TDmonthly Magazine!
May 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 5


Retailer Spotlight: Gramps' Garage

Warranty Shop Drives Business With Sales and Repairs

“Suddenly, everyone who owned these products had to come to us. This really gave us a boost.” Alice Pillivant, Gramps’ Garage
Laid off by Digital Equipment Corporation about a year apart, Garrett (Gary) Pillivant and his wife, Alice, experienced unexpected events that led to their becoming Power Wheels specialists, the couple told TDmonthly Magazine.


While between jobs, they wanted “a Barbie car” for their granddaughters, deeming the Power Wheels their older grandsons had too “boyish.” Gary, an engineer with an old-car restorations hobby, bartered with a toy-consignment shop-owner friend who had both a Power Wheels Jeep that needed repair and a Power Wheels Barbie Corvette: If Gary could fix the Jeep, he could have the Corvette.

Working on the repair, a frustrated Gary frequently called the Fisher-Price factory until someone said, “You seem to know as much about this as anybody. Did you ever think of becoming a service center?”

So he did, and the Pillivants established Gramps’ Garage in 1986 in Maynard, Mass.


Their initial idea of working from home proved impracticable. Their house wasn’t zoned for business. Also, Fisher-Price required photos of the shop, a copy of a business plan and other qualifying credentials.

Alice combined her native ingenuity with savvy learned in a State-sponsored entrepreneurial course, and arranged a test-run for their store. She negotiated a sub-lease with the toy-consignment shop and allocated a percentage of their profits to the owner as rent.

Owing to the Power Wheels’ large size, space became problematic within just a few months. The Pillivants moved their growing business next door.


In October 1998, Fisher-Price had a Power Wheels recall. The Pillivants heard the story break on national television just before going to their store. On arrival, they found the answering machine full. By January, they had four spiral-bound notebooks of people to call.

“Suddenly, everyone who owned these products had to come to us,” Alice told TDmonthly. “This really gave us a boost. “

Today, Gramps’ Garage does warranty work for Power Wheels purchased anywhere in the area, as well as their own sales.


The Pillivants structure Gramps’ Garage so that young customers can replicate elements of the adult-car shopping, purchase and maintenance experience.

The Pillivants look for such deals as end-of-year and discontinued models, closeout or “come on” sales at other retail outlets, such as big-box stores like Toys R Us, and similar deals that allow product acquisition at, and sometimes even below, cost. They then sell [and often re-sell] the vehicles at attractive prices. Gramps' Garage even takes trade-ins!

Power Wheels products make up 90 percent of sales at Gramps’ Garage, but toys in general form the other 10 percent.

Alice advises new toy retailers: “Watch the bottom line!”

To see some of the Pillivants’ best-selling Power Wheels items and other toys, read My Best Sellers: Gramps’ Garage.

Christine LebednikWriter's Bio: A professional writer/editor since 1984, Christine has spent much of her career in business and technical writing/editing. Her technical communications expertise is complemented by work developing curriculum materials for both print and on-line use in personnel training, and by work as both a software applications trainer and a writing skills tutor/one-on-one instructor. Read more articles by this author


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