For many it is a retirement dream. It involves moving someplace warm—or even hot—while the days are spent in the pursuit of leisure activities. But for Bill Brown, a retired wealth manager, the move from Idaho to Mesquite, Nevada left him looking for something to do.
"After four months I was going crazy, I needed something to do," Brown says. "I'm not going to be one of those guys who retires and dies in his chair."
The light bulb went off in Brown's head when the oil light came on in his truck, just as he was getting ready for a trip back to Idaho. He looked for a quick lube location but found no options in the Mesquite area.
"I worked my way through high school and college in a lube shop in Idaho," Brown tells NOLN. "I could do this. I think this town needs it."
Back in Idaho, Brown spoke with his friend Tyson Daniels, who owns five shops in the Brown's old hometown, and the two decided to partner on a new venture.
Location, Location, Location
Mesquite, Nevada sits on the border with Arizona, while Interstate Route 15 cuts right through town bringing many travelers on their way to Las Vegas, about 80 miles southwest. With a population of over 20,000, it was truly underserved, and the only place to get an oil change is Walmart, or drive to the next town over.
Opportunity came knocking via a warning light.
The newly formed partnership between Brown and Daniels was then set. Daniels was able to offer help in working with a franchise, and certain marketing tasks, including communications with customers and social media.
"I know I can run the shop, but I don't know the franchise thing," Brown explains.
As a result, the two initiated work on the franchise with Grease Monkey and started on the next step. The challenge was finding a location to serve the community. That actually took some time.
Brown found a few suitable locations in Mesquite, although one fell through when an owner backed out, while another location couldn't get city zoning approval. After offers fell through on five locations, Brown and Daniels started looking in the next town over when an opportunity in Mesquite emerged.
The owner of an independent automotive repair shop was also looking to retire. He contacted Grease Monkey to offer a sale, and the pieces began to fall into place.
However, the one-man shop needed renovations to bring it up to speed. Fortunately for Brown and Daniels, it didn't require a total teardown.
"We painted. We tore up the parking lot and redid it," says Brown. "It was a lube shop long ago. We were able to keep the tanks but had to rebuild and replace the pumps and guns."
Other necessary improvements included replacing the swamp cooler and compromised air delivery system. The alignment rack also required a software and equipment upgrade. In addition, Brown needed new tools, new phones, new computers, software and inventory. They remodeled the entryway and customer bathroom. They even addressed the landscaping.
The renovated shop has two oil change bays, an alignment bay and a two-post hoist behind the building.
In many ways, it was still a fresh start – not a takeover of a legacy operation.
"We had to retool, do all of that," he says. "There was no inventory, no oil, and no filters."
Grease Monkey's Mesquite location opened in December, but the cars weren't initially lined up. Even as the community benefits from a quick service shop in the area, it took time and word of mouth. In some of the early days the Mesquite location serviced only three to five cars a day.
"When we first started, we did four cars a day, I was looking at the investment," Brown explains.
However, Brown was clearly not the only local who found himself in need of an oil change, and it didn't take long for the business to grow.
By spring, the shop was seeing swift business of up to 25 cars a day, Brown reports. To get the word out, Brown's partner Daniels had his team run email campaigns, social media activity, and ran ads in several local circulars.
After gearing up with a marketing campaign, Grease Monkey Mesquite was ready to make a bigger splash.
Brown scheduled an open house event that would coincide with an annual parade through town in May. The Chamber of commerce got involved in the ribbon cutting. The open house event also included the local high school dance team and food trucks and vendors. The shop was easy to spot with the inflatable Grease Monkey to mark the occasion. A Grease Monkey float was among the attractions in the town parade, which took place the following Saturday. The float was surrounded by employees passing out candy and coupon cards.
Staffing a New Franchise
If the town of Mesquite, Nevada was in need of a quick service shop, skilled technicians were also in need of a shop in town, with a closer commute to work. In a time when some shops find it difficult to recruit and retain staff, this Grease Monkey practically has technicians beating down the doors for jobs. Brown anticipated staffing would be one of the biggest hurdles. However, manpower was one of the easier tasks to get the business up and running.
"Because there are so few options, I've had an abundance of people who have worked in lube shops, people traveling to Las Vegas and St. George for work," Brown explains. "We've got five employees who've worked at other quick lube type businesses and tire changes, and they're happy to stay local."
The staff is a good fit, with a good worth ethic and great customer relations. Brown was pleased "to be able to step in and have applicants, to be able to reach out and have that kind of participation."
As a staff member himself, Brown puts in more than the four or five hours a day he envisioned before beginning this endeavor. In fact, he says he works 12 to 16-hour-days, and as much as six days a week. He plans to hire a management-level person to take some of the load off but has no complaints about the hours or workload.
As has often been said if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life. Brown is now living it.
"I wake up every day energized and happy," Brown tells NOLN.
Grease Monkey has been a big support for building a new location from an old shop that needed lots of work. The company worked on the color scheme for the building, signage, vendor list and software systems. Opening week Grease Monkey sent executives from the management team. Brown attended a franchise conference and made a number of contacts to follow up with to advise and compare notes with, in addition to marketing support.
"Marketing (sessions) gave me a number of great marketing ideas," Brown recalls. There was also a helpful panel on training employees. "It was worth the money, very rewarding."
The increase in business from three cars a day to 25 or 30 has been encouraging. However, this area of Nevada can be somewhat seasonal with snowbirds heading elsewhere in the hot summer.
"My concern for Mesquite is when the snowbirds go home, what does that do for the traffic count?" explains Brown. His business is responsible for the livelihoods of his employees, as well as their families.
To address this potential seasonal flow, Brown and his partner are looking to market to fleets to increase business and keep vehicles coming into the shop.
"We have ten people's families that depend on this shop to pay their wages," says Brown. "That's all contingent on me to train, drive traffic, and bring customers into our shop. That's where my current focus is."