As Jerry Deslandes knows, a great option for business growth is acquiring an existing business in a complementary part of your industry. For Jerry, that opportunity came when his business, C&A Auto Service, purchased a nearby tire sales-and-service company. As the third generation owner of C&A, Jerry’s learned a lot over the years and he shares his insight and experiences.
Great service is a family tradition
“My grandfather started C&A in 1964. My father ran it, too, and I’ve been working here since high school,” says Jerry.
While taking on the role as owner and manager of the shop seemed like the obvious path, Jerry worked at a few other jobs before committing to C&A. After he graduated, though, he knew he’d stay with the shop – he enjoyed the work and, most of all, the lifelong customers that C&A proudly serves.
“We take a lot of pride in our service and customer care,” explains Jerry. “A lot of businesses say that, but we really try to live that every day and with all of our customers.”
Jerry says that most of his customers come from Putnam and Westchester counties, the geographic area that surrounds his Mahopac, NY shop. And he also notes that many come from 30-40 miles away, because although they moved away from the immediate area, they want the level of automotive care that they’ve come to know and appreciate. He also markets the business to build new customers, using a website and social media, as well as using direct mail, radio and print ads in local newspapers.
The right way to grow
Jerry wanted to continue the level of service that his customers had come to expect over the years, but even the best repair shop can only do so much when space is limited.
“I was looking for ways to grow the business and the most obvious would’ve been to open a second location, but I didn’t feel like that was the right way for us. I also didn’t want to move our business out of the area,” Jerry explains. “Then, the opportunity to buy Tireman came around and I knew it was what I’d been looking for.”
Tireman had a larger facility and Jerry knew that if C&A moved into that building, he could serve more customers while also adding a new revenue stream by offering tires and related services.
SBA 504 loans: The funding C&A needed
“When the opportunity came around, it was more than just purchasing a business, it was purchasing a property, too, so we needed two loans,” Jerry explains. He learned about Pursuit through The Westchester Bank, who suggested that together, they could help him.
Asked about the loan process, Jerry says that it took several months and that Pursuit and The Westchester Bank were helpful and responsive throughout.
“When we needed help or had questions,” he says, “we got the information we needed quickly, which kept the process moving. We got great terms and in the years since, the service has been terrific.”
More space, creative growth, lasting impact
It’s been four years since Jerry moved the business to the former Tireman building and C&A has expanded significantly. “Our previous location was 2,800 square feet and three service bays,” Jerry says. “Our new location is more than 10,000 square feet and nine bays. We’ve been busy from the first day and we’re actually tight on space now.” C&A has also tripled its employees, from seven to 21.
Asked if he’s considering expanding to a larger location, Jerry answers that he doesn’t want to go that route yet. “I don’t want to take on another location until this one’s pretty close to perfect.”
Still, he’s created ways to continue increasing revenue. For example, he wholesales tires to area auto-repair shops that don’t stock tires on their own, and with the space and equipment his shop has now, they can do a lot of repairs that others can’t.
“There are plenty of cars out there and no one can service them all, so we offer our services to other shops, too,” Jerry says. It’s a healthy approach to competition that benefits everyone.
It also demonstrates the service-centered philosophy that’s been the hallmark of C&A for decades and Jerry aims to continue for many more.