Express Oil Change and Service Center is paving its way to success in the Southeast. Owned by Darrell Lamb and his business partner, Adam Fuller, the automotive maintenance and repair shop has 26 stores with three more in the works. The pair continues to actively acquire real estate for new stores and Hartman Simons partner Jeremy Cohen is by their side as a trusted advisor. Darrell sat down with us to share insight on what’s trending in the auto repairs industry and why he thinks Express Oil is enjoying growth in a challenging market. (From left: Darrell Lamb and Adam Fuller)

Darrell and Adam -EOC HS: Many oil-changing businesses are struggling. To what do you attribute your success?

DL: Our saving grace is Express Oil is a two-sided business. We offer both maintenance and repairs. With gas prices being so high, consumers are feeling the pinch and driving less. This cuts down on routine maintenance. On the other hand, the repair side is doing great for two reasons.

1)    Consumers are hanging onto their vehicles longer and not buying new cars.

2)    More people are owning cars instead of leasing.

HS: You are actively acquiring real estate for stores. How is it going?

DL:  The banks are offering better terms on money than I have ever seen. Our sweet spot is we are owner-occupied so we have not had any trouble getting loans.

HS: How are your Atlanta stores fairing? What other markets are strong?

DL: Our store in Atlanta is doing great, but the stores in the outlying metro Atlanta area are slightly down. We think this is partly because people are moving back into the city and driving less. Our stores in college towns like Athens, Ga., and Auburn, Ala., are doing well as expected. Other top performing stores are in Baton Rouge, La., and Destin, Fla., which we built in the last two years.

HS: Any insight you can share about Jeremy Cohen?

DL: When it comes to real estate, I wouldn’t use anyone but Jeremy. My partner and I have been using Jeremy for seven years and he is truly a trusted advisor. However, he still owes me a gambling trip to Biloxi!