In February 2013, Rick Stickland, owner of South of the Square Collision Center in Medina, Ohio, was painting inside his new, second facility one day when he noticed two firefighters show up at the location. The shop wasn’t open yet and had just been recently purchased from an owner who decided to close the business.
He put his paint equipment down, and made his way outside the facility to introduce himself to the firefighters and see if there was something with which he could help them.
“No, we’re just checking to see if this building is on the take list,” Stickland was told.
Stickland was bewildered. He didn’t even know what a “take list” was. But as he would soon find out, it wasn’t a good list on which to be.
In fact, it meant that a large chunk of his shop’s brand new location was part of the city’s local read widening project.
His business, set to open in March, would be greatly affected once the project began. The extent of that impact was unknown, until a state appraiser dealt him a final blow: The shop would have to move.
South of the Collision Square opened its first store in Medina, Ohio in 1999. Stickland was initially approached by Jim Gedeon, his previous boss, in the spring of 1998 about starting a business up together. In the past, Stickland had worked in various roles at Gedeon’s business; initially, Stickland was given the title of bodyman painter, but his tasks became diversified as he took on warranty work, working alongside dealerships, and writing estimates.
When looking for a location together, Gedeon let Stickland know that he trusted him with running the business, and that his role would simply provide financial assistance for the business.
Starting with an annual revenue of $451,000 the first year, the business’ revenue increased a few thousand dollars shy of $1 million the following year, Stickland says.
The second shop was sure to share similar success, Stickland believed.
Despite the bomb dropped by the firefighters, the business opened a month later, in March, as planned, but Stickland wasn’t sure exactly how the road would take away business as he had not heard about the project previously.
The project, set to begin in the summer of 2018, was unknown to Stickland at the time as he was not informed about it by the prior owner. An appraiser from the state of Ohio called to appraise the building and months later, he provided Stickland with answers: the loss of land would eliminate the ability to operate any business with public interaction.
While it would be years before the project took place, it would mean that the business would suffer greatly as the structure of the property would change drastically.
According to Stickland, once construction started, the shop would lose the front parking lot, a majority of the drive-thru production bay space—making it impossible to pull a car around—as well as the driving entrance to the estimating area.
“It made the building unusable for our business,” Stickland says.
After the shop discovered how much property would be taken away, Stickland hired an attorney to help figure out the next steps. While the building would not be taken away, Stickland realized that he needed help figuring out how the business could survive the severe construction change, and what he should do from a business standpoint if it could not.
“We were into [business at the second shop] for a very short time before we started going through legal battles,” Stickland says.
After further counseling, it was decided that in order to properly serve customers, moving to a new location was essential.
“We knew within a year and a half at our original location that we needed to find a building,” Stickland says. “We were going to be put out of business in that building.”
After seeking out land in the area, the shop purchased a location around five miles away in August 2014. Through the grapevine, Stickland heard about a truck business that sold caps and hitches, but was not publically listed in the market.
“It cost us somewhere around the neighborhood of $350,000 to get the new building,” Stickland says.
The shop continued to stay running, and Stickland was able to negotiate relocation expenses from the state for electrical upgrades and phone installation, leaving the unexpected cost of a new paint booth, building renovations and oil separator on the shoulders of the business.
As customers continued to trickle into the shop, the renovation process began for the second shop’s brand new location.
“The building had to be all reconfigured for our needs,” Stickland says.
“We moved on Mother’s Day weekend [in 2015],” he adds. “We closed on a Friday and reopened at the new location on Monday. We planned it so we could move one location.”
According to Stickland, the previous piece of property was then put up for sale and purchased by another company that repairs machinery and didn’t need public access. According to Stickland, the building was sold for a half-a-million dollar loss.
While the additional move was not ideal, Stickland says the new location was the best decision the company ever made.
According to Stickland, the new location has increased sales more than 30 percent over the year before the forced move.
Although the previous spot was located at more of a “hot spot” in town, being five miles away has brought positive numbers into the business.
“We moved from the main road to a side road and we’ve grown,” Stickland says. “We’ve almost doubled our sales in the two [full] years that we’ve been here.”
Today, the operation has expanded to $4 million in annual revenue.
When making large decisions, it’s important to include all resources, Stickland says.
“Maybe go to the city beforehand if any projects come up,” Stickland says.
Before making the move to a new location, it can be beneficial to check with city workers to determine whether or not a project is nearing that specific location. In addition, members of the city council are knowledgeable regarding the specifics of what occurs within city construction projects.
While the process was not ideal, being patient and confident is important if business is ever thrown through a loop.
“The biggest thing is patience,” Stickland says. “You have to put yourself out there and be willing to be patient; what you’re willing to do [effects business].”