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Auto shop with global reach revs up in Cottage Grove

Chris Carey, president and co-founder of Modern Automotive Performance, worked his way up from a small shop in Plymouth to a 23,000-square-foot, all inclusive garage in Cottage Grove and is making a name for himself in the automotive industry. Bulletin photo by Emily Buss1 / 2
Kyle Nelson, a MAP co-founder, uses one of the many specifically designed tools to create specialized parts for a vehicle he is working on. Bulletin photo by Emily Buss2 / 2

A new tenant recently drove into the Cottage Grove Business Park and is giving area residents, and the world, a new reason to appreciate the automobile.

Modern Automotive Performance quietly made the 45-minute trek east from Plymouth in late January and relocated to a bigger and better shop at 9800 Hemingway Ave. The new, 23,000-square-foot garage is stocked with all the gadgets a gearhead could only dream of.

MAP president and co-founder Chris Carey, who is also a Cottage Grove resident and Park High School graduate, knows his cars -- foreign and domestic performance enhanced cars to be exact. The niche market caters to enhancing the performance capabilities of Mitsubishi, Subaru, Mazdaspeed, and Honda models, among others.

The 29-year-old automotive enthusiast quickly made a name for himself in the automotive industry when he first opened MAP in Plymouth in 2006. In a matter of three years, he said annual revenue skyrocketed from a comfortable $125,000 to $7.6 million, a profit that earned the business a spot on INC. 5000's list of fastest growing private companies in America. Revenue continues to rise, with 2012 numbers showing revenue in excess of $10 million.

The business is now known globally for its intricate, under-the-hood work to make cars perform better and drive faster.

A longtime employee of a Twin Cities cellphone company, Carey was working in a corporate office by day, but at night, and even on lunch breaks, he sold high-end car parts to engine junkies around the country. While pursuing a degree in business at the University of Minnesota, he realized that working in wireless retail was not the career he wanted and decided to pursue his passion for performance enhanced vehicles.

With the help of longtime Park High School friend Kyle Nelson, who had years of shop experience and a "mechanic inclination," Carey said, the two began building the foundation that would soon become a multi-million dollar business.

"In 2006, we casually began looking for commercial retail space and quickly found a motivated landlord," Carey said. "In the spring, we moved into the Plymouth location, which was a 3,000-square-foot shop. Kyle worked full-time on the cars, which got us off the ground."

A fully functional website got the name out to the masses and positive customer reviews spread like wildfire, Carey said, and the business rapidly grew.

"In the Twin Cities, there weren't many places to choose from if you wanted to get your car enhanced," he said. "I saw this as an opportunity to bring my customer service background into the automotive aftermarket. Providing good customer service and craftsmanship, combined with competitive pricing, really got this business moving."

Going global

Over the next six years, the business outgrew its Plymouth location, and they decided to move. The Cottage Grove shop has 10 staging areas and can facilitate multiple projects simultaneously, as evident by the dozens of vehicles parked inside garage.

Car enthusiasts could appreciate the shop's enormous warehouse for inventory, shipping and receiving purposes, fabrication, engine building and porting rooms, six auto lifts and one four-post lift with an alignment rack, and a dynamometer, which an essential item in the shop that Carey said makes it one-of-a-kind. The dynamometer measures the amount of torque and power a vehicle has.

"Cars come from all over the country to get work done and to pick up parts," Carey said.

"It's extremely exciting to see this business grow from two employees to 28 employees," he added, all of which are friends and family members that live in or around Cottage Grove. "We have made great strides in the sport compact vehicle industry and it's astounding."

Turbochargers to Texas, radiators to Russia, exhaust systems to England, Modern MAP ships products throughout the continental United States, as well as to a handful of other countries.

"This business has well surpassed what I could have ever thought it would be," Carey said. "What makes us different from our competition is that we do everything under one roof. I'm not aware of another shop in the country that can do that. If you're a car person and you live in Cottage Grove, or in the Twin Cities, this is a big deal for you."

MAP will celebrate the opening of the Cottage Grove location with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, May 4. The ceremony is also part of the shop's annual breast cancer awareness fundraiser, which is held in memory of Carey's mother-in-law, Renee. Last year, the event showcased more than 1,000 cars and MAP raised $21,000 for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

For more information about the services provided at MAP, visit their website.