“I came from the retail industry, so I’m customer oriented,” said Steve. “We’ll focus on our commitment to our customer base…the best service we can give them. “Without them (our customers) we’re nothing.”
The Roelofs bought AES last year from Tom Hofstra when he retired after thirty years with the company, nineteen of them as owner. Steve, who has worked at AES since 2001, said he wanted to purchase the business “to prosper it.” The goal, he said, is “to grow the business slow and steady.” He previously worked in the grocery retail industry. Anita had owned a hair salon for 16 years, which gave her business expertise, and, after closing it, rented a chair in another salon. She retired from that to come to AES, located at 3800 West River Drive, to manage the office and do the accounting.
The company sells and services automotive lifts as well other types of automotive repair equipment such as hydraulic jacks, pressure washers, battery chargers and testers, lubrication equipment, and air conditioning products. Steve and one other employee are certified lift inspectors. That’s important Steve said. Because of the “liability associated with putting cars in the air,” insurance companies want to be sure the lifts are in safe working order.
The AES sales and service area extends from Lansing west to Lake Michigan and from the Indiana border north to Traverse City. There are four full-time and six part-time employees that include mainly technicians as well as a sales person and clerical person.
Word of mouth and referrals are the biggest share of AES advertising. Satisfied customers pass the word about good service, and competent work, said Steve. The web site is being overhauled to make it more customer friendly, and Anita is looking into other social media sources such as creating a Facebook page. They also advertise at the Berlin Raceway in Marne. Steve said that’s an effective place for them to advertise because many of the automotive technicians who work for AES customers are into racing and are regulars at the track.
AES 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. The building was developed into an automotive equipment supply and service business, said Steve, with the back 4000 square feet being turned into a warehouse for equipment and parts, and the front 1000 square feet into a sales and showroom area, and offices. Comstock Park has been a good location for the company, said Steve adding , “It’s convenient to the highway…for our techs,” The couple lives in Ada so the downtown .Comstock Park area is new to Anita, but she’s already met some of her business neighbors.
“I had no idea all these businesses were here…the restaurants” she said. “I’m looking forward to trying the restaurants.”
Both of the Roelofs are originally from Grand Rapids and attended Grand Rapids Central High School. Anita attended what was then the Kent Skills Center for her cosmetology training. Steve, who is mechanically minded by nature, says he is a self-taught technician. When he was growing up, a neighbor who worked in the City of Grand Rapids motor pool taught Steve a lot of the mechanical skills he brings to the job. Even though he is now owner of AES, Steve is generally out in the field working on customers’ problems. The Roelofs have two grown sons, two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren. When they’re not working they enjoy time with family.