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Clear Creek Golf Cars drives into new territories

Kansas is newest area of focus for the Ozark-based company

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While the majority of Clear Creek Golf Car and Vehicles LLC’s long history kept its territory in Missouri, the Ozark-based company in recent years is swinging into new states.

The footprint for the 41-year-old seller of electric- and gas-powered golf and utility vehicles has now expanded to Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. The latter two states came about over the past 12 months – first with an expansion into Oklahoma through the March 2023 purchase for undisclosed terms of Oklahoma City-based Justice Golf Car. In February, Clear Creek purchased the territory rights to 67 counties in Kansas from Mexico, Missouri-based M&M Golf Cars LLC. As part of the deal, Clear Creek took over the M&M Golf Cars retail center in Andover, Kansas, east of Wichita.

Sandwiched in between those deals was Clear Creek’s acquisition of a local competitor, Ozark Golf Cars and Utility Vehicles. The deal that closed Jan. 15 for undisclosed terms brought Ozark Golf Cars owner Spencer King and his team of eight employees on board.

The transactions are part of a growth plan for Clear Creek, which moved in 2022 to an Ozark headquarters from its longtime Springfield home. CEO Brian Cheever, a 25-year employee who was president in 2019 when he and investor Jerry Marti bought the business, said in that year the company employed 19. Today, the number has jumped almost 600% to 132 employees.

“There are times during the last three to four years where our heads have been spinning,” Cheever said of the company growth, adding its first out-of-state acquisition was three years ago in Little Rock, Arkansas. “The good news is that it gets easier each time we make an acquisition or add another location, because we’ve been through the process a time or two now.”

Cheever said some of the company’s deals have been self-funded, while others have had outside financing.

Officials say demand for golf carts boosted revenue to record highs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The company hit a then-record $17 million in 2020, only to see it smashed the next year with $29 million. While Cheever declined to disclose revenues for 2022 and 2023, he said the record continues to be broken. He said 2023 revenue finished 36% above the prior year.

“If we hit the number that we’re striving for this year, it’d be another 30%,” he said of projected growth, adding that will include the first full year of sales from Oklahoma.

Aside from Marti and Cheever, Clear Creek’s ownership team comprises Justin Fraker, who serves as company president, and Shawn Anderson, who is based out of Oklahoma City and is president of Oklahoma and Kansas operations.

Growth strategy
With last month’s Kansas deal, Clear Creek now has 12 locations among its four-state territory.

“There is certainly strategy involved with placement of locations and deciding what markets we want to be in,” Cheever said. “We typically look for one of two things: a thriving business where we can add resources to help take the business to another level, or a business that we see in a good market that is underachieving and we feel we can turn it around and get it healthy.”

Regarding the purchase of Justice Golf Car, Cheever said the Oklahoma business was a good example of a thriving and well-run venture that Clear Creek could add resources to and enhance. The M&M acquisition was an instance of what local officials considered an underperforming business in which they see a lot of upside. All three of the companies are Club Car brand distributors.

“Our business is very scalable and that is one of the things that has enabled us to be in a wide variety of market sizes, ranging from a town of 4,300 like Lamar to a market as big as Oklahoma City,” he said.

The company’s growth also necessitated a relocation two years ago, Cheever said.

The company purchased the former Youngblood Powersports building in Ozark for undisclosed terms.

“We had been busting at the seams at our previous location in Springfield and began looking at commercial properties that were listed in and around Springfield. We found one or two that we debated, but they simply did not check all the boxes,” he said, noting the property deal also included the rights to sell brands such as Kawasaki and Yamaha that were purchased from Youngblood. “It’s been everything we hoped it would be, and it is absolutely the perfect location for us in the Springfield market.”

While Cheever said the powersports vehicles, which include all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles, are currently sold only out of the Ozark store, that segment is contributing about 6% of the company’s retail sales.

The company earlier this month opened its 12th location in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, that he said would be large enough to accommodate powersports vehicles.

“We’re pushing more resources towards it,” he said. “We’ve reached out to a couple of our vendors that we carry here in Springfield to see if there’s any possibility of adding those lines there. And we’d like to add them in some other areas if the opportunity presented itself.”

On board
After running Ozark Golf Cars for nearly two decades, King, 40, is now part of Clear Creek’s leadership team.

“We didn’t want to pressure Spencer, or ourselves, by assigning a role or title to him too quickly, so we decided to take the pressure off, and let him get acclimated to Clear Creek by letting him participate in a lot of different things within our company for the first month or two,” Cheever said, adding the company settled on creating a project manager position for him.

“He has a running list of projects that we delegate to him. Those projects can literally fall into any area of our business,” Cheever said, adding those include service, sales, rentals, location and business development.

King said via email he worked briefly alongside Cheever at Clear Creek around 20 years ago when he was attending Missouri State University.

“I consider myself lucky to be able to continue that relationship with him,” King said, noting finding a better work-life balance was at the top of the list for selling his business. “Clear Creek Golf Car has provided this and more, while allowing me to continue to work in an area where I excel.”

Keeping pace
The growth of golf cart sales took off for Clear Creek amid the pandemic, but officials are optimistic the ongoing desire for their products is strong. A 2022 report from Allied Market Research says the global golf cart market size that year generated over $1.1 billion and is projected to surpass $2 billion by 2032. 

“In our business, we’ve learned that there is no one single target audience, and if we did narrow our thinking that way, we’d most certainly miss opportunities,” Cheever said. “The obvious application is golfers and golf courses, but there are so many other uses for golf cars, especially when you couple that with the fact that we offer a wide variety of vehicle options beyond the standard 2-passenger golf car.”

The golf course portion of Clear Creek’s business remains its bread and butter, he said, but golf carts have become popular for neighborhood use and in the many towns that have made them street legal.

“The biggest area of our growth has been the individual retail customer buying a golf car for their lake home, the neighborhood, the farm, etc.,” he said. “We’ve had families buying a golf car so that their 14- or 15-year-old kid can learn to drive a golf car before they get behind the wheel of a car. On the flip side, we’ve had 80-plus year-old customers who can no longer drive a car purchase a golf car so that they can maintain some freedom and mobility.”

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