Reposted with permission from the Hobbs News Sun.CURTIS C. WYNNE | NEWS-SUN
Business diversity guides the Kassis family, initiating stores in Hobbs and branching out to nearby communities for 21 years.
Nadeem Kassis was 22 years old in 1999 when he first saw an opportunity and asked his parents to back him financially. In turn, he named them partners in his business, which eventually became plural businesses.
“I started ZK Express in 1999, about 21 years ago. That was an oil change business on Bender,” Kassis said. “We have now purchased that property, demolished that building and started our Tornado Wash No. 4 on that site. We did a full circle and ended up getting that same site and we’re building on it.”
It will be the second Tornado Wash in Hobbs, with the other two already in Carlsbad and Odessa. Tornado Wash No. 5 is set for groundbreaking in Lovington later this month. Each of those are construction projects bringing about $1 million to the local economy.
Carwashes are far from the only business Kassis operates.
Kassis Companies serves as an umbrella for 13 corporations involving Nadeem Kassis’ father and his brother, as well as his wife and himself owning some of the entities outright.
His wife, Cindy, said while reviewing plans for Space Jump, a trampoline park the couple hopes to open next year on North Grimes Street, “When we come up with new business ideas, we always want to do something that’s going to benefit the community. That’s one need we saw. There’s not a lot to keep kids entertained, active, out of the house, off the TV and off their phones.”
Hopefully after the Covid-19 pandemic lets up, the Kassis family plans for the Space Jump to be a place for family gatherings.
“We thought this would be a good opportunity to give the kids someplace to have birthday parties. I think it would be great for church group, youth group and family gatherings,” Cindy Kassis said.
Early on, the Kassis Company went into renting billboard space in the county.
“We have 11 advertising billboards, six of which are digital,” Nadeem Kassis said. “Then we opened our second Auto Spa on Dal Paso.”
“It is a family owned company, but the dynamic is each corporation is owned differently, and I am the CEO and president of the entire corporation,” Kassis said.
All of the companies keep growing, Kassis said, with more than 250 employees to be on the payrolls by the end of this year, up from the current approximately 145 workers throughout the collection of companies.
“Right now, my wife and I have a company called Property Management Plus. We are commercial and residential development company. We’re building homes in Hobbs. We’re on our 11th home,” Kassis said.
In addition, the company recently purchased seven lots in Lovington on which they plan to start seven homes.
“Property Management Plus also has just purchased some land in Lovington and an old dilapidated building and we’ve turned that to a retail center, a plaza,” Kassis said. “We have four different retail units there.”
In partnership with his brother Jack, Kassis co-owns a company called Cap Investment Group.
“It’s another investment company that builds retail centers. We put Firehouse Subs within those retail units,” Kassis said. “We’re building a second one in Roswell as we speak, another Firehouse Subs. We’re building a second phase in Hobbs, about a 4,200-square-foot facility with a donut store in it.”
Property Management Plus company also buys homes to fix up and flip.
“We have a couple of those going on right now,” Kassis said. “We have quite a few things going right now.”
After adding a Tornado Car-wash in Odessa, Kassis put his third Tornado Carwash in Carlsbad where he now plans to build a Firehouse Subs following completion of the subs restaurant in Roswell.
The business growth continues, but it hasn’t always been roses.
“About seven or eight years ago, we’d just built ZK Express Lube, our main store. It was only two years old, and we had a machine in the back that we used to spray bed-liners with. It imploded in the middle of the night, burned down our entire facility, brand new,” Kassis said.
“We held it together. We figured out what to do. We only shut down for 24 hours. We started changing oil again with generators and hand invoices,” Kassis remembered. “That really set us back. It took us about seven months to repair all the damage from the fire. We kept going from there.”
At the time of the fire, the company was also building its first Tornado Wash.
“That was a big setback for us, but due to the grace of God, we got through it and we’re moving along,” Kassis sees the positive side of the event. “We don’t have any intention of slowing down at this point. We’re going to keep expanding in all of our companies.”
He concluded with appreciation for the community’s support.
“We spend a lot of money bringing these innovative services and products to Hobbs and we really appreciate that the town of Hobbs and surrounding towns support us. That’s what keeps us financially able to continue to grow things,” Kassis concluded.
Growth in Hobbs retail businesses depends a great deal on developers, many of who keep checking out the local market.
Steve Lyon, an Albuquerque-based Pegasus Group commercial real estate broker, has been working the Hobbs area market for about six years.
“For years, our company has been trying to do a retail project in Hobbs. We started at the Cushion and Seed property across from Walmart at County Road 66A and North Lovington Highway,” Lyon reviewed his history in Hobbs. “Then we went across the street to see if we could take over the Hawkins project which is over there north of the Super Walmart and the Holiday Inn Express.”
“So, I’ve been working in your city probably six years or longer, trying to help new tenants get to the market in what we thought was going to be a ground-up development along the Loving-ton Highway,” Lyon said.
Although some potential tenants have come to look at the North Lovington Highway properties, and some seemed interested, little happened with it.
Finally, when K-Mart closed and a Pegasus Group client bought the building, more firm prospects came available.
“Then, there was a retailer shakeout over these years and it became reasonable to take an old K-Mart building and renovate it and put in some of these retailers that still want to be in Hobbs,” Lyon said. “The good news is over all this time and effort, Marshalls wants to be there at the K-Mart, and Ross Dress for Less, and Famous Footwear and PetSmart, four different retailers in that 92,000 square foot building.”
Lyon said there still is space left over he’s working on leasing.
“We still have some leasing to do, so if someone is interested, we’re interested in talking to them,” he said. “We have some shop space; you might say we have some from 2,000-to-12,000 square feet available. I have a restaurant that’s interested. They’re interested in about 3,500 square feet. That would go on the north end facing West Bender.”
A total remodel of the former K-Mart store is set to begin in September, to take about six months, after which the tenants could finish out the interior. There were no cost estimates for the remodel, but projects of the size typically can run $2-5 million.
“Probably March or April for delivery to the tenants and they could open in late Spring, if all goes as planned,” Lyon said.
“I think it will be fantastic for Hobbs and the surrounding communities. Hobbs is the support center for miles around. I don’t think the populace thinks twice about driving 30 minutes to go to eat or shop or play in your town,” Lyon said. “The immediate trade area is in that half-hour drive and there are people that come farther distances because Hobbs is the closest with this kind of shopping.”
In addition to the K-Mart building, Lyon said his company has a pad site next to CVS Pharmacy on North Grimes where a lead tenant, T-Mobile, has signed a lease.
“We have another tenant that’s in the works. We’re finalizing that lease next week, so we’re very close on that one,” Lyon said. “That’s going to be a ground-up development, 5,200 square feet up front of North Grimes.”
Another big project on North Lovington Highway was abandoned so a developer purchased the 8.74 acres, various plans are in the works, including current construction of Texas Roadhouse at the corner of Magnolia and North Lovington.
“Part of the deal was to bend Magnolia to cut through part of the property. (The developer) is paying for part of the road; the city is paying for the rest,” Lyon said. “A new stoplight is going to go in at the new Magnolia and North Lovington with Texas Roadhouse on the corner. Then we have a couple of pad sites up front in line with the Texas Roadhouse.”
He concluded, “We have room for up to 35,000 (square) feet in back because the acreage goes deep. So, we’re looking for a larger user to go into the rear of the property. We have not figured that out, yet.”
THE RETAIL COACH
Aaron Farmer, president of The Retail Coach based in Austin, Texas, began working with the Economic Development Corporation of Lea County just a few months ago to help bring in more retail business.
“Hobbs is obviously a regional draw and even with the oil and gas going down, the retail potential still looks good,” Farmer said. “We’re in the process of talking to retailers, restaurants and developers about coming to Hobbs.”
He told the News-Sun on Friday one new restaurant will be coming to the south side of Hobbs in the near future, with paperwork already signed.
“We know of another restaurant that will be coming in, a sit-down casual restaurant,” Farmer added, declining to name either of the two new restaurants because the businesses were not yet ready for publication.
“Even with COVID-19 corona-virus going on, a lot of these prospects are still making deals, maybe taking a month or two longer than it typically does to close, but in Hobbs, things are still happening,” Farmer said. “I didn’t mention a name because we’re not ready to announce those yet.”
Farmer said his work involves not just Hobbs, but the whole county.
“We were in Lea County in the June 6 time period,” during which he visited Lovington, Tatum, Jal and Eunice as well as Hobbs. “We actually see a lot of opportunity in each of the communities. (Although opportunities are limited in smaller towns), we think there are some opportunities from a retailer and restaurant standpoint. We’re already talking to some prospects for Lovington, as well.”
He pointed out many of the retailers and restaurants his company is approaching are franchises always looking for locals who want to franchise a business.
“If somebody wants to open up a franchise, they should contact the EDCLC,” Farmer said. “We’re big believers that in order to have a strong community, you have to have a healthy mix of local, regional and national retailers and restaurants. That’s really what we’re trying to do, put together that health mix.”
Farmer pointed out that retail recruitment is a process, not something that happens overnight.
“Retail is going to come to Lea County, but you have to continue to recruit and be diligent at recruiting the prospects,” Farmer concluded. “The one thing that’s positive is we’ve got prospects. We have people that are interested in Lea County. There are two restaurants coming. We’re just not ready to mention their names yet.”