By Ryan Perks
Halifax, Ontario -- November 10, 2016 -- Kelvin Campbell has opened a second location in the Halifax suburb of Bedford. Campbell is the owner and operator of CSN-Chapman Autobody, located in Halifax’s North End.
The new shop, CSN-Chapman Autobody West-Bedford, as it’s called, officially opened for business on Monday, November 7.
Campbell, who first purchased Chapman Autobody in 1994, has been working out of his current shop, at 2500 Agricola St., since 2001. But after nearly 15 successful years at that location—a period in which the shop was able to triple its yearly business—Campbell decided it was time to expand beyond his 8,000 sq. ft. shop.
As he explains it, his team of 18 staff had started to run out of room a few years ago, and this was hemming in business.
“Basically, we’d hit the ceiling at $4.5 million a year—and that was in a $3 million-a-year shop,” he says. And under such constraints, Campbell was having to place his customers on a waiting list of four to six weeks—something no business person enjoys doing.
When Campbell decided it was time for an expansion, he set his sights on the suburb of Bedford, about a 15-minute drive from the Agricola St. space. But while there were many upsides to Bedford—the community is located in the dead centre of the Halifax Regional Municipality, Campbell points out, and is considered the fastest-growing part of the greater HRM—getting the proper permits in order wasn’t easy.
The challenge is a familiar one for many shop owners. The community wasn’t zoned for commercial properties, which meant the business had to apply for the relevant by-law amendments. This can be quite the headache.
“We had to hire legal counsel and a property developer,” Campbell explains, “just to navigate the paperwork.”
The process was time-consuming; though he’d put an offer on the property back in June 2015, it wasn’t until the following summer that everything came together, and Campbell was able to commence work on the design and construction phase of his exciting new endeavor.
He hired a design firm to realize his vision of a more efficient commercial space, and after three weeks of drafting, the builders were able to get to work.
This was the exciting part. Expanding to a new and bigger location—the Bedford shop has 19,000 sq. ft. of production space—allowed Campbell to realize some of his long-held dreams when it came to floor plans. Campbell drew particular inspiration from a trip he took to Europe in 2012, with his colleagues from the Collision Performance Group, a body of other shop owners and industry professionals from Canada and the US. The group toured shops in various countries, which allowed Campbell to put together a wish list of design features.
Campbell says the new facility allows for increased freedom of movement and the capacity to take on more ambitious jobs. And this is a big part of his vision for the Bedford shop. “The idea is that the new shop will be a heavy-hit centre,” Campbell explains, “while the original location will be more of a fast-track shop.”He’s adamant, though, about one thing—they will not discriminate: if you live on the Bedford side of town, they’re happy to repair lighter collision work at the new shop, too. It’s about customer convenience, after all.
“I don’t like to count my chickens before they hatch,” he says. But he notes that the Agricola location was having to turn down 50 to 60 repairs a month due to lack of space.
The hope is that the new shop will recover this business, with room to expand further.
“Ultimately, the new shop could do 200 repairs a month easily,” Campbell says.
At any rate, Campbell, who plans on moving six veteran technicians from the Agricola location, in addition to the six other techs he’s recently hired for the Bedford expansion, is ready for whatever comes his way.