Classic car shop puts the pedal to the metal to survive the pandemic

Jun 11 2020, 5:17 pm

This article is part of a series in partnership with Coast Capital to support local, small businesses as they reopen following COVID-19. The credit union’s Community Relief Fund helped small businesses and non-profits address emergency funding needs throughout the first phase of the pandemic.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Steveston Motor Co., like many local small businesses in Metro Vancouver, felt the impacts almost immediately.

“Our business took a sharp nose-dive as customers cut down on spending in light of the pandemic,” co-founder Niko Myyra tells Daily Hive.

The Mitchell Road shop and online store are led by Vancouverites Myyra, Philip Ogilvie, and Marco Li, specializing in classic Mini car restoration, parts, and sleek leather goods, as well as a line of original Mini-inspired apparel and accessories.

In recent weeks, the pandemic has also affected the supply chain at Steveston Motor Co. as suppliers temporarily closed down and shipping became more expensive. But the team didn’t let that stop them from getting creative and quickly transitioning from a bustling hub for Mini enthusiasts to a “new normal” anchored in social distancing measures.

The creative trio used the extra downtime to launch a new line of tees for summer 2020, which also happen to make ideal gifts for any classic car-loving dad on Father’s Day.

Original t-shirt designs/Steveston Motor Co.

Before the pandemic, a typical day at Steveston Motor Co. looked quite different for the team.

Picture a busy shop with Li illustrating merch designs, handling shipping, and working on 3D models (likely with a cup of tea on his desk). Ogilvie could be found prototyping and testing Mini parts, along with researching the cobwebbed corners of the automotive internet.

Steveston Motor Co. team Marco Li, Philip Ogilvie, and Niko Myyra/Facebook

Meanwhile, Myyra was in charge of keeping the shelves stocked, managing the brand’s social channels, and producing their popular YouTube videos focused on DIY Mini repairs, upgrades, and restoration.

“We used to use our evenings, when the shop was a little quieter and our Mini friends weren’t drifting in and out (visitors during the day was a pre-COVID norm), for filming our YouTube videos,” he says. “Now, we are doing that throughout the day and doing more as the popularity has increased with people having more time to focus on at-home hobbies like working on their cars.”

Classic Mini/Steveston Motor Co.

Steveston Motor Co. is relatively new to Vancouver’s classic car scene — Myyra and Ogilvie launched the business in 2016, eager to build a fulfilling brand around their automotive interests. In 2018, Marco Li joined them and completed the team.

The trio uses their varied backgrounds in automotive mechanics, media production, and animation to produce quality products. “We’re three people from very different backgrounds who share a common interest in classic Minis,” says Myyra.

He explains that they originally started the business to build motorcycle parts, but in the meantime, Ogilvie purchased a Mini to check it off as one of his longstanding bucket list goals. “In the process of building the car, we discovered the joys of the simplistic design, the universal appeal, and an incredibly supportive community.”

Marco Li and Philip Ogilvie/Steveston Motor Co.

Although Steveston Motor Co. has experienced financial hardships resulting from the crisis, the business was able to stay afloat, in part, with the support of their business banking partner, Coast Capital, and the credit union’s COVID-19 Community Relief Grant.

Myyra says the team is grateful for the grant and that it couldn’t have arrived at a better time. “We were in the midst of a week of crisis when we didn’t have enough cash to cover restocking and rent, but the additional funding from Coast Capital really helped us cover the gap in cash flow.”

What’s next for this agile small business? Myyra stresses the team’s motivation and determination to continue creating. “In the same way that our shirts and YouTube channel became real from following our interests, we want to produce more assets focused on entertainment and Mini parts as we continue onwards,” he concludes.

You can support local today by visiting Steveston Motor Co. on Mitchell Road or by purchasing from their online store here.

Coast Capital Savings is helping its personal and small business members and the credit union’s wider communities through this time of uncertainty in a myriad of ways. To learn more, visit the Coast Capital Savings small business COVID-19 support hub here.

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