History of Autogeek.net
Autogeek.net has been a leading source of auto detailing products and accessories for more than 13 years. But the Autogeek story really starts in 1984 when owner and operator Bob Max McKee moved from Seaside Heights, New Jersey to South Florida and opened an auto accessory store.
After Max graduated college, he spent 15 years as a concessionaire on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, owning and operating six concession stands. When he relocated to Florida, Max took the opportunity to buy into an auto accessory store franchise called The Driver s Seat. The Driver s Seat had locations in West Palm Beach and Boca Raton, and Max opened his store in Jupiter. Over the years, as his business grew, Max opened two more stores in Stuart and Boynton Beach. Max s ownership at the Driver s Seat helped him build the strong relationships with manufacturers that would later become the backbone of Autogeek.net.
Max owned and operated the Driver s Seat stores until 1997 when he invited Jeff Berish to become the managing partner of day-to-day operations in the stores, while Max maintained ownership. Then in 2007, as the responsibilities with Palm Beach Motoring Accessories (PBMA) grew, Max sold all his interest in the Driver s Seat to Jeff.
PBMA was founded in 1997 as a catalog company catering to car enthusiasts. Since Max had inventory and the vendor relationships already established, it was a natural transition into a mail order business. The first catalog featured some of the same products found at Autogeek.net today. An online version of the catalog, PBMA-FL.net, was launched in 1997. PBMA was then operated out of a 1000 sq. ft. retail space in Stuart, Florida.
PBMA struggled the first year. Max had to downsize to just 400 sq. ft. in the back of his Boynton Beach Driver s Seat store. PBMA couldn t yet sustain itself as a stand-alone business. It was there that Max met Jason, who was working across the street. Jason was computer-savvy and shared Max s interest in cars. He came to work for Max in 1998.
2000 was the turning point for the company. Instead of PBMA-FL.net, the company website became Autogeek.net. The catalogs were printed under the Autogeek name starting in 2001, while the parent company retained the name Palm Beach Motoring. The Autogeek name caught on. From there, Autogeek accelerated quickly. Customers liked the ease of access and variety of products Autogeek carried thanks to Max s connections made through The Driver s Seat.
A few short years later, catalogs had been eclipsed by the Internet. The website allowed a virtually limitless inventory and the ultimate convenience for customers. But Max saw even greater potential. He wanted to combine the brick and mortar experience with the convenience of mail order. If he could provide customers with the same insight and care they receive in a store via the internet, Autogeek.net would offer the best of both worlds. The company was still operating out of the Boynton Beach store, but business was growing rapidly.
In 2002, Max and Jason moved to a 1,000 sq. ft. space in Stuart. Autogeek.net s inventory was almost entirely on site, so order turnaround was fast. Jason pinpointed ways to expand the site s presence online and make Autogeek a recognizable brand. Max was constantly building Autogeek s selection of car care products. In 2003, Meghan was hired as the photographer and customer service representative.
Soon, it was time to expand. Max bought the space next door and joined the two to form a 2,000 sq. ft. office and warehouse. Four small rooms in the front housed all the administrative, creative and customer service departments. The back was entirely devoted to order fulfillment and shipping. Autogeek was completely run by a staff of five, including Max. In 2004, PBMA ceased printing catalogs and Autogeek became 100% internet-based.
By the end of 2004, Autogeek.net was in full swing. A designated order fulfillment staff had been hired, as well as a bookkeeper, a copywriter, marketing director, graphic artist, and more customer service representatives. Max s philosophy was to build a talented in-house staff to foster a spirit of teamwork and maintain a high level of quality in everything we do. Autogeek continued at a steady pace of building inventory and developing its position on the web as a resource for car enthusiasts. Max s idea of more information and exceptional customer service was proving to be successful.
Along the way, Max expanded PBMA s umbrella to include import, export, wholesale, and manufacturing divisions. PBMA s brands include Pinnacle Natural Brilliance, Wolfgang Concours Series, Detailer s Pride, Diamondite Glass Plastic Care Systems, and Cobra, our premium imported microfiber.
In 2006, we undertook two projects that would define Autogeek. AutogeekOnline.net, our own car detailing forum, was launched in March 2006. It was a new way to answer customers questions about our products and facilitate conversations between people who share a common hobby. With Meghan moderating, AGO became a thriving online community.
The other first in 2006 was Detail Fest. Autogeek s first Detail Fest drew 12 people, mostly longtime customers and forum members. Max ordered pizza and our guests spent the afternoon detailing their cars. It gave little indication of what Detail Fest would become.
In late 2006, Autogeek.net moved to a 5,000 sq. ft. warehouse on Ellipse Way in Stuart, just down the street from the site of Autogeek s current home. For the next year and a half, Autogeek s new building was constructed while the company grew into and then out of the temporary space. Max had to rent an additional 3,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space while construction was delayed.
Finally in 2008, Max took ownership of Autogeek s new 15,000 sq. ft. building just in time for the 3rd Annual Detail Fest. The empty building housed all the vendors and displays while the car show took place outside. Detail Fest had turned a corner.
2009 was another year of growth for Autogeek.net. Following a biggest-ever Detail Fest, Mike Phillips, formerly of Meguiars, joined the Autogeek team. Mike s talent for teaching played a key role in expanding Autogeek s detailing library to include videos. Autogeek now offers customers a full multi-media experience with online videos, articles, the Autogeek iPhone application, the AutogeekOnline.net forum, Twitter, and Facebook.
In a few short years, Autogeek s staff has grown from just Max to 25 to 30 employees at any one time. Max has purchased a permanent home for the company overlooking the Florida Turnpike. The distribution side of PBMA continues to flourish with distributors in 17 countries around the world.
In 2010, Autogeek is expanding into a 5,000 sq. ft. addition, bringing our total space up to 20,000 sq. ft. The new space includes the 1,600 sq. ft. Autogeek s Show Car Garage, complete with state-of-the-art video equipment, and classroom space for up to 30. The fully equipped garage is where Autogeek s Show Car Garage how-to videos are filmed. These instructional segments are currently airing on the Speed Channel.
On March 27-28, 2010, Autogeek held its 5th Annual Detail Fest Car Show. Detail Fest is our opportunity to bring together our vendors and our customers all the people who have become part of the Autogeek family. To all who attended Detail Fest and to all our customers, your support and input over the years have made us the company we are today. Thank you for being a part of Autogeek s story.