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Shop Look: Oil Express of Des Plaines, Ill.

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SHOP STATS: Oil Change Express   Location:  Des Plaines, Ill.  President: Art Lukowski  Average Car Count: 28  Staff Size: 7  Shop Size: 3 Bays  Average Ticket: $70  

Strong Brand

Oil Express is a longtime Midwest chain, which currently operates in Illinois and Ohio. There are now 10 company-owned locations and some franchised shops, according to Oil Express president Art Lukowski.

This Des Plaines shop has seen many updates since it first went up more than 30 years ago. This was partly due to the neighborhood changing, Lukowski says. 

“We started that location in 1990,” he says. “It was a build-to-suit, and we've operated successfully since then.”

As the city widened the street, the company took the opportunity to update the landscaping. And as a car wash business developed next door, Oil Express took advantage of the traffic to gain new customers. Interior amenities get close attention as well and aren’t left to degrade.

“We spend a lot of time on maintenance,” Lukowski says. “We want to keep the shop fresh looking, replacing counters. Anything that begins to diminish, we try to replace quickly.”

Draw a Crowd

Curb appeal is a big part of the initial customer draw, Lukowski says. The drive-by customer will be more prone to visiting a shop with a clean look, and the company has invested in those assets.

“I think every brand has an image they like to portray. Part of our brand is that we have a stone front building,” he says. “Those features, I think, help people identify us as being unique in the market.”

The same principles apply inside the shop as well. This Oil Express has large, open bays with plenty of space and a clean look, including employee training, uniforms, and a tile floor. Customers pick up on the details.

“The training folds into the curb appeal and signage and the paint,” Lukowski says. “The tile floors. All that comes together to create what we think is a better customer engagement at the start.”

It Pays to Upgrade

Maintaining a top-notch shop requires investments. Lukowski says that the company went big on asphalt repairs last year, and they’re looking to do a lot of roofing repairs this year. Other items are replaced periodically.

“We probably replace some of the interior fixtures every six, seven years,” he says. “We try to have them professionally built, and that usually outlasts things we’d do on our own.”

Any shop that’s been around for decades knows that customers expect a fresh face on the shop every so often. That includes signage. In 2021, this shop planned to get rid of its old, Planet Hollywood-inspired globe sign out front. It had been around long enough that it lost its appeal.

“It didn’t have a message. The graphics seemed to be wanting to give a message, because it was very particular,” Lukowski says. “But there was no message associated.”

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