Top down success: Local specialty business Flyin’ Miata is quietly 
a world leader among fans

Flyin’ Miata senior technician Keith Tanner of Grand Junction is the face of the company, which started out as an internet company in New Jersey and has since grown into a service shop in Palisade that attracts international customers.

Surrounded by Mazda Miatas, Flyin Miata co-owner Teri Cardell, right, talks about how her husband Bill and she settled on Palisade when they decided to move their business from New Jersey. Listening is senior technician Keith Tanner of Grand Junction.

Bill Bennett, foreground, of San Marcos, California, takes a sharp curve in his 1991 Mazda Miata during a race at the Flyin’ Miata’s annual summer camp held at the Grand Junction Speedway, 3030 N. I-70 Frontage Rd., on August 3. Bennett said that he had the Flyin Miata garage work on his car to make it go faster before the camp started.

In the heart of peach country and surrounded by orchards and fields, many have mistaken the large warehouse at 499 35 Road on east Orchard Mesa for perhaps one of the largest wineries in the area.

But for many sports car lovers, they know the treasures within at the internationally renowned Flyin’ Miata warehouse are not fruit or wine, but car parts and equipment that service the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car of all time. The go-to place for anything Mazda Miata-related attracts customers from all over North America and sees parts shipped from the warehouse all over the globe.

“If it has to do with making them go fast, that’s what we do,” said Keith Tanner, Flyin’ Miata senior technician, who also serves as the company’s spokesman, noting they’ve swapped out many 150 horsepower stock engines for those exceeding 500 horsepower for racing enthusiasts. “Worldwide, this is known as being the home of Miata performance.”

Each year, the business ships thousands of parts across the world to places such as Sweden, Australia and Japan, and services cars from across many U.S. states and Canada for any model of Miata, which date back to 1990.

Zandr Milewski has been a customer for several years and owns 1990 and 1995 models, which he he’s had serviced in Grand Junction and for which he orders parts to work on at home.

According to Milewski and Tanner, the cars are affordable — they can be as low as $1,500 for a used car, ranging to $25,000 for a new one — and have a wide range of options for upgrades. They’re also reliable, as one well-cared-for car that regularly comes by has more than 480,000 miles.

Milewski said that while others service the cars, Flyin’ Miata is the most reliable place to go for upgrades and enhancements to the engine as they can service any model of the sports car.

“They know more about these things than anybody else,” Milewski said. “They are across the board the best. There’s nobody else like them. They understand the value of the Miata community.”

Many of these owners in the community, including Milewski, descend on Grand Junction once a year when Flyin’ Miata hosts a “summer camp” that draws approximately 100 Miata owners to town for days of driving on a racetrack at Grand Junction Motor Speedway as well as around town. Some even get their car serviced while in town and others visit with friends they’ve made after 20 years of being a Miata customer, including Tanner and owners Bill and Teri Cardell. This year’s camp ended Sunday.

“We know a lot of our customers by name, they tend to stick around. It’s not unusual to have that kind of relationship. There are a lot of serial Miata owners. They definitely come back,” Tanner said.

The Cardells came to the valley 13 years after Bill opened his business in New Jersey as a Porsche, Volkswagen and Audi repair shop. He and Teri were looking to relocate to an area that was near a ski resort. After looking at a few places in Colorado, they saw Grand Junction and Palisade and immediately knew that this was their new home.

It was the shift to a focus on the Miata in the early 1990s that allowed the Cardells to relocate as it wasn’t essential to be in any particular place. Much of the business became focused on shipping and a call center that could assist owners do their own work. Colorado was a good home because the time zone could easily accommodate callers from the East and West coasts.

This all started when Bill first test drove a Miata in his shop that a customer had brought by. He fell in love with the car and was later the first person to successfully put a turbocharger on the car, and manufacturers started sending customers his way.

Now, after 20 years in the valley, Teri said they definitely made the right decision to relocate.

“We love it. We love the Valley. The geography is stunning, it’s just gorgeous. We found the people to be very friendly,” Teri said. “Grand Junction gives us quality of life and that’s what we wanted.”

In being here, the company has attracted people like Tanner, who hails from Ottawa, Canada, and has written three books on the car. Others have come from places such as San Diego, Oklahoma and Atlanta. And now they all like living in the valley.

“We are a leader in our very specific niche and this is a dream job for a lot of people,” Tanner said.

Business Incubator Executive Director Jon Maraschin said he’s been blown away by the business since it arrived in Grand Junction, and that the city is the perfect place for the unique business, though many residents may not be aware Flyin’ Miata is there. 

“They are definitely one of our most innovative companies in the community,” Maraschin said. “Flyin’ Miata is like some other companies in our community that plug away at their business each and every day, creating innovations and making a difference while staying under the radar.”

Flyin’ Miata has been in its current home on east Orchard Mesa for the past decade after starting in Palisade and moving to downtown Grand Junction for a stint. Teri hopes to be at the current location for many more years, servicing cars and bringing many more Miata enthusiasts to town.

“It’s a fun business and we enjoy it,” she said. “We like making the customers happy. It’s a lot of fun.”


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