After spending four years in its Springfield warehouse, Creative Audio is expanding to Ozark with a new 25,000-square-foot warehouse early next year.
Owner Don Fleury says the company plans to hire 20 employees over the next five years to cover growth in Creative Audio’s retail stores, new services and its shipping and fulfillment departments. The company currently employs 45.
“We have a good area for hiring, and it’s a centralized location for distribution to all of our stores,” Fleury says.
He says Creative Audio wasn’t after another retail store – it already operates five – but wanted a high-visibility location since the warehouse will be branded under the name.
“This property offered unique north and south traffic,” Fleury says.
Fleury and his team held a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 16 for the new warehouse at 2151 Lakeland Drive along U.S. Highway 65 in Ozark. The new warehouse is estimated to cost $1.5 million, with Ozark-based Construction Processing Co. LLC serving as general contractor and Burns Architecture hired for the design work.
With the new location comes a new form of energy: solar.
“We’ve been looking at solar for about five years,” Fleury says. “It’s about a four-year payoff and after that, it generates savings.”
The company recruited current warehouse neighbor Sun Solar LLC for help.
“They had been looking to go solar and had a quote from a competitor,” says Sun Solar CEO Caleb Arthur. “Don came over and built a relationship with my dad, David. We’ve been super thrilled to build a partnership just from him coming over to talk to us.”
Creative Audio contracted with Sun Solar to cover the Ozark warehouse roof with solar panels for roughly $150,000, Fleury says.
Arthur says Sun Solar two months ago performed a solar installation on the Creative Audio store in Joplin.
Fleury estimates the energy savings from the panels in Ozark at about $12,000 per year.
“Between federal tax credits and new depreciation laws from the new tax cut, you can get 50-60 percent of total cost paid back to you,” Arthur says.
A knack for noise
Standing in the overcrowded north Springfield warehouse that will soon be vacant, Fleury recalls how Creative Audio was born.
Growing up in Pittsburg, Kansas, Fleury nurtured a love for mechanics helping his family.
“My parents had a RadioShack and I would install the stereos they sold out in the parking lot,” he says.
Fleury generated a following through his car audio work, even building a sound room in his parents’ store.
“The business wasn’t working out for RadioShack, but I had grown the car audio portion to support taking over their leases,” Fleury says. “So we took out RadioShack and turned it into Creative Audio.”
The company began in Pittsburg, then expanded in 1994 to downtown Joplin and again in 1997 to Sedalia. In 2001, he bought a building from Auto Air & Audio at 717 W. Sunshine St., which remains Creative Audio’s central store.
The most recent store was added in 2012 in Columbia, but it came with complications.
In the midst of the 2008 financial crisis, and on the same day his twins were being born, Fleury says funding fell through.
“The bank pulled out of the deal,” he says, noting he already had property contracts and construction estimates in hand. “It took two years of persistence going from bank to bank, then refinancing our existing debt and getting everything worked out to get that project financed.”
Sound your way
The desire of consumers to customize audio systems is the crux of Creative Audio’s business model.
“People aren’t happy with their factory sound,” Fleury says. “If they’re an audio person, they want to enhance the bass on the low end or increase vocals on the high end, or both. We do demonstrations for the customer to see what they want to enhance over what they have.”
Some customers, such as Rick’s Automotive, use Creative Audio for high-end technology replacements, such as TVs and DVD players, often in shuttle buses and limousines.
The business relationship between Creative Audio and Rick’s is nearing two decades, says Tim Fess, fleet manager at Rick’s.
“They’re our go-to for infotainment systems,” he says.
Fess says the most purchased items from Creative Audio are DVD/AM/FM units, along with monitors.
“I’ve been dealing with him for the last 17 years,” Fess says of working with Fleury. “We use them in a lot of our fleets. His product knowledge is exceptional.”
Creative Audio also offers window tinting, LED installations, vinyl graphics, remote start and subwoofer box fabrication.
Fleury says installation jobs and window tinting make up the largest segment, at about 30 percent of sales.
“It can be anywhere from the $300 to $500 range and then on up,” Fleury says of individual car systems. “A good audio system from soup to nuts runs about $2,000.”
Fleury says 20 percent of business comes from marine, ATV and outdoor patio and pool equipment, a steadily growing segment.
Declining to disclose annual revenues, he says Creative Audio is on track to grow by 20 percent this year.
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