went to work looking for opportunities to get connected,” Pickering said. “I got involved painting curbs for a community improvement project, then I met some folks from the local chamber and continued to network from there. Now, we work with local schools, support the Exploration Place and help fund the domestic violence shelter for local families in need. I even bought an old Wichita trolley and restored it to provide to charities to use for fundraising events. All of this has helped me grow as part of this community.”
Pickering is also committed to inspiring the next generation of collision repair professionals and providing opportunities to those looking for a career. He is involved with the Kansas Auto Body Association, supports the automotive program at Washburn Tech and sponsors local and regional Skills USA students and competitions.
Recently, Pickering served as chair for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Wichita Golf Classic, helping raise funds for CARSTAR’s selected charity partner. While he blazed a few new trails on the golf course that day, it’s all in a day’s work for this local entrepreneur who is mapping his success with passion and performance. And CARSTAR is there every step of the way on his journey.