Small town Eaton, Colorado, with about 6,000 residents, has a drive-thru business that’s helping people save some gas and a little cash: a Costa Oil 10 Minute Oil Change single-bay shop. And they have a young businessman with a vision to thank for it.
Brandon Kammerzell, a hometown guy working a full-time job for an agricultural lending institution for the past 11 years, straight out of college, is that businessman. And when he came upon the Costa business model, the appeal was immediate.
“A cool plug for Costa is that he did this,” Kammerzell says of his desire to have an investment business and side gig that he could grow into full time and one day manage for a living.
“Costa went the same path, and it made me intrigued with them as a franchise,” he shares of his initial drive to find an investment that went beyond the stock market.
Kammerzell also realized that Eaton had the right market for a Costa Oil quick lube, because its residents and others nearby didn’t have many options for the service before.
“We’re pretty new, but in this town where I grew up and live currently, people say they’re so glad we came to town,” the owner, operator, franchisee and fiancé-soon-to-be-newlywed says. “So, they don’t have to drive to the next biggest town. And we’re cheaper, on average, than the competition.”
For Kammerzell, there are two distinct hurdles he has come up against in the operation of his Costa single-bay business.
“You can’t keep a ton of inventory due to (the tight) space, but you can’t buy one-off from the parts store because that’s too expensive,” he says of the first hurdle. “So, I must be on top of inventory.”
It’s a skill he’s learning and that did not come naturally, he admits.
The other test Kammerzell has faced: staffing.
“I have three guys – two full time and one part-time,” he notes. “In a two-bay if you have three guys and only two show, it’s not a big deal. But in a single bay, if I have two and only one shows, we’re in trouble.”
So, while three are required, it’s important, too, that each stay busy throughout the day. The idea, according to Kammerzell: “Don’t pay people to just sit there.”
Since Kammerzell is already working a full-time job, he relies on an experienced local manager as one of the three-man team inside his Costa Oil 10 Minute Oil Change.
“My guys are everything to me. I’m there weekends and I was there handholding at first, but I’ve turned the reins over to my guys,” he notes. “Two are very young (but) the manager has 10 years’ experience working in a dealership and is a car guy, which is really helpful.”
These days, Kammerzell is busy working to develop two to three more Costa locations in his area of the state, which he says is part of how his franchise agreement reads.
It’s Costa’s goal to be well-known in Colorado, where right now many people who would drive by a Costa quick lube would ask, “Who the heck is this?” Kammerzell says.
“But (as) we open more stores; people will know us when they hear Costa Oil. Each store in our area helps with brand awareness,” he adds.
Circling back to the issue of inventory, Kammerzell is figuring it out and learning to place his supplies within the pre-designed space of his franchise, which is basically a square building with a pit, a wrap-around drive, and a garage door on either side.
“We want everything to be quick, so oil filters and air filters are just steps from the car,” he gives as an example. The bulk oil is on the passenger side of the car when people drive in, and there’s a point-of-sale machine and computer stand on the driver’s side – along with storage for air filters that every customer’s vehicle needs.
“We’re (only about) 528 square feet, so space is limited,” Kammerzell emphasizes. “Keeping it tidy and things in their place are important to us.”
With a single-bay shop in a small town, a well-run business can overcome the lack of population, the entrepreneur has found.
“Two weeks ago, on a Monday we did 29 cars, which is phenomenal,” Kammerzell says.
As he continues to sift through Colorado land in search of locations he plans to open in Loveland, Greeley, and Fort Collins, he admits, “It’s tough to find the right real estate.”
And yet, finding it is among his immediate goals.
“I’d love it if all (of them became) successful so that if I decide to work full-time it’s because I want to, and not because I have to,” he notes.
As well as his affinity for Costa Oil and its business model, the young businessman who grew up on a farm understands his customer base well and knows the lay of the local land like the back of his hand. And both things are aces up his sleeve when it comes to steering his business toward success.
“People still want to do things locally when they can,” Kammerzell notes.
“A one-bay shop is perfect for Eaton, usually, but of course, weekends are busy with three to four cars stacking up,” he says.
But Kammerzell and his employees at Costa Oil 10 Minute Oil Change give patrons personal and personable service, no matter how quickly they must deliver to keep the cars funneling through. “We greet them and talk to them, and that’s huge for us,” he notes of the setup where patrons remain inside their cars during service.
And they do it all with the speed of a Colorado dust devil.
As Kammerzell says, along with the 10-minute part, the franchise has another cardinal caveat that involves 10.
“Costa has a 10-second rule: Make eye contact and thank them for coming within 10 seconds of pulling in,” he notes.
Kammerzell’s single bay, as it turns out, is spawning multiple opportunities for the investor with each car that pulls through Costa Oil 10 Minute Oil Change in Eaton.