Building an Infectious Brand- Ratchet and Wrench Magazine Article

Turbo Tim’s has used a variety of quirks and marketing schemes to build a fanatic following in its community

One Saturday each year, Turbo Tim’s Anything Automotive undergoes a complete transformation.

Food from the local catering company Chowgirls Killer Catering is spread out on tables for visitors to enjoy, and local artists sell photo prints and paintings on tables set up throughout the shop. A car crush is held in the parking lot, where one of the shop’s technicians drives a large military vehicle and demolishes roughly five or six donated vehicles.

Lifts are sectioned off in the back to make room for several stages, which are home to stand-up comics and bands. During this time, you’d forgive these visitors if they completely forgot they were inside an automotive repair shop.

These festivities are what Turbo Tim’s puts together for the Minneapolis event Art-A-Whirl, a yearly exhibition featuring nearly 800 artists at more than 60 locations throughout the area. 2018 marked the fifth year Turbo Tim’s participated in Art-A-Whirl, and they estimate they brought roughly 200-300 visitors to the event this year.

With Art-A-Whirl, and a multitude of other events and marketing schemes, Tim Suggs and his wife and co-owner, Rachel Grewell, always try to have something stick in the mind of customers to keep them coming back. These branding efforts, and plenty more, have been integral for Turbo Tim’s rapid growth, which is now ingrained in the Minneapolis community.

Just look around the surrounding areas for Turbo Tim’s bumper stickers, featuring the infamous Bobbie, the shop cat and logo mascot who wanders around the shop. Grewell guesses that Turbo Tim’s has given out thousands of bumper stickers, which offer customers a small lifetime discount on their vehicle in exchange for putting the bumper sticker on their vehicles.

“It’s really who we are, our personality,” Grewell says.

In just 12 years of operation, the shop has expanded rapidly and has switched locations twice to fit its growing customer base.

Whether it’s through the bumper stickers, the cats, or any other number of branding efforts, Turbo Tim’s has imprinted itself into the minds of hundreds of loyal customers. After 200 Google reviews, Turbo Tim’s sits at 4.8 roughly stars. As the brand has grown to $2.1 million in sales last year, the marketing efforts have grown along with it, and has been a key aspect to the business’ success.

Growing Throughout the Years

Suggs opened Turbo Tim’s in 2006, in a small, two-bay shop surrounded by 10 other shops. Around 2009, Suggs moved to Northeast Minneapolis—an area known for art galleries and studios, trendy restaurants, craft breweries, dive bars and a bohemian feel—and added Grewell to the staff to help out. Four years ago, they moved to their new location with 17 bays.

The target customers used to be the younger crowd that often resides in the area, but as the business has grown, the customer base has widened, and gone across the board.

“I think there’s something here that younger people can relate to, or like about it,” Grewell says. “It’s a little something extra that makes them want to come here.”

Now the shop tries to emphasize the “Anything” of Turbo Tim’s Anything Automotive, opening the door for customers of all ages and all makes and models.

A Brand You Can’t Miss

Several years ago, Suggs was visiting a machine shop when he found Bobbie, a stray cat who needed a home. Suggs surprised Grewell with it later that day, and they soon decided to make her the face of the shop.

One of their friends came up with the logo for the shop: a picture of Bobbie with a turbo around her tail. They thought it was so adorable that they wanted to spread the logo anywhere and everywhere they could.

Soon, Bobbie and the shop logo were featured on the shop’s official bumper stickers, which offer discounts off of any service for a customer.

“That’s been a key marketing thing that’s original, and just works so well,” Suggs says. “And it gives people an opportunity to give in a little bit and get a little back.”

After bumping the discount from 5 percent to 10, Grewell and Suggs soon saw various bumper stickers of their shop all over town.

“We used to get excited when we saw one, now when we see one driving around we don’t even mention it,” Suggs says. “There’s just so many.”

Grewell and Suggs encourage customers to send them pictures of Turbo Tim’s bumper stickers they’ve seen in other states, and over the past few years, Grewell has made promotional posts on “Bobbie’s Blog” on the shop’s website.

Additionally, the shop has T-shirts with different variations of the shop logos, designed by a friend in their community.

“If anyone has a funny idea, we’ll just make a shirt out of it,” Grewell says. “They’re essentially our uniforms.”

 While they essentially work as Turbo Tim’s uniforms, the shop also gives them away, or sells them to customers for $5. It has turned into what they view to be a walking advertisement, as the two have seen posts of people wearing them on Facebook, out of state, and even performing at one of Minnesota’s premiere music venues, First Avenue.

Making an Advertising Impact

Grewell and Suggs say they’ve always tried to be as creative as possible with their advertising. The shop used to advertise in Lavender, Minnesota’s LGBT magazine, and other local publications, but has cut back on that in recent years.

They now estimate they spend roughly $12,000 per year advertising with local Minnesota publication City Pages, and Minnesota Women’s Press. With City Pages, an alternative newspaper with an avid local following, readers have learned to seek out Turbo Tim’s quirky ads in each issue’s bottom back page. With this ad, the two say they like to have fun with it, and show their sense of humor to customers.

One of their biggest hits was a stock photo of a man with Turbo Tim’s logo on his forehead. The ad offered one free oil change if a customer tattooed a Turbo Tim’s logo on his or her forehead.

“We always have some pretty weird, funny ads,” Grewell says. “And it seems to be working—people think it’s funny.”

Engaging the Community

Ever since the shop started, and especially since moving to its Northeast Minneapolis location, Turbo Tim’s has used local community events beyond just Art-A-Whirl to engage with customers and build relationships with the surrounding community.

The shop has one female technician, and she generally helps out at the shop’s women’s empowerment workshops, which are free to women in the community to come in, check out their car and even work on it. The shop also partnered with the YWCA, to bring teenage girls in as interns.

Aside from these workshops, Grewell says the shop has a special emphasis on making women feel comfortable in the shop, which brought the shop recognition as best auto shop in Minneapolis by Minnesota Women’s Press.

From DIY Garages to Adopt a Highway clean ups, to a yearly car crush, there are a number of additional events the shop does to get out in the community. These events also work to get the rest of the staff involved whenever they’re comfortable.

One of the techs is in a band, which plays at many of the shows, and Suggs says he was an especially big hit at Art-A-Whirl this year. Yet another technician operates the military vehicle that smashes cars at the car crush.

Ratchet and Wrench article June 2017
Shop View_TurboTims_0617

Shop View: Turbo Tim’s Anything Automotive

June 1, 2017

SHOP: Turbo Tim’s Anything Automotive  LOCATION: Minneapolis OWNER: Tim Suggs SIZE: 15,000 square feet

1) Shop Pets

Before the shop’s relocation in 2014, owner Tim Suggs stumbled across a stray cat that the shop decided to adopt. The black cat has become a symbol for Turbo Tim’s and has made its way onto the branding for the current facility. One cat turned out not to be enough for Suggs: The shop inherited another black cat from one of its customers. Suggs’ wife and co-owner of the shop, Rachel Grewell, says if Suggs had it his way, the shop would be filled with cats.


2) Eye-Catching Signage

When they moved into their current location, Suggs and Grewell asked around about the cost of purchasing a sign. When they uncovered the expense, they decided to make their own and enlisted the help of the staff and their local artist friends. They cut out the letters and the logo, which features a cat with its tail wrapped around a turbo, and even rusted the letters to create a patina feel.


3) Customer Love

The eclectic logo for the shop can be found on various branding materials, including $5 T-shirts that the shop sells. The T-shirts are a big hit. Although Grewell says they’ve never calculated how much of a profit they’ve turned on selling these, she says it’s a great way to get their name out there. One of their customers was in a band, CHARN, and took a photo onstage wearing the shirt and shared it with the shop.


4) Art Appreciation

For the past few years, Turbo Tim’s has participated in an art show in Minneapolis called Art-A-Whirl. During the art show, Turbo Tim’s hosts a car-crushing event where Suggs drives over donated customer vehicles, which have been painted by local artists, with a military vehicle he purchased several years ago. The shop also makes a point to purchase an art piece each year and display it in the lobby of the shop.


5) Mural Wall

The staff is friends with artists that are a part of a collective group of artists that create collaborative pieces. They created a mural featuring Suggs’ truck floating in the fish tank that takes up an entire wall in the shop.


6) Not-Your-Average Shop Floor

The artsy feel at Turbo Tim’s doesn’t stop at the lobby. The shop floor, which features 16 lifts and individual workbays for each of its 12 technicians, features bold colors. The color scheme was based off the colors used in Suggs and Grewell’s wedding.

Have an outstanding shop? Send a few photos and a brief description to and we might feature it here. 

Turbo Tims in PRINT

Audubon Neighborhood Association did a feature of our shop!

We LOVE our neighborhood! #NEMpls

Audubon Park newsletter



This Art-A-Whirl lets DO IT BIG! w/ more artists, more music and more crushing!Artists Include:
Dim Media,
Ash Marlene Hane
Sick Puppy Graphics aka Andy Pollard
META aka Jesse Quam + Brookita Corazón
Matteo Kelli Halbesleben
Angel Hawari
Sarah Morrison
Lucas Gluesenkamp
The Sebesta Family aka Geoff Sebesta + Gewel Kafka
Lily Shopteau
Carrie Pieper
Jeremy Dollens Lockwood
& Jesse Golfis of The Abstracted
General Jobot will lead an elite squadron of DJ’s to keep your heart thumping.

Comedian Chris Maddock will be mc-ing the car crushing!

On Sunday May 17th, Slow Derek will be teaching a Filipino martial arts class! Beginners welcome!

Fair Street Brewing is providing kegs of Cold Press, Kombucha, and Arnie Palmers.

Start Art-A-Whirl out right, at Turbo Tim’s Anything Automotive

Friday, May 15th – 5:00 pm – 10:00 p.m.

Saturday, May 16th – 12:00 pm – 8:00 p.m.
Turbo Tim Grand Opening & Car Crushing!!!

Sunday, May 17th – 12:00 pm – 5:00 p.m.
Free Kali Class from 1:00pm until 2:30pm!!!

Central Avenue SIGN is UP!

It’s official! Our new sign is up on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis! Honk us some love as you drive by!!


Art-A-Whirl coming up May 15-17, 2015

We do Art-A-Whirl every May at the shop. Check out pictures from 2014, this year is going to be MUCH BIGGER! Our GRAND OPENING for the new shop is the same weekend!!

monster1monster truck

We asked and you testified!

In 30 seconds or less you described our shop:

cat words

Our new Mural!

One of our passions at Turbo Tims (besides cars) is ART! On top of being our wonderful artists during Art-A-Whril in Northeast Minneapolis the past few years, Dim Media is painting this amazing mural in our new shop!!

mural 1mural 2mural 3mural 5mural 4

New Bobbie Art at the shop!