We pay it forward, allow us to prove it to you.
Ken’s career began more in the heavy industry sector of mechanics. He worked as a training consultant at Perry Technical Institute in Yakima, Washington before moving to the western side of Washington where he began working with preventative maintenance program provides for the auto industry. As a vendor he got connected with Merle, who Ken knew for seven years before taking over the business.
Ken took over management of Sparks Car Care when founder Merle Pfiefer retired in February 2014. Ken came on for a six-month test period to see if his values and Merle’s values were the same, and they were. This made continuity of image and mission easy, even while Sparks changed ownership. An open-minded, curious and imaginative personality helps Ken connect with customers and get to the heart of their concerns and avoid miscommunication regarding maintenance and repairs. “Cars are very complex,” Ken says. The core values at Sparks are superior service with integrity. And while occasionally mistakes and miscommunications may arise, “we’re an honest shop,” Ken says.
In his free time, Ken spends time with his wife and two sons. He enjoys reading, traveling, golf road trips as well as getting to know different people from all kinds of backgrounds. “People are so interesting”
Teri started working in the automotive industry in 1981, first as a parts driver then working her way through the ranks. Teri got started in the automotive industry right out of high school when her boyfriend’s mother helped her get her first job. She has stayed in the industry ever since. She has held a variety of jobs, including accounts receivable, stocking and front desk work
She has been with Sparks since 2001 and currently is the office manager and service adviser. She works directly with customers, checking them in at the front desk, finding out the needs they have, explaining the work that needs to be done and giving estimates, among other things. Her job is very much about customer service, which is something she enjoys. Her friendly, upbeat and outgoing personality makes it fun. “It’s like a family here,” she says. “It’s my work family.”
Teri grew up in the Federal Way area, and now lives in Puyallup with her husband, dog, two cats and their two goats. Teri has some hobbies she likes to pursue, including camping and fishing. She also enjoys painting, though it has been some time since she has had time to do that. Teri likes to turn recycled things into art, such as making ornaments out of light bulbs by painting them. Teri also enjoys knitting and crocheting.
Toby began working at Sparks in 1998 and found a career in the auto industry rather by accident. “Just turned out I was good at it,” Toby says.
Toby is the shop foreman, overseeing the other mechanics and working on the cars himself. “I get to do the more challenging stuff,” Toby says. Though Toby wasn’t always in to cars, he had a knack for cars and was quick to learn the mechanics of them. He is dedicated and hardworking — sometimes too hard working, he says.
Toby grew up in SeaTac and now lives in Tacoma with his wife and son. His hobbies are whatever his son enjoys doing, which is currently building radio controlled cars. “He does all the driving, I do all the fixing and spending,” Toby says. While the hobby lets his son learn about repairs and maintenance on cars, Toby encourages his son to pursue anything he wants, not just follow in the footsteps of dad.
Christena was born in Ames, Iowa, but considers herself a native Montanan. Her family moved to Bozeman, Montana, when she was just a young child. She went through the Bozeman Public School System for her K-12 education and graduated from Montana State University with a Bachelors Degree in Business Management.
Her career has been in the travel industry. She has worked in almost every aspect of the industry from a travel agency to a hospitality management company to her most recent position as a Lockheed Martin contractor working at the FAA.
She moved to the Seattle area in 1990. She met Merle through her association with Sparks Car Care and the “sparks” flew. And as they say, the rest is history! Christena’s primary duties at Sparks Car Care include marketing, advertising, contract writing, training coordination, and of course, taking care of Merle. She truly loves her involvement in the automotive industry and Sparks Car Care.
When Merle founded Sparks Car Care in 1985, he already had a long history with cars. His mother always said he was born with a wrench in one hand, a gearshift in the other and lead in his right foot. At 12 years old he snuck into car dealership to unwrap, check out and rewrap the new cars before the dealership opened. Merle completed a five year tool and dye apprenticeship at Kenworth, and stayed on another 10 years as a field engineer. During that time he completed a bachelor’s degree in business at Seattle City University. Merle then worked as a plant operations manager at GE for five years before starting out on his own with Sparks. Merle also served for three years in active duty in Vietnam, and an additional 17 years as a Naval Reserve Officer.
In his spare time Merle was active with the City of Federal Way’s planning commission, Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority, Decatur High School Automotive Repair Advisory Board and the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce.
But Merle just can’t stay away from cars. Though he officially retired and passed the business on to Ken Clark in 2014, Merle still stops by from time to time to offer his input on the shop he spent more than two decades building.