Many entrepreneurs will tell you that they started from the ground up. In the case of Darren Robinson, that means everything you might hope it would. Born in England, he traveled across the ocean and got married in the United States, but he hit a bad patch in the late ’00s when his wife left him and he became homeless. His only possession of value was a decade-old Pontiac Firebird. He was stuck in a foreign country with no home and nor job. The year was 2010, and the American heartland was in deep recession. This is the story of how he persevered to build a successful retail operation.
Retail Store Review
Now in its sixth year, Race Fittings Solutions is an award-winning speed shop catering to drag racing and street-rod enthusiasts. Headquartered in Hialeah, Florida, the four-employee retail operation offers a case study in how smaller brick-and-mortar retailers can succeed. SEMA News recently caught up with James O’Neal, owner of Race Fitting Solutions, to find out how he does business and what has enabled him to compete successfully against online retailers.
When the first Galpin car dealership opened in 1946, the vision was to provide excellent customer service and a unique, impactful buying experience to the greater Los Angeles area. Now, decades later, the Galpin name still encompasses its surrounding community as part of its core identity, but it offers far more to its customers than just a place to buy a new car.
In 1971, Hank Feldman’s family purchased Big House of Chrome in Inglewood, California. When his parents divorced, he had to delay college to help his mother run the business. Under Hank’s leadership, working with his mom and brother, the business grew. In 1992, however, three of their 10 stores were burned, others looted, during the L.A. riots. The Feldmans’ business was $4 million in debt and in no position to rebuild and pay the money back. Ultimately, through smart business and perseverance, Feldman and his company survived.
Butch Dean has been an off-road racer since the early ‘60s, spending a large majority of his life out in the dirt under the Las Vegas sun. Years of not having the right product available at his fingertips eventually led him to open his own retail space in 1968. After decades of reformation and adapting to a changing marketplace, that retail space still stands today as Butch’s Speed Shop.
Housed in an 80,000-sq.-ft. facility in Placentia, California, with 72 employees, Classic Performance Products (CPP) specializes in manufacturing and selling steering, brakes and suspension components for classic cars. The company’s niche market is mid- to late-’70s and earlier vehicles, with a heavy emphasis on GM, but it also ventures into the Ford and MOPAR arenas, according to CPP President Jim Ries.
World Motorsports started in the high-performance automotive business as a race team for Toyota in 1999. Chris Rado and Craig Paisley were both Toyota factory-sponsored drag racers, and Rado later continued to road race under Scion factory sponsorship. Since 2013, under the direction of Rado and Paisley, the company has specialized in fabricating, manufacturing, selling and installing products for luxury European cars, including Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. Located in a 13,000-sq.-ft. facility in Torrance, California, with 11 employees, World Motorsports has recently expanded the size of its shop by 3,060 sq. ft.
Cap World is a SEMA-member company specializing in truck caps, truck trailers and other truck accessories—or, as the company’s website proclaims, “everything but the truck.” Alongside a recent 30-year anniversary milestone came recognition from the Light Truck Accessory Alliance (LTAA), as Cap World was named Retailer of the Year for 2015. Each of those accomplishments explains how Cap World has stood out as a retail success story.
Before opening a brick-and-mortar retail location in 2014, Derek Dobson, owner and managing partner of Dale’s Super Store, traveled to swap meets up and down the East Coast and into the Midwest to sell aftermarket performance truck parts and accessories. Now operating out of a 2,200-sq.-ft. facility in Bradenton, Florida, Dobson has four fulltime employees, including himself, and one part-time employee, and he is in the process of expanding into a new 7,000-sq.-ft. building in Bradenton.
Founded in 1979 and remotely located in Waynesville, Ohio, Ken Steele’s Solar Shade Truck & Car Paradise remains steadfastly brick-and-mortar in a day when online retailers are increasingly pressuring such business models. Yet after laboring through some admittedly tough early days, Steele has built a profitable three-bay, 6,000-sq.-ft. retail operation that sells and installs an impressively wide range of aftermarket accessories, including window tinting and trike conversions. In the process, he’s attracted a loyal customer following throughout his far-flung region.