[Oeva-list] FW: Contact Request from OEVA website

JM Mayer mayer at cuttlefishauto.com
Fri Nov 30 14:50:09 PST 2018


Hello All,

TL;DR: I just want a place where I can work on cars without going into 
debt. Whaaa!!! (Also, a warning: I use some explicit, heart-felt language.)

To say that John Mayer/Cuttlefish Auto Clinic is out of business... is, 
for practical purposes, mostly correct. I would love to be servicing 
these cars, but the barrier is simply that I haven't been able to find 
an affordable space to rent. I have heard that Ken Price in eastern 
Oregon is doing Think repairs. I'm sorry for not returning emails, 
voicemails and texts sent to Cuttlefish Auto Clinic. Investing the 
energy in those conversations when I am all but powerless to provide 
service is frankly just too emotionally draining.

The shop that I operated in 2017 on SE MLK Blvd was around 2,000 sqft 
for over $3,000 per month, and there were all kinds of headaches that 
came with that lease. I was over-ambitious and it left me with a lot of 
debt.

As frustrating as it has been for Think City owners, it has been 
sympathetically cumulatively frustrating for me (that is, very Very VERY 
frustrating). Granted, there are some specific features that I need in 
the facility that I want to rent: A grade level door, a ceiling height 
of at least 12.5 ft, zoned to allow vehicle repair, a bathroom (yes, 
that was a disqualifier at some places I've checked out), preferably not 
a gravel driveway, etc. (Not really all that restrictive.) But I have 
been looking for almost a year, from Portland to Rainer (!) to Longview 
to Camas to Corbett to Sandy to Salem (!) to Newberg to Forest Grove. I 
set up alerts through craigslist, Loopnet, CityFeet whenever a new 
property comes online that meets my criteria. There's a place in Dallas, 
Oregon that looks reasonably priced, but it would be a 1.5 hours commute 
for me each way, and it's probably out of range of most of my customers. 
I consulted SCORE for advice on finding a shop location, was referred to 
a realtor who was essentially unable to come up with anything for me. I 
developed a GIS zoning map for several cities and counties that 
illustrates every location that is zoned appropriately. I nearly pulled 
the trigger on a shop location in sprawling east Vancouver, but just 
driving there to inspect it nearly gave me a coronary-- I just couldn't 
commit to doing that commute on a regular basis. Plus there's the added 
headache of living in one state and working/owning a business in 
another, dealing with sales tax in one state...

The average industrial business park would provide plenty of suitable 
options for me, but most do not allow automotive repair (just at the 
owners' discretion, no other reason). This is probably my biggest 
problem. If anyone knows how I could deal with this, it could be a real 
help to me.

Meanwhile, every day I drive by suitable vacant buildings that have been 
for sale, presumably awaiting demolition, for years. I suppose building 
owners don't care if they're occupied because their value has gone up so 
much recently that they're just waiting for a developer to buy them out.

I try to do my best to repair those cars that I can without having my 
own shop facility. Hawthorne Auto Clinic has always been very generous 
to allow me to use a lift on Saturdays, but it's hard to express how 
burdensome it is to pull tools out of storage to use for a single day, 
transport them to and fro, often including a custom-made traction 
battery cart strapped to the roof of my 1993 Camry. (And no, I cannot 
use another mechanic's tools; it's not negotiable.) And the last repair 
I did in this fashion required three non-consecutive weekends before I 
was able to complete the diagnosis and repair.

I drove down to Medford a few weekends ago to do a repair that didn't 
require a lift.

I do feel some guilt over not submitting to being an employee at some 
independent repair facility so that Think owners could get these repairs 
done without relying on me being a successful (break-even or better) 
businessman. But I honestly can't stand to be a part of the auto repair 
industry status quo. Green Drop Garage was nothing short of corrupt, 
charging for extra hours and extra parts and flatly refusing to correct 
legitimate errors in customers' favor; and just being real jerks. 
Hawthorne Auto Clinic was great, but it's a bit too nuanced to explain 
here why I didn't stay.

I don't know if I'm just going about the commercial real estate search 
wrong or what. But I've basically become very jaded about it. Every 
building owner wants to collect on the Portland boom regardless of 
whether their building is brand new or ancient, up to code or with 1,000 
undocumented violations, in the heart of downtown or out in the stix. 
And I don't know that real estate brokers ever have any incentive to 
lower lease rates; you would think that if a property hadn't been rented 
for a long time that might persuade the owner to lower the lease rate, 
but that's not what I have observed. How many suitable locations have 
been turned into marijuana dispensaries, manufacturing facilities or 
(unrelated to the previous 2) crossfit gyms? Too many.

Business was slowly ramping up in 2017, and I probably eventually could 
have made it work. But I'm not going to invest my life's work just so I 
can turn around and give every penny to a shitty landlord. I often look 
at retail businesses (where no goods are being produced, where no 
service is being performed other than curating goods made elsewhere) and 
wonder how they can possibly turn a profit with this kind of real estate 
overhead. I suspect many of them to be money laundering operations. (Not 
joking.)

1,000 sqft for around $1,500 total per month (not with $600 NNN added 
on) doesn't seem like that much to ask. Am I crazy? Is there some reason 
I shouldn't be banging my head on a wall?

Sorry for the rant. I really do want to fix these cars, and even improve 
them to make them the envy of every other driver. To make an aftermarket 
traction battery replacement option... I'm just tired of what seems like 
a simple problem being such an insurmountable barrier to progress. 
Imagining if I could have worked 40 hours per week for the last year, 
and even if the real value of that work was only $10 per hour, I could 
have added $20k to the economy. There are lots of similar ways that you 
could spin numbers, but I think the bottom line is this: Portland real 
estate is bullshit. (Feel free to forward this email to the Portland 
Business Journal, etc to be published with that as the headline.)

-John


On 11/30/18 12:22 PM, Gary Graunke wrote:
> Does anyone know where Think City cars can be serviced these days?
>
> Gary G
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: gary at whitecape.org [mailto:gary at whitecape.org]
> Sent: Friday, November 30, 2018 12:12 PM
> To: gary at whitecape.org
> Subject: Contact Request from OEVA website
>
> Anne Perretta (Pctphoenix at yahoo.com) has sent you (office: president) the
> following feedback from the OEVA website:
>
> Hawthrone Auto Clinic is no longer working on Think City cars. I've gone to
> Green Drop Garage but they are not working on Thinks. John Meye/Cuttlefish
> is no longer in business. Do you know anyone who is doing maintenance on
> these cars??
>
> You can hit the reply button and it will go back to the sender.
>
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