Graham Auto Repair Expanding to Yelm

By Paul Dunn /
Posted 4/1/21

Gone are the goats and cows. So, too, the sheep, pigs and roosters. On to greener pastures, perhaps, rooting and chewing cud along the way.But don’t despair, they’ll soon be replaced by a …

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Graham Auto Repair Expanding to Yelm


Gone are the goats and cows. So, too, the sheep, pigs and roosters. 

On to greener pastures, perhaps, rooting and chewing cud along the way.

But don’t despair, they’ll soon be replaced by a decidedly wilder bunch — no oinking or mooing in this crowd. Think Jaguars, Mustangs, Cougars, Impalas and maybe even Stingrays and Cobras. Tamer species such as Camrys, Civics, Sonatas, and Pandas will, of course, figure in the menagerie on wheels, too.

Here’s the lowdown: When Yelm’s Mattress Ranch franchise vacated our fair city on Jan. 23 — taking its colorful animal collection with it — the business’s facility was quickly purchased by the owners of Graham Auto Repair in Graham who expect to open the Yelm version of their company by the end of summer.

The new facility’s ringmasters, husband and wife Troy and Kori Vaninetti, plan to expand the barn-red building from its current size of 5,400 square feet into a 6,200-square-foot paragon with nine car bays and a hydraulic lift in the back to service motor homes and other larger vehicles.

“The building won’t look like this at all (after it’s renovated),” said Troy Vaninetti, who purchased the site at 402 Yelm Ave. E. on Jan. 29 for $905,000.

Vaninetti, 49, expects the renovation — which will include extending side walls and tearing off the front of the existing building to build a waiting room and covered parking — to take until August or September.

“It’s a moving target when you renovate a building, but hopefully we’ll open sometime in September,” he said.

Vaninetti, who was born and raised in Eatonville, began his foray into the car-repair profession as a teenager, though at that time he couldn’t foresee what his future really held.

“I was 17, and 17 year olds don’t know what they want,” he said. “So I took the opportunity to work at a Graham gas station.”

It wasn’t long, though, before the ambitious kid worked himself into the station’s lead technician, then manager, and finally in 2006 he and Kori bought Graham Auto Repair. They rented shop space at first for their new business, then in 2016 built the Graham business that stands today.

Then Vaninetti began eyeing Yelm for a possible second site after he discovered that a local car care company had sold and subsequently downsized.

“At that point, I recognized the need for another car repair shop in Yelm,” he said.

It took Vaninetti about a year to find just the right location for his shop, and when Mattress Farm vacated, he snapped up the building. He expects to service customers from Yelm, Roy, McKenna, Rainier, Eatonville and possibly other locations.

The company has a list of “anchors” and “essentials” that define its mission and dedication to service, but in a nutshell the goal is to ensure customers come away from their Graham Auto Repair experience satisfied and confident.

Lacie Ugelstad, 39, the company’s digital media and recruiting manager, explained: “It’s our hope that people will give us the opportunity to show them through their experience with us that our service is excellent. We are here to serve people by keeping them and their families safely on the road.”

The company expects to offer a variety of vehicle services on domestic and foreign cars, trucks and motorhomes that include repair, maintenance, tire replacement and alignment, engine diagnostics and digital inspections.

“We have all different types of technicians, so we cover all the different makes and models of vehicles,” Vaninetti said. “And we continuously improve everything we do, which includes investing in our team by continuing to train and improve our skills from the CEO to the apprentice technician.”

Transparency, moreover, is the name of the game at Graham Auto Repair, Vaninetti stressed. To achieve that goal, technicians photograph all vehicle digital inspections and send the results to customers via text or emails. The visual data allow customers to view potential issues with their vehicles and decide how to proceed.

“They (customers) see everything that we do in the shop, and from that information they can make their own educated decisions on what they need to do on their vehicles,” Vaninetti said. 

But even with a variety of safeguards for customers, Vaninetti realizes there will be occasional, unintentional mistakes in their services.

Which brings us to Company Anchor No. 2: doing the right thing no matter the cost.

“This speaks to our commitment to do the right thing, especially when we mess up,” Vaninetti said. “This is the true test of integrity. We are not perfect and will miss the mark sometimes, but we will do what it takes to fix our mistakes.”

And in a small city, reputation circulates quickly, so personal integrity and customer interaction play an important role, Ugelstad intimated.

“The advantage of being in a small community is getting to know the people you’re serving by being involved in the community,” Ugelstad said. “We want our customers to feel like they are part of our family.”

For Vaninetti, that means developing a family atmosphere at Graham Auto Repair by hiring and mentoring the company’s employees.

“I most enjoy developing people (employees),” he said. “We ensure amazing customer experiences by hiring amazing people. They continue to get better at their skills, and it’s satisfying watching our business work as a team.”

Come September or thereabouts, the team at Graham Auto Repair in Yelm will service vehicles from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and will be closed on weekends.

The Vaninettis, who have been married 26 years and have three sons and one daughter ages 21 to 15, purposely scheduled the hours to accommodate their employees.

“We value family time, and the crew is much happier when they’re off on weekends,” Troy Vaninetti concluded.

Sure they are: They’ve spent the week tuning up growling Jaguars. Whew. 


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