Running a Shop

The Value of Adding a Second Shop Structure

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Shop: Jensen’s Target Collision Owner: Rick Howell Location: Erie, Pa. Staff Size: 12 employees: normally, 6 during COVID-19 crisis Shop Size: 15,000 square feet Number of Lifts: 4 Average Monthly Car Count: 80 Annual Revenue: $2 million

Consider the visibility of your shop. Is it easy to see, with a large sign or vibrant lettering facing a relatively busy roadway? In the end, the hope is that your shop is noticeable to potential customers. 

But what if your building isn’t easily visible from the road—or, worse. What if it’s being blocked by another building altogether?

Rick Howell, the owner of Jensen’s Target Collision in Erie, Pa., found himself in just such a situation. His shop was situated far back from the road and a car wash that was no longer in business blocked any visibility he did have. 

Howell knew he needed to make a change in order to stay in front of potential customers and at the top of their mind,should they ever need collision repair work. 

The Backstory

Rick Howell has been the owner of Jensen’s Target Collision for a little over 20 years, having taken over ownership in 1999 from original founders Art and Dick Jensen. 

Howell, with nearly 40 years of experience in the trade, has encyclopedic knowledge of the repair industry. His shop originally had a focus on standard collision repairs, but they’ve since branched out to include as much as possible. 

It’s important to Howell that his shop has the capabilities to allow employees to work on as many issues as possible, and to focus on what they find most important or interesting.

“We’ve expanded our services to include not just bodywork, but also to working on truck bedliners, rust-proofing, and overall increased mechanical abilities,” Howell says.

So, when he decided to expand Jensen’s Target Collision a few years ago by purchasing another building, the decision was not made rashly. In fact, it was his second attempt at fixing a problem.

The Problem

Jensen’s Target Collision’s small storefront, combined with its relative placement further back from the adjacent road, made for low visibility from the main road. Additionally, an old car wash building right next to it effectively blocked the view from its direction, reducing visibility further.

This resulted in a lack of curb appeal. 

The storefront had an overhang advertising the business, which made the shop appear rather dark. And, the overhang itself didn’t do much to attract attention, as it was only a few feet tall and was impossible to see for cars that were coming from the direction of the car wash. 

All those factors made seeing the shop’s logo and the interior of the building itself quite difficult. Potential customers were often denied the possibility of seeing the shop and going there for business, and previous customers didn’t always have an easy time finding it.

The fact he was losing out on potential customers didn’t sit well with Howell. 

The Solution

Since his shop needed more signage to draw customers, Howell decided to solve his issue by purchasing the car wash and expanding his business to two storefronts. The former car wash, which was already blocking part of his shop from sight, made perfect sense for a new building. 

One of the biggest reasons Howell bought the car wash was because it was a building about the same size as the one he already owned, but about thirty years newer, with a larger side facing the connecting street. 

The extra parking and easy access between the two buildings gave Howell so many more options than that he had with just the one building. 

Suddenly, the obstacle holding Jensen’s back had been scaled. 

“It was really a no-brainer,” Howell says.
The new building not only increased the amount of space available for the shop’s logo, but it also brought Jensen’s closer to the road. It’s difficult enough to see a small sign while you’re driving, but a small sign that’s far away makes it even more of a challenge. 

By acquiring the new building, Howell was able to bring his business to the forefront.

However, Howell didn’t stop with the addition of a new building. The longtime shop owner also wanted to drum up business and make it clear to his existing customers that the new building would be an asset and alert potential customers that he was there. 

He started advertising through television, newspaper, radio, magazines, and had a grand opening with the new building. When decorating the new building, he chose to stick to a theme and use stone for much of the customer-dedicated areas.

“It’s got a warm feeling with the stone we put in, like the granite countertops. We’ve also got snack machines and some really nice mirrored areas,” Howell says. “If customers are stuck somewhere for an hour, there are worse places they could be.”

In truth, the shop floor’s quality was enhanced overall. Howell notes that they let Rent-a-Car reserve space within the shop for interested customers, and while his shop also had a rental option, the increased space allowed them to work better together for the benefit of the customer.

The Aftermath

The shop’s visibility increased with the purchase of the new building. Since it was a former car wash, it had larger sides, and on the side facing the road they were able to place a banner announcing the new opening, which greatly increased visibility.

In fact, within two years of the refinishing, car count had risen by a solid 30%.

Howell says that some of his newer customers he acquired after adding the second building told him they had driven by the original shop for 20 years and never noticed there was a body shop there. 

Combined with the push for media advertising when the second building opened, more customers were able to find the shop and bring in cars for repairs.

The Takeaway

Overall, Howell found there was an increased draw for customers.

“Anytime you do an expansion, it gets people talking,” he explains. “The competition is talking, people that live nearby are talking about it. It’s like free advertising.”

For those in a similar position where the shop seems unnoticed, buying extra space could help push the business to the forefront, and capture new customers as a result. 

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