Bryant started this business practically (and literally) by accident. He purchased a cruiser and promptly drove it off a 10 foot tall snow covered drainage ditch. The fact that he pulled it out and drove it home undamaged sold him on these vehicles. Over the years he collected several cruisers and parts vehicles and slowly word spread that an outlet for Land Cruisers in Little Rock did indeed exist.
My story is not nearly as sexy. I'll preface things by saying that I once owned a very expensive-low equity-uninsured motorcycle being driven by parties unknown. Paying it off left me with about $600 to my name. So I went an bought a beat up Toyota Corolla lift back. The air conditioning worked and that was all I cared about at the time (Arkansas summers). I drove that little car for six years, rebuilt the motor on the back porch at my apartment complex, and sold it for what I paid for it six years earlier. I knew I wanted that type of quality and durability in the next vehicle I purchased and it was going to be four wheel drive. Hence Bryant and I meet.
Keep in mind up to this point in my life my exposure to off roading was news clips of the Baja 1000. Quick anecdote: those of you who have been to our shop probably have heard of or been on the trail we have just a few blocks away. Its really a pretty cool trail that leaves rookies like myself pulling the seat out of their butt cheeks. So when we got back I was already pulling out my cheeks uh, check book and signing a check for a mustard yellow rust bucket. I immediately started doing small things to improve the truck and over the next year got it into decent shape. One day visiting Bryant and looking for parts I mention if he needs some help I'd be willing to work part time.
Five years later I managed to turn what was basically a hobby into a growing business. Over the years the shop has developed a loyal local customer base that probably numbers about a hundred or so now. Some of the customers have been instrumental in our success, namely Felton Rhodes, John Carroll and Gordon Silasky.
They also happen to own three of the sweetest cruisers on the planet and they were gracious enough to choose us to build them. Check out their pictures on the Reader's Ride page.
Well after 3 years....
Well it turns out that a longtime friendship gets the shaft in business dealings.... again.
Doesn't matter that you've been friends for the better part of a decade, Matters not that I was the main reason The Land Cruiser Place, his business, made it as long as it did. Matters not that I bent over backwards fixing, cleaning, and improving his building and property even before I had a vested interest in it and continued to do so after I rented the place, helping put up his addition, paying for and finishing most of the concrete on his property, setting up a portion of my website for his business (never did get a thank you for that, oh well...goes to character your honor). I could go on and on but...
The skinny is Bryant has serious control issues (hence forth known as Issues boy) and could not deal with not being in control.
Our original deal was penned just before Bryant moved up north to work and help a friend assemble a truck. He would return to Little Rock to do the occasional bed liner. Our deal was $1500 a month for rent of his building which included $1200 for rent of the physical property and $300 for rent of his equipment that he owned and I would assume usage of as The Cruiser Company took over in 2000. As a benefit to me having a website Bryant gave me 25 percent of his used parts inventory via a written deal where what used parts were sold in the course of business I got 25 percent, the shop got 25 percent, and Bryant got 50. If I sold a new part in inventory Bryant got all of the money. We split the usual utilities and insurance. I keep his bays for the liner business uncluttered incase he had a liner to do and I had the rest of the building to use at my discretion. I was cool with all that.
So I'm thinking I was getting a good deal here. Come to find out that the deal has little minor landlord only details that slowly creep their way into the daily life of business at 18405 Col. Glenn. For instance, if you own the property you can do anything you want to make it look like a friggin junkyard even though you have a renter who is hip to organization and appearance. Not to mention the owner can bring in and park several Toyota trucks in various states of disrepair and sale parts off them while the renter struggles every month to pay the rent IN THE SAME BUSINESS AT THE SAME ADDRESS!!!. Or that should the renter (me) happen to have a piece of equipment (*cough*Battery Charger*cough, remember I'm renting BTW) that is four years old has a failure that I'm expected to pay for and continue 'renting' it. Or that as a renter I received not one penny of financial consideration for any construction, improvements, renovations that I do to the landlords building, hell I didn't even get a thank you most of the time.
Do not most renters have their washer/dryers fixed by the landlord....yep....I thought so.
Or this piece of work, how about the landlord calling one of his renters customers to arrange parts pickup when he has no clue (and no authority btw ) why the renter wanted it handled differently to take care of several issues at once. Or maybe this one. The landlord tries to sell a customer of yours a part (an axle) he JOINTLY (remember our deal above now because conveniently the landlord chooses to ignore it) owns that essentially undercuts your ability to sell a front disc brake conversion that the renter was discussing with the customer at that exact moment!
Is that classic or what??
Oh yeah, don't forget the renter has to come up with rent every month as well
Ah the memories...
What really tickles me is that of course, "up north" (translated-female) doesn't work out and Bryant comes back and literally moves in to the shop. So now my customers get to pay to see his socks, shoes and other personal bs on a stairwell and in a small waiting room that both begin to look like the stereotypical southern front porch.
So anyway I get a website and things immediately take off. I turn a $4000 profit the very first year I'm in business. Each year gets better and better, Issue boy gets more and more bitter probably because in all the years he ran The Land Cruiser Place it he was never once was able to turn a profit. I really get a kick out the fact that over the years my mother occasionally worked in my office and he was always bad mouthing me to my mom about my management skills.
Class act huh?
So towards the end, things are coming to a head and we have the occasional, sparse argument. I'll never forget the time he called me at 3a.m. after getting off from his 'pays the bills job' and completely bitches me out for something I did thinking I was helping him. He was seething mad, it was hilarious to hear over the phone, but I had enough of his little egocentric pep talks and told him to never call me at that time again and we'd discuss it in the morning. Round one. Round two. The "I sell you my axle customer" wanders about the shop while I approach Bryant in the office and point out that it would better for me if I sold the front axle conversion as a package deal instead of him (the landlord, jointly owned axle, nose in business not his) selling the client the axle. Issues boy starts to stew. He comes out of the office and says, " ya know I don't like the way you spoke to me in there", and it's on.
I borrow his truck and trailer that very same morning to take my tan project truck to the muffler shop. Unfortunately my dumb ass forgets to pin the latch on the hitch. Doh!!!. I mangle his tailgate. Nothing that couldn't be fixed mind you. I look for Bryant to apologize profusely and tell him I will get it over to the body shop that day to get repaired (cost me $400) and he is in the back on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I chuckle inside actually. So while I'm gone he goes off on a tirade with my mother there and tells her, "I'm going to ask him to leave and find a new place".
I guess he thought I would panic or something because he was obviously disappointed the next day when I didn't grovel, plead and beg his sorry ass for another chance.
In the search for a piece of property I come to find out that his building was worth at most about $600 a month so he was screwing me from day one (...goes to character your honor). That was my fault though for not doing any research in rental pricing. I know I'm going to get accused of taking things that are his (like the floor jack I brought out to the shop that I got from my landlords shop at my apartment complex (...Bryant just couldn't remember who gave it to him), the rusted out sign his dad gave to me that I refurbished at an expense of just under a thousand dollars (...but his dad gave it to him after I did all the work and it was his regardless, so I cut him a check for 50 bucks for the rust I originally 'stole' and told him to shut his pie hole). I take with me a welding hose that I bought ($70 dollars with the regulator) for his welder to replace his leaking dilapidated one (i just put his old one back on), the battery charger I took was his too even though his blew up two years earlier and I was, as per our original agreement, renting his equipment and I paid for the new one we both used (I guess on some planets they do that). Here's one that really made me laugh. The very first purchase I made for the shop was a demo copier, cost me $411 dollars (still have the receipt...kept it for sentimental reasons) and somehow it ended up being half owned by Bryant.
Wonder if I should/could pursue legal action to get compensation for my 25% of the used parts. Hmm? Oh I forgot. It was a verbal agreement between friends...(goes to character your honor!) so I probably wouldn't have much legal recourse. What would be funny is if I did pursue that option I couldn't lose: A; I get some sort of compensation, B; I don't get any compensation but Bryant's self-righteous, hypocritical, pompous ass would have to get up if front of God and all that know the truth and flat out lie, and I believe that would be vindication enough in that matter.
I find and make an offer on some property about a mile closer to the highway and it is accepted contingent on financing. So middle of August '03 I move all my stuff out of Bryant's shop and out to a buddy of mine (Gary Gill) place, Took forever, did I mention it was August. Gary and I clean up his property and his 2 shops and he graciously allows me to continue limited operation while we pursue financing and construction for my new shop.
The escrow account we set up expires after I have trouble arranging the good faith portion for a loan to purchase the property through a bank. (They want 25 percent)
Deal is beginning to look a little pale
In the interim I am putting together a business proposal for my bank to simply purchase and refit the existing property and come to find out banks frown upon loaning money on property with gas tanks.
Deal is now dead
Several weeks later I get a phone call from the property owners saying they are willing to remove the tanks and get the appropriate E.P.A paperwork if I'm still interested.
Deal has a weak pulse
So I begin to arrange for several constructors to submit cost for turnkey shops done like I want them. The numbers come back after 2 months phone calls at $53 dollars a foot and that's like 100k more than I want to take on.
Deal is dead...again
Gary convinces me we can renovate the property and make it work as is. Slowly I see it taking shape and I agree with Gary's assessment. During this time Gordon has turned me on to a company that specializes in my types of situations and I begin to put together all the paperwork, proposals, and tax information needed.
Deal has a faint pulse...again
So I give the landowners a good faith deposit and we sign an open ended agreement so that I have plenty of time to allow the small business company time to help me do this. Three months later I get the 'its a done deal call' and I become the deed holder April 1st, 2004!!
Deal is done
But wait how can this be!!! According to Bryant's "testimonials" to several of my friends, a family member and even a customer or two I am a crappy owner/operator with no business, organizational, or management skills. Guess what, it turns out I have some skills because I got this loan with no co-signer, no collateral, and I didn't have to put a dime in good faith money. It just so happens that if you turn a profit every year you are in business and you are pretty good at what you do both astute business people and customers tend to take notice and help you out. What's really ironic is that if Bryant had just kept his mouth shut and took my rent checks every month I would still be paying him twice what his junked up shop is worth. Instead I got a new shop, my own land, a whole slew of new equipment to help me build my business up, all at $500 dollars less per month than I was paying Issues boy.
How you like them apples!
Btw you can also reach me @ Rockcity4x4sux@cruiserco.com
The Cruiser Company
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Friday, December 24, 2010