Complete Garage franchisor
finds fast-growing business
in often-ignored room

Following his wife’s hunch, Doug Arndt started displaying his company’s services at home and garden shows a few years ago.

His company had put in new epoxy floors, plus new flatwalls with hooks, in a number of mostly commercial buildings. But residential customers were expressing interest, too, so a 10’ x 10’ home-show booth seemed worth a try. One picture prominently displayed showed an aircraft hangar they’d remodeled, featuring a beautiful Viper aircraft.

Susan Arndt had called it: “The men were all looking at the Viper. The women were looking at the flatwall and hooks,” he recalls. “These women were saying, ‘I’m tired of the mess in the garage.’ ”

There lies the roots of the business, an operation called The Complete Garage LLC with one corporate-owned store in Hopkins, and eight separate franchisees who’ve opened 14 stores around the country. Arndt wants to get “as dense as we can in the region,” with stores now open in the Twin Cities, St. Cloud, Des Moines, Milwaukee, Omaha, and then Clearwater, Florida, and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Arndt started selling franchises a year ago January. Systemwide revenue should hit $10 million this year, the second year of Arndt’s five-year plan. When that’s done he plans to have 75 units open.

“We are the garage enhancement company,” says Arndt, who’s president, selling garage remodelings that cost $5,000 to $10,000 for a typical new floor, cabinets and other storage. A competing company is Garage Tech, an older franchised company with 59 locations.

Susan Arndt is a co-owner, and their third partner is Tom Holm, one of West Publishing’s original employees. Holm received a sizable payout for his stock when West’s founders sold several years ago, and originally approached Arndt to do some cabinet work.

Holm developed the franchisor’s ace in the hole: a computer system that covers “everything” that a franchisee needs, Arndt says, including “inventory, point of sale — it even has an architectural drawing component.” The system convinces skeptical prospects, who understand the market and the brand, Arndt says, but can’t necessarily justify the ongoing royalty percentage that franchisors demand.

It costs $156,000 to $211,000 to start a franchise, plus 6 percent of sales as royalty each year and 2 percent for national advertising.

Arndt investigated expanding via corporate-owned stores vs. franchising, and decided on the latter with coaching from Twin Cities law firm Larkin Hoffman.  He acknowledges his role as a franchisor is much different, compared to doing commercial/industrial construction for 20 years. “I truly enjoy transferring the knowledge we’ve gained to other people,” he says.

Doug Arndt, The Complete Garage LLC: 952.931.0416;  darndt@completegarage.com; www.completegarage.com

Beth Ewen