photo of owner Tom Hofstra
The sales and service area Automotive Equipment Specialists covers doesn’t go out of the state, let alone out of the country. But Tom Hofstra, owner of the company in downtown Comstock Park, pushed those boundaries several years ago when he helped a garage in a town in Nigeria. Hofstra learned through a friend working with World Mission that the garage needed automotive equipment and Hofstra supplied them with equipment including a wheel balancer, a tire changer, and an above ground lift. “They were probably crawling around on the ground, using dollies with a flat board on wheels to get under cars,” said Hofstra.
The guys at the garage made a metal sculpture of a stick figure man with a top hat riding a motorcycle out of nuts, bolts, spark plugs, and other metal parts as a thank you and sent it to Hofstra as a thank you. The sculpture is on display on the front counter in the shop, located at 3800 West River Drive.
The company sells and services “basically whatever they use to repair cars,” said Hofstra. That includes automobile and truck lifts, hydraulic jacks, pressure washers, parts washers, battery chargers and testers, lubrication equipment, air compressors, tire changers, wheel balancers, exhaust ventilation systems, air conditioning products and more. Their sales and service area extends from Lansing west to Lake Michigan and from the Indiana boarder north to Traverse City.
The company has a long history in Comstock Park, dating back to the 1970’s, when Don Botts bought the building, which was then a gas station, and turned it into an automotive equipment supply businesses. The Comstock Park location has worked well, said Hofstra, with two expressways nearby and “economical rent.” In 1984 Arv Leisman took over ownership of the company. “Arv is my brother in-law's father, and he was looking for someone to manage the business, and I took the job,” said Hofstra, who prior to that worked in commercial construction for fourteen years.
Leisman had the building torn down, as well as tearing out the leftover fuel tanks, and rebuilt it. In 1998 Hofstra bought the business. Hofstra leases 5000 square feet of the building and another company leases the rest. Hofstra said 4000 square feet of his space is storage for equipment and parts, while the front 1000 square feet is the sales and showroom, where equipment like Rotary hoists and power washers are displayed.
There are nine employees – five full-time and four part-time, that include mainly technicians as well as one sales person and one clerical person. Hofstra said one of the best things about his job are the employees, who he says are “like family.” He said the care for customers and the expertise the employees display could be the reason they get so many word of mouth referrals.
Besides referrals and online advertising, Hofstra said he advertises at the Berlin Raceway in Marne noting, “A lot of the technicians are into racing.”
Hofstra graduated from Calvin Christian High School and still contributes to programs at the school as well as to West Side Christian School. Hofstra and his wife Edna live in Walker. They have a daughter and son-in-law, and two grandchildren.
Hofstra plans to retire in the fall, and, in addition to spending time with family, he expects to spend plenty of time on the golf course as well as at their RV on Sand Lake.