In 1981, Mark Carr was working as a graphic arts salesman for a photographic mural company. He had just moved to Houston from upstate New York and was finding success in his role, but he was restless. He felt like he was built to be doing something different.
One night, feeling particularly discontent, Mark prayed and asked God to provide him a business. The very next day, while Mark was attending a Sunday school function through Spring Branch Bible Church, a gentleman from his class walked up, said that he was an automotive technician, and asked Mark to help him start an automotive repair shop.
The two men didn’t know what to call their new venture. They were encouraged by their Sunday school class to call it Christian Brothers Automotive, as they were two brothers in Christ. So, in August 1982, Mark Carr and his partner opened a complete automotive repair facility in Mission Bend, Texas, a suburb of Houston, and founded Christian Brothers Automotive Corporation (CBAC).
The business began with Mark as an offsite owner with his partner running the daily operations. After several years, Mark was convinced to buy out his partner and become full-time owner and operator. The business excelled under Mark’s leadership—his customers appreciated the fact that he didn’t have typical industry experience, so he related more closely to being a customer.
This was what led to two of Christian Brothers Automotive’s clear value propositions to the customer:
- Having the owner of the business on site, building relationships.
- Ensuring that the owner can relate to the customers and serve them the way the owner would want to be served.
Christian Brothers Automotive thrived, and in 1994, a friend who saw Mark’s success approached him about opening an automotive repair facility. Mark helped his friend locate and buy the property, hire the technicians and service manager, establish the vendor contacts, set up the parts department, select the equipment and inventory, and create accrual accounts for yearly expenses.
This business opened in 1996, and in a year it surpassed Mark’s twelve-year-old location in annual gross revenue. Mark realized that his friend’s business was out-performing his because of the fast track training, robust systems and procedures, and a demographically better location.
It was in this year, 1996, that Christian Brothers Automotive became a registered franchisor and started offering its franchise throughout Texas. Many of Christian Brothers’ earliest franchisees arrived through Mark’s Sunday school class at Spring Branch Bible Church. These families and their relatives opened the original seven Christian Brothers locations in Houston, Austin, and Dallas–Fort Worth.
The popularity continued to grow, and Mark added new people to the Christian Brothers team and the franchise family. Christian Brothers spread into Tennessee, Georgia, and Oklahoma, and by the end of 2001 it had seventeen locations. More friends, relatives, and customers were learning about the brand and wanting to be a part of the franchise movement, and in the next six years the brand grew into Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, and Missouri, for a total of fifty locations. By this time, the home office too had built up a significant professional team, with eighteen people to serve, support, and lead the franchise family.
In 2008, Christian Brothers announced a growth initiative that would take the brand to approximately 200 stores throughout the Southeast, the lower Midwest and the Southwest United States by the end of 2017.
Christian Brothers Automotive celebrated 30 years of business in 2012 and opened store number 100 (in New Braunfels, TX), two very significant milestones in the company’s history. By the end of 2015, Christian Brothers has opened more than 150 locations in 19 states.