Snap Shop: Gustafson Brothers

March 9, 2023
This Southern California shop is part body shop, part mechanical shop and part training center.

SHOP STATS: Gustafson Brothers  Location: Huntington Beach, CA  Owner: John Gustafson  Average Monthly Car Count: 170  Staff Size: 22  Shop Size: 10,000 square feet  Annual Revenue: $3,000  Annual Revenue: $6 million

1. A Shop for All Needs 

The genesis of Gustafson Brothers in Huntington Beach, California, was a love for cars and a need in the marketplace. John Gustafson started the business with his brother Frank right out of high school in 1971. They were simply “the neighborhood fix-it guys,” John says, and worked primarily on air-cooled Volkswagens, a representative vehicle of car-crazy Southern California in the 1970s. 

Situated just a short drive from the beach, Gustafson Brothers maintains that California feeling with a landscaped area out front featuring palm trees, which the customer lounge looks out onto. The business end of things is right around the corner with multiple bays opening out into the lot. The shop was mechanical only at first but eventually added collision repair, and now offers a myriad of automotive services for customers. 

“All the expansion, everything we've done has been to meet demand from the customer, current customer needs,” says Gustafson. 

2. Growing Their Own 

The shop experienced solid growth and success in its first 30-plus years of business. But starting in roughly 2005, Gustafson says, technicians were getting increasingly scarce, and the business had to start looking at ways to keep growing through that. Despite the arrival of the 2008 economic recession, the business had enough cash to build a new 5,000-square-foot space for two purposes. 

One use for the space was as a collision parts warehouse. The other use was as a training facility, where prospective technicians get to learn from a certified instructor. They eventually get placed with a journeyman tech to get hands-on experience with live customer work. 

“We hire people that are either interested in the trade, show definite interest, or somebody that's in the trade that isn't moving up,” says Gustafson. “And we bring them into the training center and give them like 90% hands-on and 10% classroom and we're building the bench for the next generation of technicians.” 

3. State of the Art 

The training facility gives students everything they need to learn their trade. A new installation as of late 2022 was a 100-inch monitor for audio/visual displays. 

“Instead of a just a TV with a PowerPoint on it, it'll be a 100-inch display with a super, super clear, super bright 4K resolution,” says Gustafson. “And we think that’ll be something they'll talk about, like, ‘Man in our school, we got this big display.’” 

Students also get access to all the electronic tools for scanning and so forth to help them not just learn to “fix metal,” in Gustafson’s words, but learn “to heal the damage to heal the car.” 

About the Author

Todd Kortemeier

Todd Kortemeier is former editor of FenderBender magazine.

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