Mister Transmission locations’ iconic orange façade has become one of the most readily recognizable parts of Canada’s automotive aftermarket.
Mister Transmission, which has become an iconic brand across Canada with consumers and industry professionals over the last 60 years, gathered staff, franchisees, and suppliers in Toronto to celebrate the milestone anniversary and to map out the road to success ahead.
Mister Transmission celebrated its 60th anniversary at its AGM at the Westin Harbourfront Hotel.
Specializing in transmission repair and maintenance, Mister Transmission was founded in 1963 by Jerry Etkin and Bruce Brillinger. The first Mister Transmission location opened in Richmond Hill, Ontario, and the company continues to call Richmond Hill home to its headquarters today.
Over the years, Mister Transmission expanded its operations and starting in 1969, began offering franchise opportunities to entrepreneurs interested in the automotive repair industry . This expansion strategy allowed the company to establish a significant presence across Canada. In 2013, Mister Transmission changed owners and is now owned by Responsive Brands, a private investment firm.
The company has become one of Canada’s most well-known and trusted transmission repair brands, aided by the memorable “Hey Mister you’re a friend of mine” radio jingle.
Mister Transmission has always maintained a specialization in transmission repair and maintenance. This focus on a specific niche within the automotive repair industry has contributed to its reputation for expertise and reliability in dealing with transmission-related issues for consumers as well as professional general repair facilities.
The company has built a reputation for its commitment to quality service and customer satisfaction.
“We are seeing repair shop closings and consolidation on the general repair side of the business and the specialty transmission side of the business,” explained Tony Kuczynski, president and CEO of Mister Transmission, to a roomful of franchisee owners.
“This industry-wide transition has been a boon for us. We have grown our network, adding new shops and skilled technicians.
“Many of you in this room have seen your local independent transmission shops close. These shops are being affected by the same external forces that all of us are dealing with: owner retirements, skilled staff shortages, keeping up with technology, parts availability, and in some cases, lease demo clauses,” continued Kuczynski.
“Five Mister Transmission shops have been relocated in the past five years. In Edmonton, Red Deer, and St. Catharines, our stores closed, and we reopened by consolidating and converting a local independent,” added Kuczynski. “I should also add that in the last five years, half of our 60 stores have a new franchisee.”
The newest franchisee is Jamie Lemon, who came from England with his wife and two young children to buy into the Red Deer franchise.
Lemon decided to sell his very successful Snap-On franchise in England and move to Canada.
“I was at my desk working on a Saturday when I saw a lead come in. I tried to phone the number because they were looking for a store in Alberta, and we had an opportunity,” recalls Kuczynski. “The number didn’t work, so I sent an email, and my phone rang, and it was Jamie.”
“He came over with his wife in February. We visited five or six stores in Ontario. Then we flew to Red Deer, and he met the former owner and his new partner, Mark Klein. Later at dinner, he said I’m going to sell my house and my Snap-On business in England, and I’m moving here, and we will do this.
“Fast forward, he made the transition, we got the work permits. And [in August] his store was third in sales,” adds Kuczynski.
“I won numerous awards with Snap-On in sales in England,” says Lemon. “But I was looking for a smaller, more compact franchise where it’s a bit more personal,” he explained. “Speaking to Tony helped to push us along even further in our dream.”
“Mister transmission and specifically, Tony, has a more personal touch. Every time I call, he picks the phone up, and the franchisees are a great supportive community,” added Lemon.
“My partner, Mark Klein, has been in the shop for 25 years. There was a learning curve for me getting up to speed on all the transmissions. In the U.K., most cars are standard transmissions,” says Lemon.
“Moving over here, it is somuch the same as England; no cultural barriers to deal with. We came in February, made the deal, went home, sold everything, moved here in June and had the third-highest sales in August. We are building the foundation for next year,” said Lemon.
Celebrating his fortieth year as a franchisee owner, Ken Lavender, now owner of the Pickering, Ont. franchise, remembered how he started with Mister Transmission.
“Fresh out of high school, I worked with my dad for four years at his Mister Transmission shop, and then I decided to buy my first Mister Transmission franchise in Oakville in 1983. I was 22 years old. It’s the best age to take a risk. If you go belly-up, you have nothing to lose,” joked Lavender.
“It was a good time to get into the business. The interest rates had been at 18 percent and were finally coming down; it was a good growth period then,” added Lavender.
“I remember being with my father at a transmission training seminar in 1985. We had three-speed and four-speed transmissions then. The speaker said it won’t be long before you have someone come in complaining they have a slip on their 11- 12 shift. The whole room just laughed, and here we are with ten-speed transmissions 40 years later,” said Lavender.
Mister Transmission’s journey from a single repair shop in Toronto to a well-established and respected franchise network is a testament to the importance of specialization, quality service, and meeting customers’ specific needs in the automotive repair industry. Today, they continue to provide essential transmission services to customers across Canada.