Your Shop, Times Two

March 27, 2023
How to prepare for that first big expansion push.

Multiplication is simply the basics when it comes to arithmetic. But even at its simplest levels, trying to add another store to a business portfolio can be a problem that stumps many shop owners.

So what does it take to successfully grow from one location to two? One owner in Florida, Jason Nastasi, took on the challenge and found a solution that works.

The Backstory

Nastasi is a Tampa native whose family has a history in the automotive business. His grandfather owned body shops, and he grew up building cars with his dad.

Coming out of his senior year in college with a business degree, Nastasi secured a spot in the first class of interns at Tires Plus.

“I basically came up as a tire changer and worked my way into marketing,” he remembers. Some of his marketing duties for the company included print production, sports marketing, and grass roots marketing.

Eventually, Tires Plus wanted to move Nastasi to Chicago, and that’s when he put his foot on the brake.

“I’m a Florida boy, and that wouldn’t have worked for me,” he states.

The Challenge

With his position at Tires Plus in the rearview mirror, Nastasi did a bit of work for Nascar, and then he decided on his next move.

“I like the challenge of running stores,” he says. “Some friends told me I should talk to Express Oil Change and Tire Engineers corporate, so I wound up flying to Birmingham to meet with Ricky Brooks, the CEO at that time.”

From there, his ownership journey unfolded, and he started the process of getting two stores into operation.

“It took two years between securing loans, and this was all new to me. I had run stores before, but I’d never had to secure financing in that quantity, and I’d never bought commercial real estate,” Nastasi says. He concedes that having the large corporate name behind his franchises definitely helped.

In what he describes as “a whole realm of schooling,” Nastasi got funding for his first store in the city of small, bustling Oldsmar, Florida, on a nice corner lot. He cautions others, though, to walk before they run when they’re picking a location for a shop.

“We looked at 40 to 50 sites for each location,” he states, first looking on satellite.

“Then you narrow it down and you go look in person,” he explains. “And then you have to do traffic and geo-tracking studies (of the real-time physical location of roaming users’ devices), and it all costs money.”

Nastasi also cautions owners not to spend too much money on a location before they know for sure that the site is going to pan out. It’s a lesson he learned the hard way during the process of opening his first store, and “a hard pill to swallow.”

Once his first location was locked in, Nastasi began to realize all the things he didn’t know about the area. “Oldsmar has people coming from Tampa and the Pinellas side, just lots of people going around to different places to work,” he describes.

So he put his boots on the pavement and started making up some ground.

The Solution

“I spent eight to nine months before the first store opened just volunteering with the city,” Nastasi says. “So by the time the store opened, everybody knew me.”

Then, just two days after opening the Oldsmar store, Nastasi broke ground on his Tampa location.

With both franchises, the answer to keeping them profitable and high performing is essentially the same, even though each sits in a very different position within the marketplace.

“We look at what draws people into the complex,” Nastasi says, noting that quick lube is a third of his shops’ offerings, auto repair another third, and tires the remaining piece of the pie.

“If people come in and need brakes, for instance, that’s a destination and they drop off their vehicle,” he notes. On the other hand, quick lube is not a destination; it’s in and out.

Because of the three-part nature of his stores, the services offered must be marketed separately. And Nastasi says he has figured out a recipe that works.

“For marketing, I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, which I think of as social, and that’s about 25% of our marketing,” he shares. “Another 50% falls into Google paid search and SEO marketing. Then I’d say there’s about 20% print mailers that we send directly to the customers, and another 5% that’s guerilla marketing—just being part of your community.”

Being part of a franchise is also an obvious strength for both of his stores in terms of marketing and name recognition.

Still another element of Nastasi’s success is his willingness to roll up his sleeves when necessary.

“I run these two big businesses, but yesterday I was out on one of the properties running postholes,” he states. “As an owner, you must ask yourself, will you run the pit, fix cars, clean the restrooms?”

Personally, he’s willing to go the extra mile. “I’ll turn around from doing a tune up to clean up at a location, and then I’ll run across town and get involved in city government.”

Nastasi also has a solution to help beat the sheer number of automotive service options that his customers have in the saturated Tampa market (which has very little mass transit), and where most people already have a mechanic.

“I say … if you ever have a question, call me,” the dual shop owner states. “And after about 4-6 months of being involved with the city and the chamber—even when I didn’t have a business open yet—I’d get calls from people saying, ‘My car’s at the shop and they’re telling me this … what do you think?’”

The Aftermath

Looking back after opening both locations, Nastasi reiterates that he’s fortunate to be part of an excellent franchise.

“I have a wife and four very little children,” he notes. “Now I’m getting the benefit, but starting out I had to tell my wife I’d be working 70 hours a week.”

Now, though, he has strong managers at his two stores, and he’s not afraid to say he needs that support.

“The Oldsmar store runs fine and is growing each month like it should,” Nastasi finds. “The Tampa store is in a huge metro market, though, and I’m still learning.”

The Takeaway

Nastasi sums it up, “The auto business is definitely a trust business that drives on car count.”

Given that, one of the most important things he believes he has done to position himself for success is to market his own brand alongside that of the franchise.

“Google my name and I’m the first page and a half that comes up,” he notes. “If someone can Google me and see I sit on the board at the Chamber and I’m involved in my church and my community, it makes people feel like they know me.”

He adds, “Promoting the brand of Jason Nastasi also helps people understand why my stores are run differently than others they could choose.”

Another takeaway from his experience is this: don’t try to grow too fast.

“I started the second location when I’d just opened the first, trying to outpace rising costs,” he reminds, and that can be a ton of stress.

Still, growing to two locations is a move Nastasi says he was blessed to make.

“Commit if you’re going to commit,” he concludes. “Many people keep a foot on the ledge, but I had to step off. Then you’re all in.” 

Courtesy of Gold Flat Express Lube & Car Wash
Photo 95696123 © Calvin L. Leake |
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