May 28, 2024
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In Gear for Good
3/28/2024

Most people in Liberty Lake know Kris Kramer as the point person at Christian Brothers Automotive, a full-serve repair shop on Appleway Avenue in the east section of town. 
Yet, if not for a few fortuitous turns several years ago, Kramer could have just as easily been the face of heavy-duty ovens, ranges and custom-made refrigerators with roots much farther to the east. 
At the time, Kramer's position as a project manager with Farmer's Insurance was scaling down and he and his wife Anne were adjusting to life as empty nesters with their children married and out of the house. After years of traveling across the country in the insurance industry, Kramer was determined to settle down as the franchise owner of a business – and the field was not exactly narrow. 
"I'd always been looking for that kind of opportunity and I was open to anything," Kramer recalls. 
After an opening emerged in Florida with a commercial kitchen solutions company. Kramer went as far as to put money down. The opportunity would have meant overseeing an enterprise in the greater Spokane area. His wife wasn't completely sold on the idea, however. 
"We met with our pastor and he asked, ‘What can we do to help?'" Kramer said. "We wanted to be faithful to God and go where He was leading us."
The conversation led to Kramer taking a different job with Fix Auto in San Diego in June of 2013 that required travel across the U.S. and Canada including stops in the Inland Northwest where Kramer had extensive roots as a native of Post Falls.  In 2002, he and Anne had a home built in Spirit Lake. 
"It was on 10 acres in the middle of the woods," Kramer said. 
While at Fix Auto, Kramer had a conversation with his financial advisor about a Texas-based company called Christian Brothers Automotive that had a presence in 20 states and was expanding throughout the country. Opening a shop would mean owning his own business but the process could take as many as three years. 
Kramer started researching the business and was quickly on board, impressed with Christian Brothers' focus on integrity, serving the public and holding true to faith-based roots. 
"It wasn't the first opportunity I'd looked at but it was the last," Kramer said. "I was in. It was phenomenal." 
Kramer stayed with Fix Auto until the end of 2016, securing a prized contract with Farmers Insurance a week before he left to start a new chapter with Christian Brothers. His new professional home broke ground on Appleway Avenue in August of that year. 
As the business celebrates seven years in Liberty Lake this month, Christian Brothers Automotive continues to stay true to the principles that sold Kramer on the company when he first signed on. Employing between 14 to 16 staff, the location stays busy but always has time to uplift the community through events like National Service Day each fall that benefits single moms to efforts that support a variety of local nonprofits like Union Gospel Mission, Family Promise of Spokane and Naomi Community. 
Kramer also lives out the mantra of giving back as a member of Liberty Lake Rotary and, prior to that, as part of Liberty Lake Kiwanis 
"Part of the Christian Brothers' mission is to be a valuable member of the community and Rotary is a good way to do that," Kramer said. 
Kramer grew up the oldest of four children. His dad owned his own janitorial business and Kramer learned the value of responsibility and hard work early as an employee for the company through high school. He earned enough to buy his own car, a Mustang with a V8 engine. 
Kramer attended Grace Bible Academy in Hayden where he competed in soccer, basketball and track. Memories of his youth reflect a different North Idaho from today. 
"I remember sawmills and trains going through Coeur d'Alene," he said. "As kids, we grew up riding bikes, swimming, fishing and spending a lot of time in the mountains." 
Kramer was one of four seniors in his high school's graduating class. He went on to attend LeTourneau University, a Christian polytechnic university in Longview, Texas. After graduating in 1989, Kramer began working his way up the insurance industry ladder, first as a claims adjuster with Farmers and later with Safeco. He came back to Farmers in order to cut down on the busy travel schedule and spend more time with his family. 
"My dad had become ill," Kramer said. "I had time to spend with him before he passed." 
Kramer said his time in the insurance field was rewarding. 
"I enjoyed making difficult situations better," he said. 
These days, Kramer and his team at Christian Brothers are focused on a similar objective, helping motorists get safely back on the road. Christian Brothers now features over 250 locations across the country and has never had a shop go out of business since the brand premiered in 1982.
Kramer is looking forward to opening up a second shop, this one in Hayden, Idaho on Highway 95. 
"We're not here for a short-term win," Kramer said. "We're here for the long haul." 

Q:  You had a pretty large area to pick from when deciding where to establish the first Christian Brothers Automotive in Washington. Why has Liberty Lake worked for you? 
 A:  I was born in Idaho and grew up in the greater Post Falls/Coeur d'Alene area with deep ties to the wife and I left ourselves open to go where a CBA opportunity would take us.  The franchisor was very focused on finding us opportunities where we would be happy.  The Liberty Lake community was a perfect spot for us with its central location between Coeur d'Alene and Spokane in an area of growing demographics.
Q:  Owning and running your own company seems like it was a goal for you from early on. Has the experience turned out the way you had hoped? 
A:  We have been blessed with new friends, business neighbors and the community from the very beginning of our launch.  I don't know if I could say the experience turned out the way I had hoped, it took three years to get the location selected and built and then, before we knew it, COVID hit. However, it has been a fantastic journey full of great challenge and blessing.  It, by far, has been the hardest project I have taken on but the most fulfilling when we can help turn someone's life around.
Q:  What did working for your dad's janitorial company growing up teach you about having a good work ethic, being responsible and taking initiative? 
A:  At 8 years old I was paid 25 cents an hour to pick up garbage and staples out of the carpet.  I learned it wasn't about how much you get paid to do something for someone, it is about how well you do it, regardless of the pay.   Whether it is cleaning a bathroom or managing a multi-million-dollar project it is critical to mind the details and communicate well and often with those involved.
Q:  You are not timid when it comes to talking about how faith has impacted your life. What are some of the ways your belief system guides your personal and professional journey?
A:  Scripture tells us that the greatest commandment is to love. We need to function with Matthew 22:39 as our starting place. "…love thy neighbor as thyself." This is the number one challenge with any relationship, whether it is personal or business.  If we live by this, we have a greater awareness to serve.  We work on our core values in the business culture to keep us on task with how we should help others through Joy, Being Neighborly, with Excellence and Transparency.
Q:  You've been involved with Rotary for a while now and Kiwanis before that. What are some of the most rewarding aspects of lending your time and talents to a service club? 
A:  Seeing the children of families find joy in being helped and helping others in many of our activities and events here and abroad.  This can impact them for the rest of their lives to carry on "Service Above Self." 
Q:  Anyone who's ever had a car in need of repair can speak to the challenge of finding an auto mechanic they can trust. How do you address that concern at Christian Brothers? 
A:  Communication is the major issue in our industry. There are many good well-meaning repair places who are often misunderstood because they didn't communicate well or didn't clearly lay out the details of a repair need or solution.  We do our best to provide a transparent digital vehicle inspection with notes, photos and video for our customers in order to help explain what we see, our reasoning for a repair or an approach toward a series of causes when several items may contribute to a problem.  Our goal is to help educate so a person can make an informed decision regarding maintenance or repairs.  Our goal is to do our best to serve well with a little grace and recover well with our customer when we fall short of perfect.
Q:  How has your background in the insurance industry helped you in your role as an owner of a repair shop? 
A:  The insurance industry is like the automotive repair market in that we can have the opportunity to help people who are in an uncomfortable position, often facing a loss or expense that is not planned.  Understanding our customer's story helps to find a way through this with the customer.
Q:  Finally, what have you enjoyed most about being part of the Liberty Lake community? 
A:  Being part of so many aspects of the small hometown community with the opportunity to know people by first names. Volunteering at the Farmers Market, RIM Ride and the Memorial Day activities. Helping supervise the luminaries at the park in the evening has been an awesome experience witnessing families solemnly teaching their children the meaning and history. 

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