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Tweaking the business model, Kearney oil change trailer goes to customers

Tweaking the business model, Kearney oil change trailer goes to customers

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Garrett  Poppen

Garrett Poppen discovered a way to capitalize on his skills in metal fabrication, auto maintenance and salesmanship, and rolled them together in a growing enterprise, P/R Mobile. Poppen said he has 500 steady customers who appreciate the convenience and care they receive from the rolling oil change service.

Garrett Poppen’s P/R Mobile oil changes come with every important element — minus one. There’s no building. But there is a trailer. It’s a 24-foot tandem axle model that would look more at home on a construction site. But Poppen has customized the rig so he can go anywhere and do oil changes.

KEARNEY — Garrett Poppen’s P/R Mobile oil changes come with every important element — minus one.

There’s no building.

But there is a trailer. It’s a 24-foot tandem axle model that would look more at home on a construction site. But Poppen has customized the rig so he can go anywhere and do oil changes.

He shares the story of his business getting off the ground two years ago, but he has to talk fast. It’s a late winter afternoon, the sun is falling and so is the temperature.

Poppen hustles to finish oil changes on one of his client’s three vehicles. After those three he will head to Pleasanton for several more oil changes.

The process begins with Poppen driving the vehicle into his trailer. He fabricated ramps so the vehicles ride up and over the wheel wells inside the trailer.

On the ramps the vehicle is elevated so he can crawl under it, drain the oil pan and twist on a new filter. It’s about a 20-minute process and costs customers less than they might pay for the same service at a brick-and-mortar business.

In the two years since he launched P/R Mobile, Poppen has built a base of about 500 customers. He said P/R Mobile has a 90% customer return rate.

P/R Mobile employs several part-timers, he said, and it appears the mobile oil change business has the potential to succeed in other communities. Poppen is toying with the idea of expanding into several more cities.

He believes there may be no other mobile oil change business like his.

As time passes, he’s added more and more customers. Friday has become a big day. That’s when P/R Mobile is at Kearney’s Hy-Vee. The grocery store’s customers, its employees and fleet can get oil changes and a free Hy-Vee car wash.

Poppen was meeting with the local managers when someone had the idea for the Friday oil changes.

“They actually brought it up to us. ‘Can you guys come out here and we’ll throw in a free car wash?’” Poppen said.

He said each day brings new challenges and opportunities.

Poppen said a Johnson Lake cabin owner from Omaha didn’t have the time, so in the fall he asked Poppen to haul his boats out of the water and winterize them. There was a $200 tip for Poppen when the job was finished.

Poppen’s idea for a mobile oil change business came during a trip, he said.

“I was with my fiancée. We were in Texas and I saw a mobile car wash. I thought, ‘Shoot, I could build a trailer and do mobile oil changes.’ As far as I know I’m the only company doing this in the country.”

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