A New Lease On Life: Alternative Uses For Lube Buildings

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You’ve closed shop at your oil and lube facility. Now what? The building is highly specialized with its basement, massive bay doors and drive-through design. What are some options to give new life and purpose to a property built with only one thing in mind?

There are a variety of reasons why owners decide to move on from the oil and lube business. Maybe it’s time to retire, the business hasn’t been profitable or any number of other reasons. Whatever the cause, your building needs a new purpose. If you’re looking to sell or rent your facility, the most obvious thing to do is to look for someone else who’s looking to get into the lube business, and then just sign the papers and hand over the keys. It might not be that simple though. To find a wider market for your property, you may want to look outside the oil-changing world. Or, if you’re looking to hang on to the property, you may be looking to repurpose it for a new business. The following are a number of possible alternative uses for oil and lube buildings. Of course, the feasibility of any of these ideas depends on the size and layout of your specific property.


Automotive Drive-thru

Aside from its originally intended purpose, businesses requiring a drive-thru are a good place to start when thinking about repurposing a lube building. One popular option is to convert the building into a carwash and detail business. This requires minimal reconfiguration of the structure and little capital investment. Since most oil and lube buildings are in high traffic areas, the location is likely suitable to bring in cars driving by. In many cases, the establishment’s traffic will significantly increase since carwashes — as opposed to oil changes — tend to be impulse buys not planned purchases.

Another ideal, low-cost option is to convert the facility into a vehicle audio/video installation center. The building’s bay area is ideal for conducting the relatively simple task of installing car stereos, though the waiting room/office area may be a bit on the small side if a retail space is part of the business plan. The benefits of the car audio installation business include minimal changes to the existing structure and the opportunity for a relatively large ticket average.

A close cousin and possible complement to the car audio/video establishment is the aftermarket wheel and tire trade. The two share similar facility requirements and marketing opportunities, though again space in the former waiting room may be tight for a show room.


Motorcycle, Power Sports, and Small Engine

Your oil and lube facility may be a good fit for working on other gasoline powered machines. Motorcycles, ATVs, marine motors, as well as lawn mowers, chainsaws and other power equipment all need service. If your area isn’t already serviced by a repair facility for such items, you may be ideally situated to capitalize. The smaller size (compared to automobiles) of these vehicles makes it easier to handle a large volume of business in your existing space.


Food & Drink

Other options for utilizing your oil and lube building’s drive-thru design involve converting it for food service. This may sound like a massive undertaking, and it is, but it may not be as involved as you might think. Sure, converting the main building into a restaurant kitchen will take some investment of both of time and money, but not much would have to be done to the rest of the facility. The basement, which is likely climate controlled, if only by being underground, would make a great storage area. The drive-thru bays, meanwhile, make it easy to keep customers moving through.

Another food service option, which may involve an easier retrofit process, is to convert the structure into a drive-thru coffee shop. By specializing in coffee, espresso and lighter baked goods, you eliminate the need for a full restaurant kitchen, which would dramatically reduce the development cost for the new business.

In either food service scenario, you’ll enjoy access to a much broader market than the highly specialized car audio/wheel retail world, and you’ll be better positioned to take advantage of your shop’s prime location. Of course, the downside is the greater upfront investment and the total redesign of the space.

Other, less obvious options for utilizing the building include a drive-thru ice cream stand, pharmacy or convenience store.


More Ideas

The drive-thru isn’t your oil and lube joint’s only attribute. The bay area in most buildings is large with high ceilings, which lends itself to a variety of other uses. Perhaps the most ideal repurposing of this space is as a greenhouse and plant nursery. The large bay doors allow for the installment of large windows and/or facilitate regular opening to allow sunlight in. The industrial space is also ripe for the installation of irrigation equipment. As with the other possible oil and lube conversions, a greenhouse and nursery will benefit from the high traffic area. Being in an urban setting, as many are, will also increase business, and chances are there won’t be much competition in the immediate area.

An innovative addition to the plant nursery idea would be to convert one of the bays into a drive-thru florist shop, allowing procrastinating husbands and boyfriends the opportunity to swing through and pick up a dozen roses on their way home from work.

Depending on the area, a variety of specialty stores may also be an option. One tantalizing possibility is a beer cave or neighborhood bar — here the cool, underground basement would be ideal for storing kegs and other stock.

Another possible use for a former lube building would be to convert it into a commercial or fine art photo studio. Though this option may seem counter intuitive, the building’s large doors allow plenty of natural light in, which fine art photographers will especially appreciate (particularly if the bays are oriented roughly north/south). Of the previously discussed ideas only the other automotive solutions would require less renovation than installing a photo studio.


So What Will You Do?

As you’ve probably realized, with a little imagination the uses for former oil and lube buildings are virtually endless. The option best for you will depend on your particular building, location and situation. No matter what you do, we wish you the best of luck with your new venture! 

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