Kris Kramer opened Christian Brothers Automotive in March in Liberty Lake, to accomplish his goal of becoming a small business owner in the region in which he was born and raised. He spent most of his time growing up just over the border in Idaho but has always considered the area his home. He went to high school in Hayden Lake and followed his high school sweetheart to Oregon and then Northeast Texas where he eventually graduated from college. Once they were married, the couple moved to Everett, Washington, and Kramer spent the next two decades working for Farmers Insurance. He transferred a little closer to home in Spokane and just recently decided it was time to go into business for himself, as a member of the Christian Brothers Automotive franchise system.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I was born in Boise, and was adopted by my parents at six-weeks old. They were in Coeur d’Alene, so I grew up in North Idaho. Pretty much grew up in Idaho right near where my shop is, Liberty Lake, just across the border of Idaho and Washington. It was right along the river in Post Falls, but I never would have thought of opening a business nearby.
My wife and I met while studying at private school in Hayden Lake as high school juniors. We've been together for 31 years now. We moved to Oregon out of high school, I followed her around and kept up my college studies. We eventually moved to Longview, Texas, where her family is originally from. She and I got married and I went there to finish up college but I always wanted us to find our way back to the Northwest. Soon after our first son was born, we moved back. I found a job working for Farmers Insurance and went on to spend the next 23 years there, in Everett, Washington, and eventually Spokane.
Along the way, I had always considered opening my own business. My grandfather had owned a car dealership in Couer d'Alene, and my dad had that same entrepreneurial spirit when he started his own janitorial business and operated in the area for 40 years. I got comfortable in the insurance life, though, especially since I was virtually living in the region I called home.
What about your skillset has prepared you to become a franchisee with Christian Brothers Automotive?
I initially wanted to retire from the insurance business at 50 so I could begin taking the steps to go into business for myself. That decision was starting to be made for when they began to reduce my department -- but by that time I was already searching for a business of my own and had a couple of ventures in mind. For the last three years, I spent my time working in a collision repair shop for a franchise, locally owned, and that further prepared me for Christian Brothers and the automotive industry. It was a wonderful experience.
I always understood the benefits for franchising. I had been successful in my career but I was without a specific skillset. That’s the value of becoming a franchise owner -- it didn't matter. I didn't have to be an expert in the auto industry to open a Christian Brothers Auto shop.
So, I left my previous position in November and decided to finalize my decision to open Christian Brothers near my home currently and wound up settling on Liberty Lake. The shop is only 17 miles away from my house.
How did you hear about the franchise?
Within life in the insurance world, I had always been involved in automobile claims. I have always had a passion and an interest in cars, so becoming the owner and operator of an auto repair shop made sense. When I left Farmers about four years ago, I used the money I had been saving and checked with a financial advisor about the best way to go about all of this and he called me up one day and told me about Christian Brothers. He knew some people who had joined the franchise team and it sounded like something I could be a part of.