Route 1 Motorsports begins construction on new store
Willy Carmine has been hooked on the powersports industry since before he became a Sea-Doo test rider at the age of 18. Two decades later, he’s a top-performing BRP and Polaris dealer and is now building a new facility in Malabar, Florida, to house his dealership.
Route 1 Motorsports broke ground on its new facility on Nov. 15 — with a powersports twist. ATVs pulled old concrete out of the ground, and side-by-sides yanked trees out by their roots. A jump was also built to show the capability of the side-by-sides.
“We wanted to use our products to show what they can do. A traditional groundbreaking is sticking a couple shovels in the ground with helmets on. We wanted to take it to the next level and physically use the equipment to put on a show,” Carmine said.
Of course the groundbreaking also included the aforementioned golden shovels, hardhats and local officials. Carmine was on hand with his fiancé and business partner Kellie Yeasley, while Malabar Mayor Phil Crews and town council members, as well as representatives from Congressman Bill Posey’s office also attended. Select bankers and other VIPs were also at the groundbreaking, as 45 people were on site.
Route 1 hired Look Marketing to create the groundbreaking event. Look will also be helping with Route 1’s marketing and merchandising.
A move in the making
Carmine and Yeasley opened Route 1 Motorsports in Grant, Florida, in 2007. “We opened it up just as a parts and service store. We took some units in on consignment, and we had some Chinese brands that we were selling, E-TON being one of them,” Carmine recalled.
In late 2008, the dealership added Arctic Cat ORVs and quickly grew its market share, though the brand had little recognition on the Space Coast.
“We were up probably about 20 percent market share on the off-road in that brand,” Carmine said.
After a local automotive group exited the powersports segment, the Space Coast became an open point for BRP. Not only had Carmine started his career as a Sea-Doo test rider, but he also worked on BRP’s Advanced Design Concepts team at the nearby R&D/Technological Center before opening his dealership. So he was quite interested in carrying the brand. Route 1 applied for the franchise and was approved to carry Sea-Doo PWC and sport boats, Can-Am off-road vehicles and Spyders in 2010.
“I truly believe that that was because they saw the impact that we were making with the Arctic Cat brand. I put a business plan together, and I was fortunate enough that they latched on to that,” he said, adding that Route 1 was up against stiff competition for the franchise against dealers with deeper pockets.
Sea-Doo in late 2012 announced it was dropping its sport boat line, and Bass Pro Shops planned to build an Arctic Cat-selling store near Route 1 Motorsports. Carmine saw those two factors as an opportunity to fill the space vacated by those products with another brand, so he added Polaris off-road vehicles.
“Between those two really strong off-road brands, it allows people to come and look a both brands side-by-side. That helps both our BRP brand and with starting off with Polaris,” he said.
However, with all of those vehicles under one roof and more models coming out each year, Route 1 began to outgrow the 5,000-square-foot former lawn and garden store it was leasing.
“Over the years the products have just evolved into bigger than cars in some cases, so the walls have just come in on us. We have a struggle every day for space,” Carmine reported. “I would say we spend between six and eight man hours a day just moving stuff around.”
The new building
About two years ago, Carmine and Yeasley purchased the new plot on U.S. Highway 1 off the Indian River. The purchase was a gamble. Carmine had been told only a day before that the property was going up for sale because of a delinquent tax issue with the former owner. He paid the back taxes and then acquired the land.
The property sits just across Malabar Road from Malabar Mo’s Bar & Grill, which Carmine and Yeasley also own.
After going through some struggles including rezoning, having a site plan approved and other legal hurdles, Route 1 is now ready to build its new home. The new facility, about five miles north of the current dealership, will include a nearly 26,000-square-foot building with an 18,000-square-foot showroom, a 3,000-square-foot service department and a 4,000-square-foot covered porch that will wrap around the front. A second 5,000-square-foot building will be used for storage.
The facility will feature tilt-wall construction, which Route 1 chose for its longevity.
“We kind of went above and beyond on the building itself over doing just a typical metal building, which is pretty common,” Carmine explained. “My thought behind it was I’m still pretty young, and I want it to be there for a long time. I’ve got two boys that are 2 and 6, and hopefully they’re going to follow along in dad’s footsteps and want to continue the business. So I didn’t want to build something that 10, 15 years from now I have to rebuild.”
The new dealership will sit on three acres of land, which is about three times Route 1’s current footprint. The proximity to the Indian River will allow Route 1 to offer PWC demos.
Route 1 also plans to use its partnership with Malabar Mo’s for mutually beneficial marketing opportunities.
“Our restaurant and bar is known as a biker-type of place. We’re very bike-friendly, and it’s walking distance across the road,” Carmine said. “Kellie and my’s thoughts when we decided to build here is we can change somebody’s tire and send them across to have a cheeseburger. And with having our customers here at the restaurant, you can walk through the parking lot and see the bikes that need a tire and hand them a card and say, ‘Look, we’ll run your bike over and change the tire for X amount of dollars.’ It’s sound business that’s already next door.”
In its short time with the Sea-Doo, Can-Am and Polaris brands, Route 1 has quickly become a top performer with each. Half of the year revolves around watercraft, while the other half is focused on off-road.
“In the spring and the summer months, we’re heavy in the watercraft business. We sell about 200 watercraft a year. And then coming into the fall and winter months gets us into the off-road business. Of course, we sell the Spyders and Slingshots as well as some used two-wheel bikes,” Carmine said.
The hope is that with the move, Route 1 can expand its two-wheel business, either through increasing its used bike inventory or by adding another brand.
“Here on the Space Coast, it’s a beautiful riding area. We’ve got the river; we’ve got the Atlantic Ocean; we’ve got the woods; we’ve got a lot of coastline to ride on. It’s a really neat area for powersports,” Carmine said.
Route 1 also plans to grow its staff following the move. Currently the dealership employs more than 25 staffers. The new facility will also allow the dealership to increase its inventory on the floor, improve the flow of the service department and offer events on site.
The new store is expected to be open by September, though Carmine is hoping to be able to move in by some time in the summer.