Anyone who watches home improvement shows knows that there are always good reasons not to tear down a structure and start over. For John Joback, owner of 10 Minit Oil Change in Fort Myers, Florida, tearing down the nearly 60-year-old building wasn’t an option — however, at one point he almost walked away from it.
For six years, Joback had clocked in at the building, which was originally built in 1960 as a gas station before being converted to a quick lube shop, and he came to appreciate not just the building but the location and existing clientele. In fact, when Joback took over, business wasn’t so great, and the building was showing its age.
As manager, he turned it around, increased the car count and knew he could run the shop on his own. That’s when Joback, who told NOLN rather candidly that he was “tired of working to put money in someone else’s pocket,” decided it was time to do it his way.
“I came in as manager, turned the business around and saw that it needed to be spruced up, but the previous owner just couldn’t see it,” Joback explained. “That’s when I decided to buy it.”
But it wasn’t as easy as just signing on the dotted line. Joback first had to persuade the previous owner that it was time to sell. Something just drew him to the building, and that’s why Joback decided it was worth fighting for. In the end, it paid off.
“I had to go back three times,” Joback added. “And even then, I was close to walking away. I had spent almost six years as manager and I knew everything about the building, but I also knew what it was going to take to get it.”
At one point, it almost looked like the deal wouldn’t happen.
“I finally told the previous owner, ‘I’m ready to purchase this location, but if we can’t make a deal I found another shop — owned by a competitor — 1.8 miles away. I’ll jump on that shop, and you’ll compete with me,’” Joback told NOLN. “I was ready to pull the trigger, and finally my old boss said ‘if you have the money, we have a deal.’ That was it, and the building was mine.”
Those six years spent working at the location prepared Joback for the next step, modernizing what was now his shop and, more importantly, his business — 10 Minit Oil Change. As noted, the building had been constructed in 1960 as a gas station. It was small on a tight lot, but Joback knew it could be so much more.
“It was a basic brick with wooden frame building that had a flat roof when it was built, but that was updated at some point to an A-frame roof,” Joback explained.
It was what the home improvement shows might describe as a building with “good bones.” While Joback thought about tearing it down, that presented problems — not the least of which was the lot, which was close to an auto supply shop and offered limited room for expansion. Instead of going bigger, it was about making use of all the available space while giving the shop a much-needed makeover.
Because the building couldn’t really be enlarged or expanded, an outdoor lift was installed during the renovation process and that allows techs to get some fresh air while servicing vehicles in an “extra” bay.
In many ways, the existing structure was solid and was sort of a “they don’t build ‘em like this anymore” kind of place. It was solid, but the brick and paint showed its age — in no small part to the extreme sun that the Sunshine State receives, as well as the regular deluge of rain.
“We gave the outside a complete makeover with stucco and paint, and while the sun will fade it a bit, it is something we can maintain very easily,” Joback said.
After acquiring the property in November 2017, it was time for the extreme shop makeover.
Slow But Steady Going
The plan was for a simple eight-week renovation, but just as those TV renovation shows suggest, nothing ever goes as planned, and anyone who has renovated their home also knows to plan for the worst. Fortunately for Joback, there were no surprises — the biggest issue was an old vent that was probably put in to suck exhaust fumes out of the pit. However, the eight-week job took a full 22 weeks to complete.
2018’s Hurricane Michael was responsible for pushing things back a bit, especially as the region was still recovering from the 2017 hurricane season.
“There were problems getting materials,” explained Joback, who didn’t let the slow-going get to him. Instead of stressing out over it, he used what could have been a crisis moment as one of opportunity.
“First, we were able to keep operating the whole time, so the construction phase didn’t mean we were losing customers,” he added. “In fact, with the scaffolding, it created some curiosity with customers who wanted to come over and see what was going on. The good news for us is that the construction didn’t mean downtime and really didn’t present too many challenges — apart from the temporary plastic shelter setting off the motion detectors at night!”
The extended time meant that Joback could also focus on marketing efforts, highlighting the new and improved 10 Minit Oil Change, but one downside was the fact that there was no “grand reopening.” Since the shop never really closed, he decided it was simply a moot point anyway.
Where Joback was helped was by having friends — or more accurately, clients — in high places, namely City Hall. He had already secured contracts with the city’s various vehicles, and rather than risk having the work on the vehicles delayed, the city helped make sure he didn’t wait on permits or inspections.
“Everything was really easy, and my business relationships allowed things to get pushed ahead,” he explained.
As a new business owner, Joback did forego taking too much of a hands-on approach, and he’ll be the first to admit that this was no DIY effort. So, he didn’t invest “sweat equity” in his shop.
“I did some painting, but as soon as we started this project and saw that the rails by the pit were rusted out, I knew this was the time to call in the pros,” Joback said. “I wanted it done right, and I had to hire it out. I wanted to make sure the shop is up to code, built to last and ready to last another 60 years, at least.”
In the nearly year and a half since acquiring his first building, renovating it and seeing the business grow by 119 percent, Joback isn’t ready to take it easy just yet.
“We couldn’t expand at this location due to the lot size and the fact that we had to allow for traffic flow, so I’m already looking at another location,” Joback said. “Who knows after that?”