Published on August 1, 2014

Buyouts boosting Meineke network

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Aug. 1, 2014) — Meineke Car Care Centers franchisor Driven Brands Inc. has expanded its scope and reach three times this year via acquisition, boosting its store count by nearly 70 locations, including 49 operating as Merlin 200,000 Mile Shops.

The other two acquisitions affect the Meineke business, adding eight America’s Service Station locations in the Atlanta metro area and a dozen CAA Car Care Centres stores in southern Ontario formerly owned and operated by CAA South Central Ontario.

The purchase of Merlin 200,000 Mile Shops in February strengthens Driven Brands’ automotive aftermarket presence in the Chicago metropolitan area, where most of the Merlin stores are located.

Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Driven Brands Inc. photo
Driven Brands Inc. President and CEO Jonathan Fitzpatrick.

“At Driven, we are committed to growing our presence through acquisitions of other brands or independents which can accelerate our exposure and growth,” said Driven Brands President and CEO Jonathan Fitzpatrick.

“Merlin has a compelling business model and outstanding unit economics. We are excited about this addition to the Driven family and are confident this acquisition will result in a win-win for both customers and our brands alike.”

Frank Smola, former president of Merlin 200,000 Miles, said “it was time for the full potential behind our 200,000 Miles branding to be unleashed, which only a successful national player could do. We were extremely impressed with the high levels of talent, vision, and energy within the Driven Brands executive leadership team.

Driven Brands truly understands franchising as well as Merlin’s ongoing commitment to both franchisees and customer.”

Driven Brands’ has named Simon Tisminesky general manager of the Merlin 200,000 Miles program.

“Adding Merlin to the Driven portfolio gives us breadth in the Chicago market with a great brand that has unique brand positioning and excellent unit economics,” Chief Information Officer Danny Rivera said.

All but six of the Merlin stores in operation are in Illinois; there are three in Wisconsin, two in Georgia and one in Michigan. The business is targeting Indiana for expansion.

The Merlin business originally was known as Merlin Muffler & Brake. Merlin’s Franchising Inc. changed the name in 2006 to Merlin 200,000 Mile Shops. The franchise has been in business since 1975.

In Atlanta, Meineke said its acquisition of the America’s Service Station locations will allow it to expand its presence throughout Georgia, as well as benefit from the best practices and technical expertise of the America’s Service Station brand.

Meineke bought the stores from Greg Sands, who founded the business in 2001 and has agreed to work with Driven Brands to help integrate the locations into the Meineke brand.

“America’s Service Station has consistently excelled in the Atlanta market and these centers will now be part of Meineke’s continuous growth in providing drivers across America with personalized long-term solutions,” said Meineke President Paul Clayton.

Meineke did not say whether it will operate these centers as corporate stores or seek to franchise them.

With the purchase, Meineke will have 36 locations in Georgia, including 31 in the Atlanta metro area and, all told, more than 890 locations in the U.S., in 47 states, 51 in Canada and 24 in Mexico.

The company did not provide information as to how many locations are franchised vs. corporate controlled.

Mr. Sands and his wife Sherri founded America’s Service Station in 2001, starting with four former Mobile Car Care locations they purchased from Mr. Sands’ previous employer, according to information posted on the firm’s website.

Mr. Sands has worked in the auto service and repair industry since 1993, including time with Mobile Car Care as a store manager in Houston.

Converting the CAA Car Care Centres in Ontario to Meineke Car Care Centres will expand the Meineke network in Canada to 51 stores, primarily in Ontario, Driven Brands said.

CAA South Central Ontario said it exited the automotive repair business in order to focus on the products and services its members value most—namely roadside assistance, travel and insurance. The auto club put the centers up for sale last September.

The centers will be operated by three existing franchisees, Meineke said, including former Toronto Maple Leafs hockey great Wendel Clark, who will take over three locations. Mr. Clark, who played in the National Hockey League from 1985 to 2000, opened his first Meineke center last year in Vaughan, Ontario, and earned “Garage of the Year” from Service Station Garage Management in the first year of business.

Mr. Clark, who scored 367 goals and made 266 assists during his 15-year career, primarily with Toronto Maple Leafs, also is a spokesman for Meineke Canada, appearing in video commercials.

Meineke Canada did not say which CAA centers Mr. Clark would take over nor identify the other two franchisees. The centers being acquired are in Cambridge, Elmira, Georgetown, Guelph, Listowel, Milton, Orangeville, Peterborough, Stratford, Waterloo, Scarborough and two in Kitchener (Fairway and Westmount).

“At Meineke, we are committed to growing our presence through acquisitions of other brands or independents that can accelerate our exposure and growth,” said Duane Arbeau, vice president and general manager, Meineke Canada.

“In addition to keen industry insights across Ontario, CAA has an excellent reputation and provides the type of quality customer service we value. We are excited about this addition to the Meineke family and are confident this acquisition will result in a win-win for both customers and our brand alike,” he added.

Meineke has had a presence in Canada since 1981.

Besides Meineke and Merlin’s, Charlotte-based Driven Brands operates two other automotive aftermarket franchises — Maaco collision repair and auto painting, and Econo Lube & Tune auto repair/quick lube services — along with a franchised network of mobile services consisting of AutoQual, Aero-Colours and Drive N Style, specializing in automotive interior reconditioning and maintenance, paint refinishing and restyling services for car dealerships.

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To reach this reporter: bdavis@crain.com; 330-865-6145. Twitter—@reifenmensch.

 

 

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