October 17, 2017

Aziz, Mike, and Fred, and what they’ve accomplished

By John Guy LaPlante

with 2 photos

Fountain Valley, CA – This is the story of three brothers–the Malvey boys. Aziz  is 50, Mike is 49, and Fred is 36.

Aziz, in white, and Mike Malvey in front of the business they created from scratch--the biggest commercial vehicle business in this great big section of California. Younger brother Fred couldn.t make it for the photo unfortunately.

Aziz, in white, and Mike Malvey in front of the business they created from scratch–the biggest commercial vehicle business in this big section of California. Younger brother Fred couldn’t make it for the photo unfortunately.

They own and operate FamVans, the used truck and van business where I bought my 2002 Ford van.  You know, the van that I converted into a nice little one-person camper for myself, the one I’ve been crossing and re-crossing the country in for the last year.  With even a side trip up to Quebec.

In fact, I’m writing this in its “living room,” which is barely 6 by 8 feet. But it feels so much smaller because I’ve packed in so much stuff.  It also doubles as my kitchen. And my bedroom.

But it’s practical and cozy. I love it. I couldn’t make these challenging trips of thousands of miles without it.

Aziz and Mike got into the business in their late teens.  They were both in college, but to pay for that, they worked their tails off.

Two ways. They’d come up with enough cash to buy an old car or truck and then find someone to sell it to.  And on Saturdays, they’d set up a stand at a big flea market and sell stereo stuff.

The brother I know best is Mike.  He sold me my van.

He recalls, “We were just kids.  We had an old van to carry our stereo stuff back and forth to the flea market. One day a fellow dealer at the market offered to buy it.

“Well, we sold the van to him, and at a nice little profit.  Well, we managed to sell a few vans. And we’d sell a car now and then, too.”

Then, bad luck. Their dad died, leaving behind the three boys and two daughters.  The family was far from rich.  What to do?  Aziz and Mike quit college and began selling cars full-time.

“Know what? Whenever we picked up a van, before long we’d find a customer for it.  Vans sold faster than cars! And that’s how we got into this business.

“Vans became our specialty. Then we expanded to trucks of all kinds. I mean all kinds–panel trucks, cargo trucks, dump trucks, tank trucks, specialty plumber’s or electrician’s trucks, refrigerated trucks, you name it.

His brother Aziz had a point to make. “Of course, often we help with the financing, too. That’s important for some buyers.”

That tiny enterprise, started 21 years ago, has grown into FamVans. Along the way, their brother Fred came aboard.

They are the biggest dealer of used vans in Orange County here, which is a big county.  And maybe Los Angeles County.

They are not sure about that, so they don’t push it.“We don’t want to do anything that might be untrue advertising.” Mike told me.

I thought FamVans stood for Family Vans.  It made sense. Wrong. Fam stands for Fred, Aziz, and Mike.

Aziz is the president and does the buying, Mike handles the service department, and Fred the parts.  It’s not a strict division of effort. They fill in for one another, or jump in to give a hand, whenever necessary. I dealt with Mike from start to finish.

They have a big operation. That photo gives you an idea. The main building has 34,000 square feet , and their lot is always filled with inventory.

“We carry at least 200 vans and trucks on hand all the time. They take up every square foot we’ve got.”

For lack of room,  Fred’s parts department is set up in a big building a mile away. It’s called FamVans Parts.

I’ve been there. The inventory is amazing. Everything from a light bulb and a front bumper to a complete engine. Used, rebuilt, or new. Plus a huge list of accessories. He can supply just about anything imaginable.

They declined to talk numbers but I am sure they sell at least one vehicle a day, and often two or three. My guess is a thousand a year.

It is surprising how many repeat customers they have. A plumber, say, will buy a vehicle, then bring it in for service. Then he’ll come in for a bigger or newer van or truck. And so it goes.

Aziz said, “Our buyers like to buy used vehicles because they save a lot of money up front in the purchase, plus on insurance and taxes.  They’re sharp! They’ve got all that figured out.”

I’m not particularly sharp but that’s how I figured it, too. My van cost me $4,900. Remember, it’s a 2002. A new one would have cost me $25,000, even more, and it would have depreciated more than $4,900 in the first year, for sure.

And at my age, how long will I be gallivanting around this way? Maybe another two or three if I’m lucky….

You probably noticed that all the vans and trucks seen in that photo are white. I wondered about that. I asked Mike.

“White is the most popular color by far.  Most of these vehicles are going to have something painted on them. You know, the name of a business and other info, plus graphics. White is perfect as a starter.

“But If you want one  black or green, we’ll get one for you and sell it to you right. Not a problem.” He laughed. “Pink?  Well, we’ll get it painted pink for you!”

One day at their popcorn machine in the lobby–I love popcorn and munch happily whenever I stop in–I asked one of their ace salespeople, “”Where the heck do you find all these vehicles?”

“That comes up often. The majority are lease returns. Sometimes a fleet operator will want to upgrade. Some come to us as trades. We buy others at auction, or from banks, or from somebody’s estate.

“We’re always looking, looking, looking.  We make sure they’re basically sound and haven’t been in a major accident. Then our mechanics check them out and do whatever they have to do.

“Oh, we tell every buyer to give the vehicle a good try. And if he has any doubts, to take it to a mechanic or dealer for a thorough checking and ask for a report. They can show us the report and we’ll take it from there.”

That was my case. I didn’t know a mechanic here so they sent it to a Ford dealer. I saw the detailed report. Everything got checked off OK. I was impressed.

I came back after a year with thousands of additional miles on my van because I wanted it thoroughly inspected. They found some things had to be fixed. About $600 worth. I feel I got my money’s worth.      Besides, I got to make more visits to that popcorn machine. Just kidding!

By the way, I’m not writing this as an ad or a commercial. I’m not getting paid for this. I wish I were. Again, just kidding! I’m writing it because I think it’s a good story worth telling–three brothers who made a go of it–a big go of it–in a dog eat dog business!

In my experience with FamVans, I’ve gotten to see that the three Malley boys get along fine. In fact, they like one another.

This is unusual in my experience.  When a family works in a family enterprise, the inevitable business pressures can bruise and fracture the blood relationship.

I’ve seen that happen.

Now there’s more news. In just a few days, FamVans is going to  expand again.

“We’ve moved 11 times,” I remember Mike telling me once.”

Well, now the service department is moving to a new building less than half a mile away.

“Things were getting too squeezed here.  So we did what we had to do.”

I went and took a look at it. Huge. Two or three times bigger, I’d say. The sign company was installing the big FamVans Service sign. Inside, a big box truck was unloading a huge load of things from the old service department. One of quite a few loads.

My mechanic, Antonio…who is terrific, by the way…was putting up rugged steel shelving in his big corner. The department will be in full service very soon.

As I see it, the day may come when FamVans will legitimately be able to say they’re the biggest in both Orange County and Angeles County, too. Maybe all of southern California

Remember, run by boys who lost their dad and had to keep the family going. How about that?

~ ~ ~

 

Comments

  1. Joan Perrone says:

    Wonderful human interest story. I’m glad that your van has worked out well for you, and that you can go back to them if you have any issues. They sound like they are honest businessmen, and that is hard to find these days.

    Very rainy here; but it’s better than snow! In fact, the rain finally melted down a snowbank in my front yard that had buried a plastic snowman and some artificial pine trees from Christmas. We finally were able to get them out today….just in time to put un Easter decorations. LOL

    Should get into the 50s around Wed. Can’t wait!!!!

    I have been busy with directing a musical Passion Play at St. Ann’s Church in Avon. The play was last night, and all went well. Now I can relax and concentrate on my other activities….and get back to blogging. 🙂

    Joan

  2. Lucie Fradet says:

    Great success story! Thanks!

  3. Nancy Simonds says:

    Nice, honest guys. Nice vans. Great story about a great business and how it should operate. You’re kind of nice, too. Thanks for the wonderful stories. Keep on vanning!!! If that ole vehicle needs help, you know where to go to have any of its problems remedied – :->) !

    Be well, John –
    ~ Nancy

  4. Hi John,

    Another great article — thanks!

    Andrew

Speak Your Mind

*