Best Looking Lube: Express Oil Change and Tire Engineers of Oldsmar, Fla.
Initially, Jason Nastasi’s store wasn’t supposed to look the way it does.
In planning for his first shop in the Tampa, Fla., area, he had schematics made up for a typical Express Oil Change and Tire Engineers shop. The company has a sharp template, with bold red, white and blue colors and a grey or brick-red facade. But when he brought those plans to the city, it didn’t meet the local building guidelines.
“They basically told us that the corporate design wasn’t going to work with the development project they were doing, and we needed to come up with something,” Nastasi says.
They went back to the drawing board and reworked a lot of the details. More stone and brickwork went into the main structure. The roof went from the recognizable Express blue color to a more bronze. To set off the property, St. Augustine grass was even incorporated into the plans. That’s a lush, green variety that requires a lot of maintenance but really sets off a property. Nastasi says that the grounds plan was a big part of the city’s guidelines.
“The other thing the city really wanted was landscaping,” he says. “We have a lot of time and money wrapped up in our landscaping on the property, which really gives it curb appeal from the street.”
He says that city officials were really helpful in remaking the plans. When he returned to present the revised renderings, a review board passed it with no problem.
Nastasi launched his franchise, worked through some building problems, opened during a pandemic and is still cruising along. The resulting store is more than what Nastasi expected, but the details are really what make the shop what it is.
“I think the building is gorgeous,” he says. “We’ve been told by several people within the city that we probably have the nicest building in the whole city.”
From the overall look to the interior elements, this Express store is the 2020 Best Looking Lube.
SHOP STATS: Express Oil Change and Tire Engineers Location: Oldsmar, Fla. Operator: Jason Nastasi Average Car Count: 35 Staff Size: 7 Shop Size: 5,623 square feet
Transparency in Service
This is almost a cliche in the preventative maintenance world, and lots of stores do a great job to bring the customer into the service process. This adds a crucial element of transparency to the process and helps to justify the sales price of service.
At Nastasi’s Express shop, transparency isn’t limited to the service process. This was a deliberate design process to make the space feel open, so that a customer who uses the lobby area doesn’t have to see their car disappear behind a wall to get work done.
“We wanted it to be very open. We wanted it to be very transparent,” he says. “We wanted to keep that theme throughout the entire building. When you come into the front of the building, you’re surrounded by glass and windows everywhere.”
Glass surrounds the customer areas and offers a view into the service bays. There are bar stools in case a customer wants to pull up and watch techs do their work.
The bays themselves are wide open. Nastasi says that they had to add about four feet of height to the ceiling to meet city requirements. The bay doors are 10 feet wide. And there’s no stumbling over tools and equipment to move between vehicles.
“One of the big things is I did not allow any equipment or toolboxes in the center of the shop,” Nastasi says. “We wanted to have that wide open feel in the middle of the shop.”
How’s this for an equipment detail: Nastasi has his lifts colored a similar blue to the Express brand standard, which adorns the walls. He figured most of the other tools and equipment should carry the same color scheme as well.
“We wanted to make sure everything was powder coated the same color blue,” Nastasi says.
From the shop tools to the alignment and balancer machines, they all sport that same blue color to fit the Express motif. While it’s a nice touch by itself, Nastasi’s real goal was to demonstrate his investment and commitment to the business. That can go a long way with both techs on staff and customers in line.
“I think when customers really see how we do our work and the tools we use, we’re giving them a much larger value for their dollar, and I think that’s why we basically have lines wrapped around the building,” he says.
Another detail that works for techs is the outline, shadowbox tool board in the pits. Nastasi says that it’s a small feature that really helps to cut service time and reduce clutter.
Up topside, he says that techs on the tire service side really enjoy the Hunter Revolution tire changer, which is a newer piece of equipment that Nastasi says reduces a lot of effort and time in mounting tires.
Same with his flush machines. He says that the promise of a speedy service helped him make those big initial equipment investments.
“The equipment is very quick to use. It’s very clean,” he says. “We’re not spilling chemicals all over the floor. We’re not dealing with disconnecting radiator hoses. It’s all geared toward speed and cleanliness.”
Customers Come First
A lot of planning went into the customer waiting area. Nastasi planned one detail that might be unexpected for customers. The goal was to take customers out of the auto shop and into a more comfortable setting.
“Once you come into our second set of glass doors into the waiting area, one thing we’re big on is not having any automotive in there,” Nastasi says.
By that, Nastasi means that they didn’t go for all the automotive memorabilia and signage on the walls. He says it’s more of a homey feel, focused first on cleanliness and second on perks. There’s coffee and television and automated soap, water and hand drying in the bathroom (which includes a changing station for parents).
There’s free WiFi and charging ports on the stools, so customers might be able to get a bit of work done while watching their vehicle get serviced.
What this all represents is a real industry shift from the bare-bones auto shop to the full-service customer experience. When communities get more crowded with quick lubes, it’s those perks that help win over customers.
“We want people to feel like you’re in the living room. Hang out with us,” he says. “Kind of let your guard down and be comfortable.”