Extreme Makeover: Lube Edition
“The question is not whether we are able to change, but whether we are changing fast enough.” Dr. Theodore Rubin, author and physician
These days it always seems like people are looking for that next new thing. Everyone wants to eat at the new restaurant in town, and your kids or grandkids only want the newest cellphone or video game.
The question for most of us is: Where does that leave you if you’ve already been in business for a number of years? Harold Smith, owner of 25 Express Lube shops in San Antonio, Texas, took the initiative and set out with his wife to plan a remodel that would transform the look of his lube shops inside and out.
“We already knew from past experience that even just repainting the outside of our existing building would draw people’s attention,” Smith said.
With a goal in mind of improving car counts over and above his shops’ average yearly increase of five percent per year, Smith began planning a remodeling effort for his shops — a plan that by its completion would last a little more than a year and cost a total of $500,000.
Linda Cahan, a retail design consultant for American Express, Saks Fifth Avenue and Comp USA, is a firm believer in the impact that a business remodel can have on customers and even employees.
“When management chooses to renovate a store it is showing its faith in the future of the store,” Cahan said. “A renovation adds to the value of what the business offers by helping the customers and employees feel like they are worth the effort. When people feel like they are worth such an intensive effort, they feel like winners. Winners will support the store that makes them feel great.”
Every great building or remodeling project starts with a blueprint — a plan for the design and execution of the finished product. Smith and his wife decided to plan their blueprint starting with design ideas that they’d seen in many of the new shopping centers that were being built in the area.
“We knew that the new shopping centers had spent millions of dollars researching current design styles, so we decided that we would take advantage of their expertise by duplicating parts of what we saw,” Smith said. “Then we actually did hire a designer. He came back with basically the same things we’d discovered at the shopping centers, plus the idea of adding a new feature with blue LED backlighting to our store signage.”
Smith and his family planned to fully remodel 22 of their 25 locations, including the exterior of the buildings, signage and waiting areas. He also made plans to expand his business by offering automotive repairs at 13 of his locations. One bay or unused space at these 13 locations would undergo changes to accommodate expanded automotive maintenance. At the completion of the remodel, Smith would have 10 locations that would function as lube-plus and three locations that would offer lube-plus services for major repairs or maintenance.
Remodeling and building was nothing new to Smith and his son, Jason. Jason first acquired his builder’s license a few years prior when he led the construction to rebuild one of the family’s lube shops that had burned to the ground. Later, the father-son duo designed and built houses for the family, as well.