You Auto Know
Adorning the exterior entrance is a Scandinavian-inspired hardwood facade by Precision Craftsmen. Walking in, you’re greeted by a floor-to-ceiling hand-painted mural of a Volvo nesting in cattails by Axle Geittman. At the front desk, you can grab a fresh pastry and Chemex-brewed, pour-over courtesy of Black Eye Coffee.
It’s not exactly what you’d expect from your typical automotive repair center. But at Baker Garage and Independent Volvo Specialists, defying expectations comes stock with redefining the service experience. And as members and sponsors of Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe, artisans become part of the shop’s community-rooted story.
For three decades, the garage on Santa Fe and Ellsworth established itself as the longest-existing independent Volvo repair shop in Denver. A former rebar factory, the building constructed in 1931 quite literally captures a historical era, as underneath the salvage yard lie the original cobblestones from Broadway. So when Owner/Technician Justin Chenoweth took charge of the business last year, he did more than just introduce the Baker Garage brand to expand service to all vehicle makes and models—he began changing the way that people looked at auto repair. “There was a perception of smoke and mirrors,” said Chenoweth. “We wanted to counter the image of a place that was dirty and a ripoff by bringing transparency, similar to a 1950s service station.”
With throwback inspiration found from mid-century photos of his grandfather in Southern California, the updated mod aesthetic is courtesy of Chenoweth’s wife, Rose. A designer with Ellen Bruss Design, she was responsible for tying the two brand identities together through continuity down to the specific Pantone. And the concept of service transparency is quite literal: Walking down the brightly painted corridor adorned with vintage Volvo magazine ads, customers are greeted by a curated waiting area with a giant window looking out into the service bay. Beyond just observation, however, Baker Garage has an educational ethos. “Instead of an environment where a car is pulled in and disappears, we like to bring people back and show them what exactly is broken,” said Chenoweth. “It’s been a great reaction—folks who aren’t even ‘car people’ are engaged in seeing the process of what they’re spending their hard-earned paycheck on.”
This involvement is fundamental to what makes Baker Garage shine as a member of Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe. A sponsor of the shuttle transporting First Friday goers (providing riders with discounted coupons for garage services), the monthly event is more than just free parking at the southmost pickup point. Live music, free beer from Jagged Mountain, and food trucks all contribute to the continual transformation of what an automotive garage can be—an artistic anchor, celebrating local community. Case in point: During a recent First Friday Art Walk, shuttle-takers got to witness the spontaneous creation of the street art mural on the building’s south-facing wall, inspired by the packaging from a 1970s Bosch spark plug. “Art takes many forms; for folks here, that could be cars, or the handmade concrete pottery [housing air plants in the waiting area, from Luke Huss at Planted],” said Chenoweth. “As part of both Baker and the Art District on Santa Fe, we’re here to help the community as best we can.”
-Story by Cory Phare