Marvin’s Garden Business Complex owner Marvin Sheets has felt the down economy like everybody else. But he has adapted and stabilized his business model.
Marvin Sheets and his wife of 16 years, Tina, erected two buildings on the Palm Coast/Bunnell city line, in January 2000, as the start of a business complex called Marvin’s Garden.
Today, the complex has grown to 11 buildings and, although Marvin and Tina are no longer married, they still share an office, a last name and a business philosophy.
“Literally at one point, I couldn’t build buildings fast enough,” Marvin Sheets said. That was in 2004, during the boom. He said that in November of that year, he built four buildings; 16 tenants all moved in on the same day.
Once the 11 buildings were constructed, the trend stayed the same; 65 tenants were open for business. There were no vacancies.
Now, Marvin’s Garden houses 33 tenants, which is its lowest occupancy since opening. But Sheets isn’t worried.
“We have stabilized over the last couple years,” he said. “If you’re stable now, you’re doing pretty good … We’re Americans. We get rid of our old car, our old pants. We’re eventually going to start spending money again.”
Until then, Sheets is promoting business in any way possible.
“What I do different is, if I have a tenant that has a specific need … I can change the unit to accommodate them,” he said.
He customizes, relocating walls or doors, changing a unit’s plumbing. He recently converted a former sandwich shop into a gun store for Larry’s Guns & Ammo, one of five new businesses that have moved into the complex since January.
Denice Beighle, administrative manager of Larry’s Guns & Ammo, believes surviving the economic drought is all about reputation. Larry’s advertises online and in newspapers, she said, but companies need to do more than that.
“It boils down to how you treat people, and you’re reputation,” she said. “The key thing is to be honest.”
Marvin has lowered rent prices, as well.
Air Time Hobbies, which moved in at the beginning of the year, is saving $350 a month, as compared to the rent at their last complex, just across the street.
Owners Kerri and Bob Heim are poster children for thinking outside the box during down markets.
Kerri, an 18-year legal assistant, and Bob, a 20-year, pool-services business owner, both went out of work when the market crashed. Then, almost at a whim, they opened a hobby store.
“We went into it pretty much blind,” Kerri said. “We thought, ‘Well, there’s no hobby store in town. Let’s try that.’”
And so they did. And today they sell motorized trucks, planes and helicopters, as well as their respective parts. They offer custom paint jobs. They have a remote-control racetrack in the backyard of their home, and they invite customers over to enjoy it, as well.
They’ve been in business now for 2.5 years.
“You lose one, you get one,” said Tina Sheets of the complex’s turnover rate. “So many smaller businesses can’t afford the big, huge, high rents … (We) try to cater to the smaller businesses.”
Also, she added, the complex sustains itself by offering a personal touch.
“Not many tenants (can say they) have an owner’s cell number,” she said.
Marvin’s Gardens is a split-facility, with office/retail space in the front and storage in the back. There are three rows of buildings on 10 acres of land, with space for 10,000 more square feet of development.
Marvin Sheets also owns 150 acres, near the corner of County Road 13 and U.S 1, which he was in the process of developing for a split business park/condo community when the market crashed. He plans to finish development once the economy rebounds.
“Basically, we’re just going with the market,” he said. “Whoever would’ve thought we would boom as high as we did, and then crash as hard?”
At one time or another, Marvin’s Garden housed businesses from churches to homebuilders, dog services to saloons, batting cages to funeral services.
“It’s such a diverse complex that you can almost find anything,” Tina Sheets said. “It’s like its own little city, almost. If we had a nail place in here, I’d never leave to leave!”
Marvin’s Garden is located at 4601 E. Moody Blvd., Bunnell.