Snap Shop: Fix Auto Alameda
FIX AUTO ALAMEDA OWNER: ARTHUR MERCADO LOCATION: ALAMEDA, CALIF. SIZE: 46,000 SQUARE FEET STAFF: 50 ANNUAL REVENUE: $9 MILLION AVERAGE MONTHLY CAR COUNT: 300
When owner Arthur Mercado took over his Alameda, Calif., shop in 2006, he knew he didn’t have enough room to operate effectively.
“I saw a need to expand,” he recalls, “because when we first started out and we were really humming, we were playing Tetris like crazy—we were losing so much time moving cars in and out, and it drove me nuts.”
In 2019, such inefficiency is a distant memory. Mercado has taken over multiple buildings on two city blocks just outside of Oakland. Now his staff produces $9 million annually, with a 10,000-square-foot office and two production facilities at their disposal.
Roughly nine years ago, Mercado’s son forced him to watch the movie Cars “10 times per week, at least.” Eventually, the shop owner became a fan of the children’s film, and sought a facility that appeared worthy of fictional Radiator Springs.
“I told my designer, ‘I want my store to look like something out of a Pixar movie,’” Mercado says. “And I want neon, and I want that old [fashioned] vibe.”
As it turns out, he was able to take advantage of Alameda’s facade improvement program, with the city picking up much of the bill for neon lighting and signage. Mercado says the shop’s circular, exterior neon sign cost roughly $10,000.
These days, he adds, “everybody that drives by is like, ‘I like it; it’s got that old Route 66 vibe, and it has that nostalgia piece to it.’”
Fix Auto Alameda features a 19,000-square-foot collision repair area and plenty of state-of-the-art equipment. But, even beyond the facility’s expensive, downdraft paint booth, Mercado is especially appreciative of his Hunter alignment rack.
“So many shops out there don’t have alignment equipment,” Mercado says, “and I hate subletting.”
The roughly $65,000 alignment rack and accompanying computer system allow Mercado to “control my jobs, and control the pace and where it goes. It just makes our jobs go that much faster, and they’re updated every year. … The rack’s the most expensive [piece of equipment], but cheap racks don’t last.”
Over the years, Mercado has developed a knack for hiring underappreciated workers from industries outside of the collision repair world. The porter position especially lends itself to solid entry-level employees, he has learned.
Those factors have allowed him to assemble a four-person team of full-time porters, who help work flow throughout Fix Auto Alameda’s handful of buildings. Those porters, once unsung in previous professions, now help fuel the workflow at Mercado’s shop.
“They’re always looking for something to do,” Mercado says of the porters. “They’ve always got to be moving. They’re proactive, as opposed to reactive.
“If you’ve got good people, and you’ve got good processes, the profit will be there.”