Drive-In Swap Meet for Autos to Make a Debut

Jeff Rowe is a free-lance writer

If Mark Rodriguez has his way, hundreds of Orange County car owners will soon be cruising into the Anaheim Drive-In theater, and walking home.

On Nov. 1, Rodriguez will launch the Orange County Automart--booking it into the drive-in from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 1 and 2 and every weekend thereafter, he hopes.

Drive-in theaters long have been a hot spot for giant swap meets, generally featuring antiques, food, clothing and auto and motorcycle parts. But Rodriguez is the first to have proposed a swap meet featuring the entire vehicle, according to Tom Moeller, director of snack bar and swap meet operations for Pacific Theaters Corp., the Los Angeles-based owners of the three-screen Anaheim Drive-In, on Lemon Street just north of the Riverside Freeway.

First for Autos

Pacific, which has about 30 drive-in theaters in Southern California, operates general merchandise swap meets at eight facilities where it has been able to obtain permits, Moeller said, but the Anaheim effort will be its first auto swap meet.

A general merchandise swap meet will continue operating at the theater as well, with the automart located in the 350-car parking area for the theater's third screen.

Rodriguez's idea for an auto swap meet germinated several years ago when he tried to sell his car via a newspaper ad.

He got no response.

Rodriguez then parked his car in front of a shopping center with a sign on it and "sold it right away."

Last summer Rodriguez quit his job selling radar components, went to Europe and prowled through auto swap meets all over Germany.

'It Was Tough'

He returned to California, formed a company called National Automart and set off hacking his way through the paper work to make his idea a reality.

"It was tough," he said.

As countless entrepreneurs before him have discovered, Rodriguez found there is often a thicket of paperwork and a forest of bureaucracy between a good business idea and the reality of a new venture.

It took an often frustrating year of dealing with city officials before he was able to assemble all the necessary permits--and that, said Rodriguez, is the secret of what he hopes will be his success.

"So many people tell me 'yeah, I had that idea.' But having an idea and putting it into effect are two different things," he said. "There were so many obstacles I didn't think it would ever work."

But the first obstacles have been overcome, and Rodriguez now is anxiously awaiting Nov.1 to see if sellers and potential buyers think he has come up with a good idea.

Admission will be $10 for cars, $5 for motorcycles and $10 per space for displays of auto parts and accessories.

Shoppers Admitted Free

Rodriguez and Pacific will divide the fees on a percentage basis that neither would discuss, and the city will get 50 cents from the meet operator for each sales space used.

Shoppers will be admitted free, Rodriguez said.

Should the automart outgrow the 350-space theater lot, Rodriguez has arranged to expand to an adjacent lot.

Once the Orange County Automart is established, Rodriguez hopes to have special days several times a year for campers and boats, although, he said, "anything on wheels" can be driven or towed into the weekend automart.

And if the Anaheim venture is a success, Rodriguez plans to take his drive-in automart concept to the rest of the nation's swap meet aficionados--an audience Rodriguez perceives as hungry for such an opportunity to sell cars.

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