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Bottom line: Cleaning service, used car dealership gets the showroom on the road

  • John Lippman. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 9/19/2020 10:00:54 PM
Modified: 9/19/2020 10:00:52 PM

A veteran Upper Valley car dealer is starting up a novel way to sell and service cars.

Rick MacLeay, who owned and operated the former Subaru dealership in Norwich known as The Car Store and had a Hyundai dealership in White River Junction, has launched UV n GO, a mobile car detailing and used car sales service based in West Lebanon.

UV n GO is taking over the mobile car cleaning business of Upper Valley startup Zippity, which operated workplace car cleaning and detailing services at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Hypertherm before the pandemic suspended those operations.

Based at the former Avada Hearing Care Center location behind McDonald’s in West Lebanon, UV n GO is also applying for a license from the New Hampshire DMV to sell pre-owned vehicles, MacLeay said, which it will provide largely through an assist-and-search service on behalf of buyers for a flat fee.

“It will be ‘tell-me-what-you-want-and-we’ll-find-it,’ ” said MacLeay, who closed his Hyundai dealership on Sykes Mountain Avenue last year and sold his Subaru dealership to Prime Motor Group in 2016. “We’re not going to have a lot of cars on a lot.”

MacLeay said technology is radically reordering the car service and sales business, and the days of car dealerships and drive-to repair garages are going to have as much appeal for consumers as, well, that old beater rusting on the used car lot.

Car buyers are increasingly doing their research online and showing up at a dealership only to take delivery of the vehicle — a new online sales platform piloted at White River Toyota was designed with just that reality in mind.

Meanwhile, Zippity, co-founded in 2017 by Lebanon High School grad and Tuck School of Business alumnus Ed Warren, has been pioneering an at-home car repair service that can do many routine service jobs, such as brakes, mufflers and tune-ups, in the customer’s driveway.

“In the old days we called it a relationship-based business, but we don’t do that anymore. The culture has changed,” MacLeay said.

UV n GO will use Zippity’s proprietary software to power its online appointment bookings platform, but Zippity’s car cleaning and detailing service will now be marketed in the Upper Valley under the UV n GO name, according to MacLeay.

Zippity did not respond to messages for comment.

MacLeay said his latest venture allows him to take advantage of the knowledge that he’s accumulated since he was a teenager washing cars at a dealership in Windsor while at the same getting a foothold in the industry’s technology-enabled next phase.

“Most of my career has been doing the same-old, same-old for decades,” he said. “This is different. I like shiny new objects.”

Wrong timefor last resort pet resort

For a long time it was a roller skating rink. For a short time it has been a dog day care and boarding kennel.

This time it’s for sale (again).

Peter Martin, who nine months ago converted his Great View Roller Skating rink in Enfield into Chosen Valley Pet Resort, is winding down the pet boarding business and is looking for someone to buy the 4-acre, 16,000-square-foot facility.

Asking price: $875,000, knocked down 27% from what Martin was seeking a few years ago when he last sought to sell the property.

“When we first opened in January we were getting a lot of dogs and then we ran smack into COVID,” Martin said of the pandemic that has leveled countless businesses. “We need 30 dogs a day to break even but with the pandemic it was three to five.”

When Martin converted the site, which had been a roller skating rink for 42 years, into a pet care “resort,” it was as a last resort to find a new use for the facility that had seen dwindling numbers of skaters over the years.

Martin envisioned that, with Mascoma Valley residents traveling Route 4 to jobs at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Dartmouth College, Hypertherm and FujiFilm, the location was strategically placed to entice dog owners who wanted to drop off their beloved on their morning commute and then pick up their wagging tail on the way home at night.

COVID-19, however, threw a bone into the business plan.

With people working from home, or stranded at home because they are out of a job, or wary of traveling and thus removing the need for boarding, there is diminished demand for pet-sitting services, Martin said.

“People are home and they want to be with their dog; that’s understandable,” Martin said.

As a result, Martin said he had to curb hours he is open to three days a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Martin has tried to sell the property before — “the difference this time is I’ve got a broker and I’m not trying to sell it myself” — but many thought the $1.2 million asking price at the time was a bit steep.

Martin said he and his wife, Diane, “are both 70. Life’s too short, so let’s give someone a chance where we left off.”

As for what use the property could be put to — it is zoned as a community business district — Martin said if a buyer did not want to continue with a dog kennel, then it could be easily re-converted back into a skating rink.

“I still have 1,000 skates, at a minimum, in the store room,” he said.

Alternately, the cavernous structure could be utilized for a business that appears always to be in demand in the Upper Valley, at least based upon the number that have sprouted in recent years.

“I hear there’s a need for storage space,” Martin speculated.

Throw a hungry reporter a news treat. Contact him at jlippman@vnews.com.

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