The Drive Toward Growth
Jim Isabell and John Keeley are invested in St. Louis’s economy. As the owners of thirty Car-X franchises, twenty of them are here in the bi-state region. (They also own ten in the Chicago area.)
When Isabell and Keeley first began acquiring and opening Car-X franchises, its business model was very different. Originally a muffler repair and replacement shop, Car-X is now a full-service auto repair chain.
As a result, the team of Isabell and Keeley have had to adapt. Their staffing and real estate requirements have changed, but the result has been higher profitability for their branches. Demands for their mechanics’ services continue to grow.
By the beginning of 2019, their lots were overflowing, and they didn’t want to push their staff beyond reasonable capacity. They needed to open a new St. Louis-area location to handle the growth.
When considering what strategy would best serve customers, the team chose to focus on one valuable segment of their business: commercial clients.
First, commercial vehicles tend to be larger, requiring more lot and shop space. Second, commercial clients rely on their cars or trucks to make a living. When they aren’t on the road, they’re not profitable.
Isabell and Keeley decided to establish a non-branded overflow location that could serve as a holding lot and repair spot for these unique clients. Drivers would be able to drop off their car or truck at the branded location of their choice. Then, Car-X staff would shuttle those vehicles to the new site, where it would receive special attention.
Finding Industrial Commercial Real Estate for Lease
The partners wanted to move quickly and find a low-stress deal. They’ve completed many real estate deals in the past — both lease and purchase — and wanted to reach out to someone they’d had success with before. They called Will Aschinger of Hilliker Corporation.
Since the building they needed would not require Car-X branding, they planned on doing as little remodeling as possible. Isabell and Keeley asked Aschinger to help them find a commercial property that featured:
- A low-cost lease
- An existing auto repair shop set-up
- Five usable bays
- An interior of three to five thousand square feet
- A parking lot that could handle commercial fleet vehicles
- Proper zoning
- Something located near one of their existing locations
Aschinger combed the industrial real estate market for anything that would fit their specifications. After sifting through all available options, he brought Isabell and Keeley three possible properties.
Isabell said, “Will’s very sharp. He doesn’t waste time with properties that, at the end of the day, he knows aren’t going to be suitable. When he brings us a property, it’s pretty much spot-on to our needs.”
After reviewing about a dozen almost-perfect properties, however, Isabell said, “When we got down to brass tacks, we decided they were going to require too much work.”
Out of available options, Aschinger took a chance on something slightly outside of Isabell and Keeley’s parameters. He recommended a property that would be perfect — it just wasn’t available for lease.
Diversifying through Property Investment
Aschinger presented the partners with a former auto repair shop at 10775 Page Avenue. At 3388 square feet with five bays, it sits on a 21,344 square-foot fenced-in lot. Sitting within just a few miles of a current Car-X franchise, it was ideal. However, it was listed for sale — not for lease.
Isabell and Keeley decided to go for it.
Isabell said, “It fit the bill on all fronts. Even though we wanted to lease, to own the real estate for our Car-X locations is really our preference.”
Originally listed at $295,000, Aschinger was able to help the buyer agree to the price of $250,000, marking his third transaction for the Car-X franchisees.
Isabell said, “Will is an excellent broker-negotiator. He presented our situation very well and got us at the number we needed to be at. It was, in the end, a very painless transaction.”
The new building, which they’re referring to as their “hub,” opened for business within two months of closing.
Where Your Business Objectives Meet Our Creativity
As an entrepreneur, you know what you need. You’ve done the research, looked at the numbers, and figured out what steps will bring you maximum success.
However, when it comes to choosing the right commercial real estate, the reality of the market can often stand at odds with your plans. That’s where your Hilliker broker can come through for you. First, we learn all we can learn about your business objectives. Then, we go to work on your behalf to find creative ways to meet — or exceed — your expectations.
If you’d like to learn more about how Hilliker ingenuity can get you the results you’re after, call Will Aschinger. He’ll be happy to discuss it with you.