Bethel Auto Shop Turns A Passion Into A Livelihood

Aug 17, 2011

If you have a hobby that's a passion, you might occasionally have thought of turning it into a business. Actually achieving that is very rare – but that is exactly how automotive shop EFI Logics in Bethel, Connecticut began. WNPR's Sarah Miner reports.

Back in 2008,  the stock market began to plummet, businesses were downsizing, people were getting laid off. The economy was heading into the worst recession in a generation. Jack Laverty and Chris  Schoen-Kiewert saw it as a great opportunity.

This basically started out 4 years ago - myself and Jack were working for another shop in Hartford - and we had a pretty solid race team we were working with...the shop we were working with was on its way out so we figured it was good opportunity to move forward with idea and concept.

Chris has a degree in computer science and began his professional life as an IT Specialist - something his father highly encouraged.  Then, one day – something dawned on this Connecticut native.

Then I started realizing computers in cars were getting more advanced, and I thought maybe I can put my hobby and career together - I went to school part-time for engine managment - ended up turning into a career...father is still amazed to this day we were able to do this.”

And now EFI Logics, the company he now manages with business partner and racecar driver Devin Gregory, employs five full-time employees in their 8,000 square foot garage and is booked solid through October.  EFI stands for Electronic Fuel Injection. So what do they do, exactly?  Shop manager, Pete Sohl explains.

We make the cars handle better, we give them more power. Some people just use them on the street but others do take them to race tracks whether it be drag striips or rally or road courses. Some people want some visual looks but we generally work on the mechanical side of things, suspension work engine building larger turbos exhaust systems and tuning.........

And if you're still wondering,....

We change the car's computer to make the car run faster I guess would be the easiest way to describe that.

Although the shop is now providing a livelihood for five people, the business' roots as a hobby and a passion are still evident.

Each engine is a different woman.  I name them all after women - I know that sounds a little bit weird - but that's how I track them in my mind.

That's EFI's Engine Builder, Rob Asencio – who keeps tabs on every engine that passes in front of him.

That is my mental file. If i can pull that name up i have that file totally in my head. I can tell you whatever you want to know about that engine. That's just the way I associate things in my mind.

Making cars run faster may not sound like the most practical business model at a time when most people are leaning towards spending less and going green – but the shop has a loyal customer base, And Jack Laverty says personal relationships are key, as with this driver.

She actually races her car for road races -she does very well. I'm very proud of her. HUGE part in her success....from actually building car from stock vehicle to getting her on the track and giving her pointers - different circuits she goes to - keep your head on your shoulders and you'll do fine. 

The niche market, also works, according to Chris Schoen-Kiewert, in part because of the location.

Connecticut seems to be a happy medium where you have a good influence of customers from New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Maine. It's the midway point - it actually works out pretty good to be right in the middle, you know because you get a good diverse customer base.

And although he says it sounds cliché -

We are like a family here....we all lean on each other - even though I am the boss, these guys - I rarely have ot manage them. They love what they do - I'm very lucky to have this team.

For  WNPR, I'm Sarah Miner.