Business

Lexington vehicle upholsterer CoachCraft moves from longtime downtown location

Jonas Taulbee, left, Ruben Rodriguez, right work on a soft top on a vintage Triumph, at Coach Craft  which is  moving from their longtime Main Street home to Floyd Street in  mid-September  photographed  on Tuesday September 4, 2012 in Lexington, Ky.  Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Jonas Taulbee, left, Ruben Rodriguez, right work on a soft top on a vintage Triumph, at Coach Craft which is moving from their longtime Main Street home to Floyd Street in mid-September photographed on Tuesday September 4, 2012 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

CoachCraft, a decades-old small business in downtown Lexington, is moving out of the city center.

Effective Sept. 17, the company, which specializes in upholstery for vehicles and boats, will move from the east end of downtown to a larger location at 805 Floyd Drive, off Loudon Avenue.

"We enjoy and love the activity downtown here; it's going to be different over there in that sense," said Pete Bennett, who owns the business with his wife, Diane. "But it's a larger facility for our shop and has ample parking."

A downtown fixture since the early 1950s, CoachCraft handles upholstery, convertible tops, sunroofs and other accessories on vehicles, essentially most anything on the insides of cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles and boats. The company also does custom work like interiors for collectible vehicles, such as re-creations of the Scooby-Doo cartoons' psychedelic Mystery Machine van.

But the company sits on an unusual leased property. The building stretches directly to the edge of its property line, so CoachCraft's side exit door opens on to the adjacent property and uses an access road on that land.

When the adjoining property sold in recent years for a future redevelopment project, "we just didn't feel like we could take on another five-year lease, since there could be an end to our side exit," Pete Bennett said.

On top of that, parking has always been an issue for the company, which the Bennetts, the third set of owners, have operated since 1991.

"You've basically got five parking spaces, and that's our employees and us," Pete Bennett said. "On a good day, we'll run eight to 10 cars through here, and where do you put them?

"You've got to have safe available parking for that."

The Bennetts said they also worried what might happen if Main Street were converted from one-way to two-way traffic, as has been proposed. Their parking is directly in front of the location, requiring people to back out on to Main Street. There's also a utility pole in the way that's caused a handful of finished vehicles to lose a side mirror over the years.

"We hate leaving downtown, but it will be the same great customer service in a much larger facility," Diane Bennett said. "And it will be easier to get to."

The new leased space at 805 Floyd Drive is about a thousand square feet larger than the Main Street shop.

"It's just going to be easier to work within the facility," Pete Bennett said. "It won't be as cramped."

For instance, the couple and their employees do upholstery work on boats, but it's tough to accommodate them downtown.

"We did them, but it was more of a struggle than it will be at the new location," Diane Bennett said. "We'll be in a better position to gladly accept them and more than one at a time."

The site also has quadruple the parking, which means there is room to grow the work force.

"There's just no room here for them to park," Diane Bennett said.

It will also be pleasant news, they say, for customers like Scott Scutchfield, whose 1976 Triumph TR6 was getting a redone interior last week.

Scutchfield remarked that parking is always tight downtown and said CoachCraft's customers will follow them to their new location.

"They have the reputation of doing the best job," he said.

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