At a time when many small businesses are closing, new car audio shops are opening and dealers are moving to larger locations.
Tint World has seen a surge in interest in new franchises as those who were laid off during the pandemic, look to find other opportunities.
“We have had a stronger than usual interest from new prospective franchisees…A lot of corporate staff have been laid off and are now looking for franchise opportunities. If you are a big wig that got canned, if you are 30 to 50 years old and you don’t want to work for someone else…We’re selling like mad right now,” said Paul Pirro, Tint World, Chief Strategy Officer.
CEO Charles Bonfilgio said the company sold 11 franchises in the last 6 months with about 20 more in the pipeline. “We’re going to have a massive first quarter,” he said.
On a smaller scale, here are a few of the many shops that have opened in recent months.
In September, Car Audio & Security moved out of a home garage in Oaklawn, IL into a proper shop in an industrial park. The shop is owned by Robert Hough and now resides in a 1,500 square foot location in Alsip, IL.
“I knew a lot of people were driving past the house and saying, ‘It’s a house’ [rather than go in]. Now that it’s a store front, we’re retaining most of the customers. They are supporting the additional bills I have,” said Hough.
There’s no demo room yet, but customers are happy with his recommendations. He’s doubled his business since the move and had to hire another installer plus a salesman to keep up.
The shop has a 5-star Yelp rating with 62 reviews. Its main brands include Kenwood, Sony, Kicker, VOXX (Viper) and AAMP Global and it expects to begin offering Hertz.
Mobile Music, WA is moving to a new location more than double its original size. “For us it’s a huge move, we’re going from a shop that’s been there for 44 years that was 2,700 square feet to 6,000 square feet,” said Owner Shawn Gunnels. “We wanted to grow…we’re getting into auto accessories, lift kits and exhaust. We had the ability before, but the old location couldn’t support that,” he added. Parking spaces are expanding from the current 5 to 21.
The pandemic is shaping merchandising in the new store. Gunnels is also forgoing the sound room because of the pandemic; “Do you really want to confine yourself in a sound room?” he asked. Instead the store is one big open space. There are deliberately large aisles between the displays to allow social distancing.
The pandemic has caused some challenges with the move. It’s hard to find available contractors as they are busier than usual and the shop is also busier than normal.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years…a lot of the guys are stuck in the 80s and 90s. My goal is to be cutting edge.” He added. “We have the reputation. We want a facility that also mimics our capabilities and our history in the community. You know, we want people to say ‘This is a great shop, I can tell just by looking at it.’ And it’s a better environment for employees. We’re also going from renting to buying.”
The store, a member of the Mobile Electronics Specialists of America (MESA) buying group, is moving from Mt. Vernon to Burlington and its two other locations remain in Port Angeles and Bellingham. The shop has 16 employees and says it has performed 1/2 million installs since 1976. Brands carried include JL Audio, Rockford, Hertz, Kenwood, Pioneer, Alpine and Viper and Compustar.
Advanced Custom Sound also recently moved from a 2K square foot location to a 14K sq. foot shop in Warren, OH. It’s an old car dealership. There was a fire at the old location, and the store managed to work out of the damaged location for months. Owner Dan Nezbeth had just begun renovating the new place when COVID hit and he wasn’t sure if all business would stop and if he should continue the renovation. Fortunately, the shop has remained busy since. It carries brands including Memphis Car Audio, JL Audio, Sony, Compustar and Alpine.
Top: Advanced Custom Sound