The Shoreline Community College automotive program was very enlightening to me. I was surprised that after going through the first year of classroom/hands on training how many student’s just weren’t going to make it. Out of about 20 students I’ll bet only 3 or 4 made successful careers in the automotive industry.

After completing the first year of a 2 year program I was contacted by Ken Cooper, then service manager for Bellevue BMW/Subaru. He chose to offer two of us apprentice jobs at his dealership. (Owned by Dave Wilson).We both were beside ourselves. Wow, an offer to come work on BMW’s (we  both didn’t have any interest in Subarus at that time). We excitedly rolled our tool boxes in and began the uphill battle that an apprentice has to go through to prove themselves.  I’d work on cars from time to time but spent lots of time on the wash rack washing and vacuuming cars. I also was entrusted to drive the illustrious Vanagon customer shuttle van. I guess it was the closest thing they could find for a German built shuttle. After about 1 year of employment Ken took myself and the other apprentice into his office and offered us manufacturer training. The only stipulation was that he had to train one on BMW and one on SUBARU. Well we both wanted to be BMW technicians. We assumed the prestige and money would just come naturally. Since neither one of us wanted to volunteer for Subaru training he asked if we would be accepting of a flip of the coin. We both agreed that was as fair as it could be. One flip and guess what? I was the new Subaru apprentice. I was quite bummed for a while but once Tim Engelhard, the Subaru shop foreman took me under his wing to train me, I realized these cars weren’t so bad afterall. As a matter of fact, during the mid 80’s when the dealership got slow it seemed there was always Subarus to work on. We even gave some of the overflow work to the BMW techs that were out of work. After working there for 7 years it was time to move on. I had become fully certified as a Subaru Senior Master technician, ASE Master Technician and along the way had become the Subaru shop foreman. All was going great until the pinch of the economy on Dave Wilson and his new beautiful building forced him to sell out. As a matter of fact… if Dave Wilson still owned the place I’d probably still be there today and would have never thought of opening my own Subaru repair shop.

Once the new owners came in life became difficult. I was able to put up with about 3 months of their lies and deceipt before leaving to go to work for Jim Colello at Carter Subaru.  I spent 3 years with Carter and then had a great offer from University Subaru that I could not refuse. I worked for University Subaru until 1999 when I was in a position, married with no children to do something I always wanted. Open my own repair shop. Specializing in Subaru was a no brainer. I had been working on Subarus so long I was eons behind on the other makes and models. Of course, family and friends were nervous but supportive. The last 6 years of my career between University and Carter were great motivators for going out on my own. I was tired of being in a system that in many cases rewards greed and punishes those that truley are problem solvers for customers. Also, large dealerships have plenty of politics of which I’m happy to have left way behind….

I never imagined Smart Service would be what it is today. My dream would have been complete if we existed as just a one or two person Subaru shop. I have to credit all the great Subaru owners we’ve work with over the years that did a tremendous job spreading the word about our company. It proves that “Just take care of the customer and the rest will take care of itself” is still the oldest, most successful business plan to date.



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  1. Chris
    September 9, 2009 Reply

    Hey Mike,

    I’ve never been to your shop but have an appointment. I’ve had my Subie at one of the aforementioned dealers (and was an employee there as well once) and I’m so turned off by the service I received there last year and how it was handled that I will never take it back to them.

    I’ve heard great things about your shop from other Subie owners and look forward to finally having a good service experiance for my wifes car.

    • Mike Corbin
      September 9, 2009 Reply

      Hi Chris,

      Thank you for the good words. We’ll take good care of your wife’s Subaru whatever it may need. I’ll be curious to see which Subaru dealer you worked at to see if we may have been there at the same time. Not sure which shop you’ll be bringing it to but you’ll get excellent service at either location. I’m spending most of my time at our Shoreline shop while Tom Hoag runs my Mukilteo store.

      Take care,

  2. Mike Bertoglio
    September 9, 2009 Reply

    Great story Mike. Great shop. What can I say. I have 175k on the 98 Legacy 2.2 thanks to you all. My goal is to get to 180. Hope I can make it with your help.
    Mike Bertoglio

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Smart Service is an independent parts and service retailer and is not associated with Subaru, Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru of America, Toyota Motor Sales or American Honda Motor Co.