Jeff Bernstein's Car-X shop has a new look, new location and plenty of potential customers.
He's saddened a bit about leaving the 1000 block of East Washington Avenue after 45 years but knows that the growth and development in that part of the city that forced his move to a spot next door to Ella's Deli is having a positive impact on his business.
It also means a cleaner operation with more service bays, a better lounge for customers and more visibility. The 4,100-square-foot shop at 2802 E. Johnson St., is at the corner of North Lawn Avenue but fronts East Washington Avenue, one of the city's busiest corridors that continues to pop with development projects and in turn is driving customers to his shop.
"We were already seeing that at the old location and we definitely think it will help our business grow," said Bernstein, 57, whose father started the business in 1972. "The new development just a half mile from here, Union Corners, will help and every other large apartment and retail building going up will help us as well. In the end we know we'll be better off here. It's bringing more people and more energy."
Stone House Development purchased Bernstein's property at 1032 E. Washington Ave., for future development and has built the neighboring 11-story, 138-unit Lyric Apartments building. The project also includes 68,000-square-feet of office space and retail space and parking for 373 vehicles on what for decades was home to Madison Dairy Produce Co. A four-story building with 65 units of affordable housing along East Mifflin Street is under construction on the back side of the block and is scheduled to be completed by January.
Stone House and Bernstein originally tried working out a deal to move the Car-X shop to the corner of the block but Bernstein said the location would have been more difficult to use in terms of access and parking. His new location is a better fit.
"It's much more visible and I think the traffic counts are higher here because a lot of people turn off on East Johnson," Bernstein said. "It's much easier to get in and out of here and we have much more waiting area space."
The former location was built in the 1940s or 1950s as a repair shop, according to Bernstein, until his father, Alfred Bernstein, opened the first Car-X franchise in the country. Jeff Bernstein purchased the business from his father in 1999. The company, which started out as primarily a muffler and exhaust business but has transformed over the years into a full service repair and tire center, also has a location on Odana Road and three shops in the Twin Cities.
The shop continues to grow its tire business, which is headed into peak season, but also does fleet work for private companies, the city of Madison and state of Wisconsin.
Bernstein's new shop sits on the site of a building that had been vacant for nearly five years and was last used by East Side Press. The building was removed and replaced with the Car-X shop that includes eight service bays, six lifts, a new high-tech system designed to quickly diagnose alignment issues and more space for storage. Bernstein expects to hire one or two more employees to add to his five-person staff and is looking at Sun Prairie as a place to possibly add another shop.
Construction on the new building, designed and built by Iconica of Madison, was started in April and completed about two weeks before Bernstein had to be out of his old location. He moved his shop on the weekend of Oct. 14 and 15 and reopened in the new location on Oct. 16 after moving inventory, parts, oil, tools and equipment.
"This is a fresh, clean, modern look," Bernstein said. "I never realized how much more difficult it would be to move a location versus building a new one. We collected a lot of stuff over 45 years. We did some purging but most this stuff is necessary for our business."