It was a sunny Monday afternoon when a blaze broke out at Intermountain Radiator & Muffler. According to owner Riley Meehan, employees were working on a car inside the shop when it caught on fire, causing another vehicle to ignite before the flames ultimately caught onto the shop itself. According to Denver Fire Department Public Information Officer Greg Pixley, an investigation into the fire’s exact cause is still ongoing.
Born and raised in Denver, Meehan’s knack for fixing cars started when he took a job at a radiator shop after finishing college in 1976. He would go on to start Intermountain Radiator & Muffler just two years later.
“The work ethic was very strongly instilled in me, and that’s what I do,” Meehan said. “I work–work a lot–and I enjoy that.”
After moving to Denver from Nebraska, Meehan’s grandfather made a living working in a railyard by day and building some of the brick houses seen in the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Denver by night.
Meehan’s parents were hard workers, too. Their furniture store, the Tropic Shop, was one of the first tenants in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center when it opened in the 1950s. Being travel enthusiasts who met while spending time abroad, the business was named for the Pacific island-inspired wares they sold.
“They were the generation where work was, you know, a bigger part of life than I think it is now for some people,”
A fire at this point in time would spell doom for plenty of small businesses still trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but that isn’t the case for Intermountain Radiator & Muffler. “The pandemic actually made us busier,” Meehan said.
According to the Denver Police Department, approximately 2,700 catalytic converters were stolen off of cars in 2021 compared to only 14 in 2019. The converters contain precious metals, a commodity whose value increased because of the pandemic’s effects on the supply chain, and the sharp uptick in this specific type of theft has become a national issue. Like several other states, the Colorado State Senate is currently considering a bill that would prohibit the installation of “used, recycled, or salvaged” converters in an effort to deter future crime.
Though unfortunate for many Denverites who woke up to find their cars burglarized, the increase in theft meant that Meehan and his “three and a half” employees–the half, he says, is his part-time bookkeeper–had steady work throughout the pandemic replacing the converters and installing shields to make them much harder to take.
Considering the shop’s success over the last few years, Meehan, who will be turning 70 in April, knows that he doesn’t necessarily have to reopen, but he loves the challenge of running his own business.
“There’s an option here to sell the property and pay off a few mortgages and go sit on the beach but I don’t think that I can do that,” Meehan said. “I have some people that work for me and some other people are dependent on the shop income, so I’d hate to pull the plug on that.”
According to Meehan, Intermountain Radiator & Muffler is already open in a limited capacity as he begins to repair and rebuild.
“We’ve already started putting cars out by working, doing what we can with what the fire left us,” he said.
Intermountain Radiator and Muffler is located at 2500 Federal Blvd in the Jefferson Park neighborhood.