Middletown Area Residents Bryan and Carla Brown Have a Passion For Family & the Automotive Industry
If you had told Bryan Brown when he graduated from high school a little over 30 years ago that by 2019 he would own and operate one of the most successful chains of Meineke stores in the entire country, he would not have believed you.
Brown always had the energy and enthusiasm necessary for an entrepreneurial lifestyle but did not take a particular interest in school. Growing up in Indianapolis, Brown always had a passion for working on things and was often found tinkering with bicycles and go-karts. By his teenage years, that interest migrated over to cars, and Brown decided to forego college and enter the workforce.
By 1994, he had landed a role in Meineke’s corporate office, helping franchisees launch stores around the region. Brown’s client load had increased to 38 stores across three states when opportunity struck.
“I saw how I was helping other franchisees make money, and I thought why don’t I do it myself,” he says.
Brown found the perfect opportunity to go into business for himself in Louisville, which at the time was a wide-open market. He and his wife Carla moved to Middletown in 1997 and have called the area home ever since. Their success and growth in the Louisville market can be described as nothing less than explosive.
The Browns now own and operate 14 stores in the Greater Louisville area, including locations in Elizabethtown, Radcliff, New Albany and Charlestown. They have opened two new stores in the last calendar year alone, with another opening this spring.
“I’m always looking for good opportunities for growth,” Brown says. “If we find good locations, we’re going to jump in there and open stores.”
The Browns chain of stores generate the second-most revenue out of more than 900 Meineke locations across the United States. They trail only slightly behind one other organization under the Meineke umbrella, an operation with 25 stores.
Along with the 14 Meineke locations, the Browns also own Mighty Auto Parts (located at 4172 Bardstown Road in Buechel), a wholesale company that provides many of his franchises with parts and supplies.
An employee who has been with Brown for sixteen years runs Mighty Auto Parts, and the Browns have been lucky to experience excellent staff retention rates across all areas of their business over the years. One of their technicians, Mike, started with the Browns when he was 23 years old and is celebrating his 22nd year with the company.
Brown credits investing in his people as one of the main contributors to his success thus far.
“Our staff means the world to us,” says Brown, noting that his locations employ around 75 people. “We are the biggest family-owned multi-unit automotive group in the city, and we look at our staff as family. We do whatever we can for them.”
The Browns make it a point to get to know every employee in the company, and birthdays are celebrated with homemade treats from Carla. The pair hosts regular company outings and celebrations that include their staff’s family members, fostering a sense of family across their large network of stores.
One of the Brown’s three children is even involved in the operations and serves as the store manager for their new location in La Grange. While Brown was happy that Stephan, his son, wanted to join the family business after college, the role was not simply handed to him.
“I told him to go out and get a job in this business, get some experience and then I would interview him and see what happens,” Brown says.
His other employees were shocked, but he said, “I respect them too much to bring in someone just because of their last name.”
Stephan gained experience with a competitor before he earned a spot in one of Brown’s Meineke stores. He has followed in his father’s successful footsteps ever since.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing how he progresses in the business,” Brown says.
Holding employees to a high standard across the board is a must for Brown and another reason why he believes he has been so successful.
“We really expect a lot out of our people, and we compensate them accordingly,” Brown says. “We set our expectations high and don’t accept mediocrity or complacency.”
An in-house training coordinator helps ensure all staff — from technicians to sales — are armed with the training and tools necessary to excel in their jobs and provide the best overall experience for customers.
“Anytime we have a new initiative, we look at it through the customer’s eyes first,” Brown says. “Everything has to be about the customer — customer first, company second.”
The Brown’s approach has garnered recognition at the national level. In 2016, he and Carla became the only three-time winner of the Meineke Franchisee of the Year award (also taking home the honor in 2008 and 2012), and their individual stores are often recognized as top performing centers. The Franchisee of the Year is chosen based on sales numbers, customer satisfaction and time spent helping other franchisees successfully grow their own chain of stores.
“It feels awesome and it’s great recognition for our efforts over the years to receive these awards,” Brown says. “Meineke as a company really focuses on the franchisee and their profitability, and we’ve had a great partnership over the last 22 years.”
Their organization is also making an impact outside of their stores. The Browns were just awarded the Meineke Philanthropy Award for the second year in a row and makes giving back a priority.
“The community supports us in such a big way, it feels good to give back,” he says.
The Browns and their staff support a number of local charities and organizations, as well as Operation Homefront on a national level. Meineke places a big emphasis on supporting veterans, and Brown’s stores offer free oil changes to veterans on Veterans Day.
“We run hundreds of cars through our stores on Veterans Day to make sure all of our veterans are taken care of,” he says.
They also contribute to Fleur’s Dream, an organization that helps the local homeless population, and volunteer at Wayside Christian Mission.
“We go down to Wayside every other month to contribute toiletries and clothes or to grill dinner for them,” Brown says. “We are getting something similar started in Shelby County now that we have a new store there.”
While he wishes he could spend more time in his stores, most of Brown’s time is spent in the office working on the overall management of his franchises and looking into opportunities for new development. In the shop working on cars, Brown has found a new way to keep his passion alive. Within the last few years, the car enthusiast began to collect muscle cars from the late 1960s to early 1970s and has already grown his collection to 10.
“I love going to car shows and chatting with people who have the same interests,” he says.
And yes, he does have a life outside of the automotive industry. The Browns love spending time with their four grandkids, who, at ages four and under, keep their hands full.
As for the future?
“This is my 25th year with Meineke, and I still look forward to getting up and going to work every day,” Brown says. “I love it, and there’s a lot left in me.”