CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Nearly a decade after Cleveland’s municipal airport was relocated to a larger facility, the old airport and its 0.6-mile landing strip and hangars are serving as a new kind of runway for a growing business that Cleveland native Chad Roberts hopes takes off nationwide.
Within the five maintenance and hangar buildings at the old airport, Roberts’ newly formed Solutions Oriented Services is detailing and reconditioning cars and trucks for the e-commerce auto sales company Vroom. The new automotive conditioning company, which is patterned after Roberts’ Detail Integrated Services business he has built over the past decade in Houston, will inspect, clean and perform minor mechanical, painting and equipment repairs for used cars Vroom will bring to the former airport site from about a 150-mile radius.
Once cleaned up and reconditioned, Solutions Oriented Services will use a photo studio to get the best photographs of the vehicles for web posts and other Vroom sales promotions.
“Vroom is rapidly expanding, and they approached us about the opportunity to use the Cleveland airport to do something similar to what we do in Houston,” Roberts said on a tour of his new Cleveland facility. “We anticipate doing about 150 vehicles a week here, and we hope to grow even more over time.”
From planes to cars, Cleveland facility finds new future
Roberts, a 51-year-old Navy veteran who has worked in automotive reconditioning since 1994, grew up in Cleveland but has worked in the Houston area since 2000. He said he is eager to build a business in his hometown, where his parents still live. If successful, Roberts said he wants to take the reconditioning operation to other markets for Vroom and other dealerships and auto traders.
If the business grows as Roberts hopes, he plans to build a bigger facility in Cleveland to rival the 200-employee facility in Houston where the company has multiple locations that recondition and detail vehicles for a variety of dealers in the Houston area.
Work began this week with about a third of the 60 workers the company hopes to have on staff after its first year in operation, and Roberts hopes to eventually expand the airport facility. Solutions Oriented Services has a three-year lease for most of the 36-acre former airport from Jones Properties.
Check Into Cash Owner Allan Jones acquired the airport property in June 2014 after the city of Cleveland build a new municipal airport that opened in 2013. Jones previously used the airport hangers for servicing cars it sold through one of his businesses, Buy Here Pay Here USA, which was ultimately sold to Autosimple in 2018. Autosimple used the former airport facility until 2020, and Carvana leased it through last year, according to the Jones Management Co.
One hangar has 12 lifts for mechanical work, and the old airport also has a paint shop and detail area. An Advanced Auto Parts store moved into the airport maintenance facility this week to provide parts for the Vroom vehicles similar to the arrangement Advanced Auto Parts has with Roberts’ Detail Integrated Services operation with Vroom in Houston.
Detail Integrated Services has provided similar automotive detailing and minor repairs for Vroom at its Houston facility for the past two and a half years and also does work for Sonic Automotive and other dealers in the Houston area, Roberts said.
“It’s been a very proven and successful model in Houston,” said Roberts, who has worked in the automotive business since 1994.
Each car is put through a 170-point inspection in cooperation with Vroom, which also will have employees on site.
The typical car is inspected, cleaned, detailed and, if necessary, repainted, retooled or reconditioned within about six days of when the vehicle is delivered on site.
The airport runway provides parking and moving space for thousands of vehicles, Roberts said.
Roberts said he is eager to hire more workers to staff the growing business. Mechanics are paid $15 to $25 an hour, and automotive detailers cleaning up the cars typically make $3,000 to $5,000 a month on a commission-based pay plan, Roberts said.
Positions now available include cosmetic inspectors, auto detailers, painters and preppers, photographers, porters, technicians, car washers, maintenance technicians, paintless dent repair technicians and shop porters.
Contact Dave Flessner at [email protected] or at 423-757-6340.