In the morning on the last day of June, Jay Blazier is in the garage working on customizing Jeeps. His wife, Melissa, is in the front part of the shop where Jeep products are sold.
She is answering the phone, punching numbers on a calculator and ordering parts. A few feet away, their children, Ryan, who is 8, and Bailey, 6, are smiling.
“It is definitely a full-time job, more hours than you can imagine, especially keeping up with the kids and school schedule, homework and sports,” Melissa said.
“But we manage. We get it done. We work together as a team. We are in constant communication, on the same page, making sure the customers are happy.”
It is a home away from home for Jay Blazier, who owns Stomper Off-Road, at 11509 South Strang Line Road, Olathe. Stomper Off-Road does customized work on Jeeps and provides parts and products to Jeep enthusiasts, from daily drivers to extreme rock crawlers.
“She runs my store,” Blazier said of his wife. “She handles procurement of our parts. She does all my accounting and maintains my books. She is a huge part of what we do. She provides moral support. I spend more time with my family at work. Kids come up here when they are out of school. It is awesome. My kids are a big part of Stomper as well.
“This is a dream. I always joked about it. It would be so awesome to have a Jeep shop and put smiles on people’s faces and give them something they always wanted. It fell in my lap.”
The road Blazier took to become a small-business owner of a Jeep store and garage that now employs three full-time workers came about almost by accident. When he left his job of 12 years at Black and Veatch in 2013, Blazier and his family were living in San Ramon, Calif.
His job took him to many locations through the years. He lived in Kansas, Georgia, Texas and California. The Jeep was his vehicle of choice no matter what part of the country he lived in.
Blazier developed a love for Jeeps in the late 1980s when he was skateboarding and he saw a Jeep CJ zoom past him. During his time in Kansas in the early 2000s, he got to know people in the Jeep community.
From time to time, he talked about owning a Jeep shop, but never figured it would happen.
“When I decided to quit my job, my wife and I were both unhappy in northern California, and we were missing Kansas City,” Blazier said. “We both said we didn’t care for northern California much. It wasn’t our lifestyle. I said we have enough money to get us started some place. We are going to pick a place that we’ve been to and loved and we are going to make it work.
“We had some 401(k) saved up and we cashed it. We came back here and didn’t have a plan.”
Blazier, 42, was searching for his next career opportunity. In the summer of 2013, a friend of his called. He had founded Stomper Off-Road in 2012 as an Internet-only business and was looking for a partner.
“He offered me 50 percent ownership in the company,” Blazier said. “On August 8th, 2013, we signed the paperwork.”
Blazier had bigger plans for Stomper Off-Road than just selling Jeep products on the Internet. He wanted to open a shop that worked solely on Jeeps. His four years in the Marine Corps from 1992-96 gave him the right mindset to expand.
“I have that Marine Corps mentality of marching forward,” he said.
On Nov. 6, 2013, they opened up a Jeep shop.
“In February, him and I started having conversations,” Blazier said. “He still had a full-time job. He had taken a new job that was a bit more demanding of him. He was always gone. We started negotiations. I didn’t want him out of the company. He is a good friend of mine.”
Blazier became sole owner of Stomper Off-Road in the spring of 2014. He likes the growth he has seen in the nearly two years the shop has been open.
“The first month we were here, we worked on 10 different Jeeps,” Blazier said. “That was all we touched in a 30-day period. It was slow, but it was business. It was going to take time.
“Since that time, we touch, on average, 60 different Jeeps every month and that number keeps growing.”
It has grown so much that Blazier has added two full-time employees in the last two months. One is Cristian Petersen. He left his job of 10 years at FedEx to work on Jeeps at Stomper Off-Road.
“Jay posted on Facebook that he was looking for some workers,” Petersen said. “I told my wife I would quit FedEx for two reasons: go into the ministry or work on Jeeps. Jay and I talked about it. He gave me the opportunity.”
For Petersen, Jeeps are a passion for him. He is on his fifth Jeep, and his wife is driving her first one.
Blazier wants his workers to have a passion for Jeeps. It is that mentality that will keep customers happy.
“We are strictly a Jeep shop,” Blazier said. “The premise behind that is we build daily drivers that are designed to handle better than a stock Jeep. I have driven my Jeep to California and back, to Texas and back. My Jeeps perform well in all atmospheres. That’s what my customers get. They get a Jeep they can trust.
“What we do can range from headlights to full-blown, highly modified rigs. It can be anything. We do engine swaps and full blown suspensions. We can put together stuff that is nice and strong and stable, which is cool.”
Blazier has bigger plans for his business. He rents the space where Stomper Off-Road is now.
“We are tapped out on space right now,” he said. “We would like to stay in the Olathe area and get a bigger shop and take things in a whole new direction.”
Blazier figures he spends 10 to 12 hours a day at his shop. Despite the long hours, he couldn’t be happier.
“This is not even work,” he said. “I get up in the morning, drive a Jeep to work and then I have Jeeps to work on. It is the coolest thing one can ask.”