Car dealer closes 23rd Street location as part of new plan; a self-storage business with a twist

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

The Auto Exchange location at 23rd and Haskell closed in October of 2018 after the company opened a new service center on 25th Street. The dealership continues to operate its retail location at 33rd and Iowa streets.

My wife mutters about trading up all the time, which I assume means she is looking for a new vehicle. She now has one less option on 23rd Street.

Several readers have asked what is going on with the Auto Exchange used-car lot at 23rd and Haskell. It indeed has closed, but the company has not. Natalie Duncan, comptroller for Lawrence’s Auto Exchange, told me the 23rd Street closure was part of a plan to actually expand the company’s service department.

Auto Exchange has long had a car lot at 33rd and Iowa, and that location remains open. It now is the only location where the company is selling cars. Duncan said the company decided to close the 23rd and Haskell location after it completed improvements at 1200 E. 25th St. That location — which is in kind of a hidden industrial area a couple blocks southeast of 23rd and Haskell — has become the business’s new service center.

“We are looking to grow that part of our business more,” Duncan said.

photo by: Submitted photo/Auto Exchange

Auto Exchange recently completed a total remodel of its service center at 1200 E. 25th Street.

The company has had a service department for about a year and a half, but it primarily was geared toward the customary inspections, repairs and other improvements used-car dealerships do to get their vehicles ready to sell. The new location on 25th Street gives the company a lot more room to do auto repairs of all types, Duncan said. She said the company is now doing work for individuals and also is set up to do some commercial fleet service work.

Matt Heidrich, managing partner for Auto Exchange, said the company did a complete remodel of the building on 25th Street. It now has eight service lifts and employs three ASE certified master mechanics. The property also has a large storage lot helps the company boost its inventory. He said such off-site storage location are becoming more important as traditional brick-and-mortar retail locations for car dealers become less important.

“The Amazon effect has taken full hold in the car business,” Heidrich said. “You have one outlet where they can come and sign the paperwork, but you have another location where you can warehouse lots of cars.”

As for the 23rd and Haskell location, plans are up in the air. The company will continue to house a few vehicles there, but Auto Exchange plans to eventually lease the space to another tenant.

“I’ve already had four calls on it,” Heidrich said.

Also, it looks like we should keep an eye on the location just west of the former Auto Exchange lot. It looks like some remodeling work is underway in the former Lawrence Pawn & Jewelry location. The pawn business moved across the street to the shopping center on the southwest corner of 23rd and Haskell about two years ago, and its old building has been empty ever since. No word on what, if anything may be happening at that location, which actually is connected to the large self-storage lot just northwest of 23rd and Haskell.


While we are talking about 23rd Street businesses, here is one other note for you. A longtime 23rd Street business owner wants to expand upon the trend of self-storage businesses along the corridor. But his plan has a twist. Instead of just renting a unit, you could actually own one.

James Brady, who owns the Advantage Medical Group at 1104 E. 23rd St., has filed plans to expand a small self-storage business that he already operates on that property. As I’ve reported recently, self-storage is a big trend in Lawrence, with new projects at 23rd and Harper, 23rd and Ousdahl, and even one in the old Oread Research Park west of Wakarusa Drive.

But unlike those projects, which either are constructing new buildings or remodeling existing ones, Brady has a different idea. He’s going to use portable, metal storage containers. They kind of look like a small railroad box car without the wheels. You’ve probably seen them on construction sites before with brand names like SiteBox on the side.

The containers travel all over the world on cargo ships, but Brady used one of the containers to store records from his business years ago. When the records became digitized, he quickly had someone offer to rent the container to store stuff. The idea for a business was born. He’s had a few of the units on the property for years but now has filed plans with City Hall that would allow for 57 of the portable storage units.

One of the elements Brady finds appealing about the storage containers is they are portable. That means the business can create a rent-to-own plan for people. In other words, you could rent the storage unit, but after a certain number of months, you would own the unit. That could be advantageous if you ever decide to move.

Instead of unloading the storage unit and putting the contents on a moving truck, you could simply pay to have the entire storage unit moved to a new location. Yes, that easily could cost several hundred dollars or more depending on the length of the move. It also would require you to find another place to set the unit in your new location. (No dear, that is not a storage unit in the backyard. It is an industrially designed gazebo.) But Brady thinks finding a storage yard that will accept the containers may become easier in the future as more storage companies move to the portable concept.

We’ll see whether that becomes a trend. We’ll also see whether Brady’s storage plans get approved by the city. They’ve been pending at City Hall for quite a while. When I talked with Brady a few weeks ago, he said he hadn’t yet gotten approval for the plans, in part because he’s trying to convince the city to let him set the storage units on a gravel lot instead of a concrete area.


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