The year was 1988 when Alan (Al) Fenton started his engine, sped on over to Fisher Ave in Cochrane, and shifted into high gear to launch Fenton Automotive.
It would not take long before his son, Mike Fenton, would be handing dad wrenches and learning a thing or two about the automobile.
More than 30 years later, Fenton Automotive was crowned gold in this year’s Best of Cochrane awards for Best Place to Service or Have Repairs Done to Your Vehicle – a first for the shop.
“I’m very proud to be his son,” said an emotional Mike Fenton. “I got the best teacher ever. There’s no better thing you can have than your dad being the person to apprentice you, over your shoulder, teaching you how to fix cars because the only person you want to hear it from is your dad.”
Fenton was overjoyed at the gold award and thanked everyone who went out of their way to vote, especially in an industry where compliments do not come swiftly.
“It is as big a win as we’re going to get in our town, and you watch everyone in the shop be a little prouder about the job we’re doing,” he said. “It’s definitely a big honor, getting gold in your own town when you’re not the biggest game in town.”
With a strong business comes a strong foundation, Fenton said, explaining without his staff his business would be nothing.
“I have the best staff,” Fenton said. “Two of my guys have been with me nine years, another one for five years, they come and they don’t leave and we are very close. It is a joy to come work with these guys every day. I love my guys – all of them.”
Although Fenton Automotive already has a strong customer base, word-of-mouth and having a good experience is how new customers are finding the shop. Fenton said most of his clientele are his father’s original customers, so he has known them for years.
“It becomes generational because their kids start coming here and you watch their kids have kids,” Fenton said.
He added the bread and butter of the shop are day-to-day repairs along with vehicle accessories, performance and surprisingly, tires.
“We’ve expanded our scope of what we do so that the phone is always ringing for something.”
As for the future of Fenton Automotive, growing pains are already being felt as cars and trucks crowd the front of the shop, a situation any business owner craves, but also dreads with commercial space being tight in Cochrane.
“Business has been amazing. We are incredibly fortunate to stay as busy as we are. We’re bursting at the seams, our town keeps growing and my shop does not,” Fenton said with a chuckle.