Generally speaking, most people don’t look forward to getting their vehicle serviced.
For starters, you know going in that it’s going to cost you money. You also know it’s going to cost you time. And at the end of it, you likely won’t have a good understanding of precisely what was done to your vehicle.
At Mr. Lube on Torbay Road in St. John’s, owner Chris Sparkes is always espousing the virtues of customer education to his staff.
“The word upsell is used in our business all the time, but we're just educating them about what products they need for their vehicle for routine maintenance that probably gets done at other garages, it’s just not explained to them face-to-face as it's happening,” Sparkes says.
“A lot of people call it a garage. I kind of call it a retail store because we're selling you a product in a quick, swift manner and, hopefully, a professional manner.”
Five years after opening the province’s first Mr. Lube, Sparkes is gearing up to open a second location early next year.
“I've been actively searching for a second location for about three years,” says Sparkes, whose newest franchise will be on Kenmount Road, just east of the Kelsey Drive intersection and next door to the Furniture Market.
“On Kenmount Road, there's a lot of competition with the dealers, but it's the second, if not the, busiest street in St. John's. It's well developed and not going anywhere.”
York Developments has been contracted to take on the 22-week job to construct the new building, which will be slightly larger than the Torbay Road spot, mainly to accommodate new tire changing equipment and technology.
Interestingly enough, tires weren’t part of the Mr. Lube business model when Sparkes first bought into the light automotive maintenance service provider in 2013. He and some other franchisees from the owner operating committee recognized an opportunity to start offering a selection of tire services and sales.
“It's a tricky business to manage because eight months we're an oil change shop and the other four months we're full on tires,” says Sparkes, who ended up helping write the company’s book on tires.
“There's a lot of challenges coming into the industry with longer oil life and some other stuff, so tires has been a really good piece for us.”
Sparkes has 13 people on staff at Torbay Road — 20 to 22 during the peak of tire changing season — and he expects to have the same level of staffing on Kenmount Road when it opens next January or February, depending on when construction begins.
“I've got a great staff,” he says. “I've got five guys who've been with me from the start. You can't put a price tag on experience.”
Sparkes doesn’t spend much time on the floor of the shop doing oil changes like he did over the first couple of years, but he expects to be more hands on again before long.
“I fully suspect the first day that number two opens I'll have a bit of a lifestyle change for a year and a half or two years, however long it takes.”