New Biz Alert: Mel Rapton Honda makes a quick profit Downtown
For Curtis and Katina Rapton, son and daughter of Mel Rapton of Mel Rapton Honda, the choice was simple – body shops are more profitable than dealerships, so open a second shop. Smart move.
What started as a simple venture, just three months in has already begun turning a profit and is one of only 10 authorized Honda service centers in the United States.
We caught up with Curtis, and he shared how Mel Rapton ended up downtown and why it’s been such a lucrative move.
DSP: How did the conversation to open a second shop start?
CR: It all started with a conversation about business at the Fulton Avenue location between myself and our Honda rep. Car sales weren’t as high as we would have liked but the dealership overall was operating well.
We knew body shops could be more profitable than car sales and once we saw the numbers, we decided to start looking at opening another shop.
DSP: What steered the conversation toward downtown?
CR: A friend of mine, Ron Thomas at Cushman & Wakefield, pointed us in the direction of the Porter-Sprague body shop for sale on 12th Street. A condition of the expansion was finding a preexisting shop with paint booths, in a great location.
Porter-Sprague was a no-brainer – it is centrally located in the heart of downtown; has preexisting bays and paint booths; and, I had even delivered parts to long-time owner Ed Quint when I was 16 years old.
The shop was actually in escrow when we decided to go after it but the deal fell through and we signed within a month.
DSP: Now that you had a shop downtown, what was next?
CR: Fast forward a few months, I reached out to Honda to see if they were interested in making it a Honda authorized service center and after an analyst surveyed the place, they said absolutely.
Honda said if they had to choose a location, in all of California, this is exactly where they would have chosen.
Once approved by Honda we connected with the City of Sacramento Economic Development Department and they really expedited the process. Our project manager, Sabrina Tefft, somehow got six City departments in a room and we worked through the majority of our preliminary plans in one sitting. We saved ourselves probably close to six months in those couple hours.
Honestly, without Sabrina and that team, the project wouldn’t have happened.
DSP: What makes the downtown market so viable?
CR: We had been thinking about the downtown area for no less than 15 years because it’s the hub, it’s what has kept Sacramento alive through all these years. All the downtown residents and workers fit Honda’s key demographic.
For various reasons, we didn’t make the move sooner. We never found the right location. The market was there; it just wasn’t our time, until now.
DSP: Now that you’re up and running, how is business?
CR: We forecasted a need for 20-25 service orders a day to break even. We weren’t sure when we’d reach that mark but we never thought it would happen so fast.
By eight weeks we were averaging about 20 orders a day. Now, we’re finishing our financial statement for July but, we’re there.
Just over three months in and we believe we’ve broken even.
DSP: What’s been the biggest highlight so far?
CR: The environment is so different downtown, in a good way. We don’t need as much car storage space because our customers are dropping their cars off, walking to work, coming back and picking them up. They’re so thankful and happy they don’t have to drive to Fulton Avenue, or farther.
That’s been a major highlight. Everyone keeps going on about how badly downtown needed a body shop like ours. I get hugs! It’s a blast. They’re so appreciative of the convenience.
DSP: So, what’s next?
CR: Business-wise, we’re waiting on a few insurance companies to approve us as a direct repair facility, which will bring more people through the shop, and we’re working to spread the word across downtown – we’re here!
And, once we get the permit for the old radiator neon sign the shop will be complete.
Otherwise, we will just continue on this track and keep expressing our gratitude. The downtown community has welcomed us with open arms and we are truly grateful.