Covolos operate five businesses in oneWritten by Christy Hemken
After attending WyoTech in diesel mechanics he returned to the Valley and began repairing tractors in the garage of his house. That soon led to a decision between his mechanics and the mines.
“I got so busy fixing farm machinery that I had to make a decision. I worked at the mines as a maintenance superintendent and I was too busy to do both,” says Dennis.
“In 1978 I owned about 20 cows and a good rope horse. Now that rope horse is in the floor downstairs, because I sold him and the cows to pay for the cement in this foundation,” says Dennis, sitting in his office above the NAPA parts store that is just one part of a handful of businesses that compose Covolo Auto-Farm Service.
“I built the initial building with an old Super C tractor with a tie chained in the bucket to get high enough. That’s how I got started, and I kept getting busier and the first year I was open I built onto the building twice,” he explains.
“And then it got busier, and we got into tires and I ended up with Massey Fergusen along with other related brands as well as Napa Auto Parts. That’s what I started with in 1978,” says Dennis. “It’s something the valley and our customers needed, because there was nothing.”
For the first few years Dennis ran the shop while his wife Vicki ran the parts store, but then they started to hire people.
Of his business philosophy, Dennis says it’s all about his customers. He relates the story of how in 1995 a fire burned the whole place down. “I wanted to quite – I was done,” he says. “But then four or five good customers came and said, ‘You can’t quit. You’ve got to come back for us.’”
Although his children wanted him to quit because of the long hours, he built again. One of his sons is now the service manager for the business.
“It was running along well, but we were so busy the building wasn’t good enough, so in about 2001 I built the service center on, which doubled the size of our building, and now we’re too small again,” says Dennis.
“I like doing it, and the people need it,” he says of the business. “I’m the only official ag dealer in Uinta County. They needed us, and we try to accommodate them, although I’m sure we don’t all the time because it’s overwhelming.”
Currently the Covolos have around 18 employees in their business, which includes the NAPA store, the full-service automotive service center and a full-service equipment dealership with Massey Ferguson, Branson, Kuhn and Hesston. “We also custom-spread fertilizer in the spring. That’s our main operation – five businesses in one,” says Dennis.
“With the full-service automotive shop, all of the valley is our customer,” says Dennis. “When it comes to ranches, we’re a full-service ag shop, servicing balers, swathers, tractors, you name it.”
The shop also maintains a service truck available for calls in the country.
In addition to the mechanics business the Covolos run a cow/calf operation, with one full-time and several part-time employees. Of keeping track of everything, Dennis says he wears out a pair of shoes about every week.
Dennis is also involved in planning and zoning with the county, and he says one of the top issues right now is maintaining open space and protecting the ranchers. “On the other hand, if we don’t grow we die, so we have to have subdivisions and more people,” he says. “We need to figure out how to get everybody on the same playing field so the housing’s not a detriment to agriculture and it’s a happy mix. We need growth and I’m really in favor of it, but I really love my open space and favor that.”
He says he’s for growth, but not at the cost of agriculture. “We’re doing a new comprehensive plan for the county, and they’re on top of the issue and trying hard to make it best for both interests.”
Of wind energy development, and the wind farm on the ridge west of the valley, Dennis says, “Wind energy is a mixed emotion because of viewshed. It’s really helped the county with revenues, but it’s a viewshed detriment to some people. It’s a really controversial issue.”
Of sage grouse in the area, he says, “If we could get rid of the predators, the fields would be black with sage grouse. Their decline has nothing to do with ranching or development. I’ve seen more this year than I have in years, but they’re still not as plentiful as they used to be.”
Predators have been coming in for years, he says. “When I was growing up we never saw a fox and rarely a raccoon. The predators are the sage grouse’s problem, not industry.”
Of the future of his business, Dennis says, “I think our big focus right now is to increase our service, but not really expand. I want to fine-tune our operation to be a better, more customer-oriented business rather than have people unhappy because we were so busy we can’t take care of them like we should.”
“I know all the people in the valley and consider them all friends,” says Dennis of living in the Bridger Valley community. “We’re right in the middle and part of every town.”