Marcus Carpenter, founder of Mecca Enterprises LLC, has made a name for himself in VIP tuning of high-performance exotic and foreign brands.
The name MECCA is an acronym that stands for “Marcus Edward Carpenter Can Achieve”-something he’s proven to be true since 1988.
“The name is pretty nifty when you really think of it,” says Carpenter. “A friend of mine thought it up. I switched my name to that and it’s been a powerful incentive for me. Every time I say the name, I put myself to task to make sure I do the right thing.”
The right thing at Mecca Enterprises, located in New Haven, Conn., is to provide exclusive auto accessories, wheels, tuning and performance parts for fine and exotic automobiles. Carpenter says his work and moral ethics spring directly from his Jamaican parents.
“I have a strong spiritual base and a very strong work ethic,” says Carpenter. “I’m Jamaican; my parents are Jamaican immigrants. I learned a lot from my dear old Mom and my Dad, God rest his soul. They taught me all of this stuff; they were in business in Jamaica.
“That background puts me to task to be innovative.”
The Finer Things
Innovation, determination and not a small amount of artistry makes Carpenter one of the few automotive performance shops able to find what others can’t.
“I started the business in 1988 and began as a mobile detailing service,” says Carpenter. “A year or so in, I showed a customer some photos of some BBS wheels and said they’d look nice on his Mercedes.
“I shocked him when I told him how much they would cost, but that was it,” he says. “He loved them. That sparked my accessories business. Ever since then, we switched our focus to sales of wheels, tires and specialty parts for automobiles. We don’t rule out anything, though our focus has been on Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, and Audi-fine automobiles.”
Carpenter learns and stays in front of trends and new products by making it the Mecca mission. Combining vision with diligent research, untold hours are spent in education and otherwise unearthing what exotic and fine-automobile owners are going to want next-oftentimes before the owners themselves realize it.
“We set trends,” he says, “in a variety of ways. We pay attention to the European and Asian markets. We always look for originality, and we continually bring those things to market. We search every single day, often several hours in the day, for the next trends to introduce.”
And in that determination to offer his customers distinctive add-ons and enhancements-including wheels, brakes, tuning and other performance and aesthetic upgrades-Carpenter’s been known to do things out of the ordinary.
“In 2003, we were the first to sell a set of a 22-inch wheels and tires for a sedan-a BMW 745,” he says. “We set the trends for wheel staggering. The back wheels are wider than the front, and, as far as we know, we were the first to introduce it on a customer’s car. I had a customer who was willing to take the risk of trying it. Some might say that if you have a fine car and the wheels are not staggered, you’re really not saying anything. It’s an aggressive stance; staggering makes the car look entirely different.”
A Good Team
Carpenter accomplishes all this automotive invention with a team he’s glad to have.
“Chris Tobia is our webmaster and always keeps us forward-thinking,” says Carpenter. “He’s truly our right-hand man, and he’s integral to the day-to-day operations at Mecca. And my cousin, Curtis Best, is Mecca’s marketing manager. He’s head of CT Xtremes Car Club and we link their website to Mecca’s.”
He also gives credit to his mother, wife Kym, and six children for keeping him motivated and inspired.
“I do this for my family’s legacy,” he says. “I strive to do the right thing every day.”
The shop is well known in the city that’s also the home of Yale University.
“For eight years, we’ve sponsored the largest outdoor car show in the region, the CT Xtremes Car Show at Gateway College on Long Warf in New Haven. The free event has featured musical guests over the years including Nina Sky and Joell Ortiz. We also sponsor another car and motorcycle show in the fall every year at Porter & Chester Institute that also includes participation from local musicians and local radio stations.”
Being a part of popular automobile events helps keep Mecca Motorsport front-and-center in customers’-and potential customers’-minds.
“For exposure purposes, those are excellent venues for us,” says Carpenter. “We also are one of the first companies to advertise in Dubai. There is a virtual auto mall, www.superdubaicars.com, that specializes in automobile sales and we are on their website. We are the first company from the U.S. to have a virtual shop that will be broadcast worldwide 24 hours a day from that site.”
Of course, that doesn’t beat recommendations from satisfied customers.
“Other than that, all of our business is from word-of-mouth,” he says. “That, and our website. People, over time, have heard about us and there’s been buzz about us that has increased throughout the years.”
Carpenter operates from a small facility with minimal inventory on hand, which allows Mecca to engage experts and keep operating costs low.
“Everything is unique and custom acquired,” Carpenter says of the majority of his performance projects. “Our paint and body work isn’t done here-”it’s subbed out to Bob Amendola of Autoworks of Westville. He’s been a friend and mentor for a long time and does all of our aerodynamics painting and installation.
“To lend to the exclusivity,” he adds, “everything is special-ordered. That way, you don’t have a customer coming in and saying, ‘I like those wheels,’ then someone else comes in and sees the same thing.”
Uniqueness, he explains, is what customizing is all about.
“I don’t offer the same style to every customer,” he adds. “There’s enough selection for everyone to have their own identity in car customizing. That’s been a powerful tool for me. I’m able to move a more exclusive product that can be more expensive, but it gives people the exclusivity they’re wanting.”
What’s Old is New
Not surprisingly, Carpenter has witnessed a few changes since he first began fine-automobile customization.
“It’s interesting,” he says. “Everything new is old and everything old is new.”
Take large-diameter wheels, for instance.
“It’s grown year after year, and that’s amazing,” he says. “When I started, the standard wheel size was 14 inches, and when you went plus-size it was to 17 inches. Today there are 32-inch wheels. Back when I started, you wouldn’t go bigger than 18. I think we’ve almost reached the end of that. The laws of physics don’t allow for much bigger.”
And while he deals with many of the latest high-tech automobiles, there’s still something to be said for a classic appearance to go with their high performance.
“Today’s fine automotive upgrades offer a lot of old-school styling,” says Carpenter. “And we like to keep those things in mind, such as color-coding. It’s nice aesthetically to paint wheels the same color as a car body. We’ve also learned that a lot of chrome wheels only work for certain vehicles. And today we sell a lot of lightweight alloys that are stronger and more rigid. That’s helpful with sports cars-you can go with a larger-diameter wheel.”
However, though Carpenter sees how the old-school has circled back around to be cool and new, he also notes that knowing how to truly deliver an exceptional and beautifully rendered vehicle to a fine-car owner requires expertise and time.
“We can set anyone’s car apart from anyone else’s,” he says, “because we have the experience and the wisdom. To be successful in this particular business, you have must have a love for it and lots of patience. Furthermore, everyone around you has to have patience.
“I had a minor situation today that wasn’t anyone’s fault,” he explains. “We ordered something and it didn’t arrive as promised and the customer wasn’t happy. But he knows it was not our fault. Through 24-plus years of experience, we have learned that the customer is always right, and we reassure them with our patience and professionalism.”
At the end of the day, Carpenter’s customers trust him to make their high-end vehicles even more special.
“Mecca is successful and our customer base grows and everyone knows us because we are the best,” he says. “We know more about more products, we’ve earned our stripes and we stay ahead of everyone else-including and especially the customer-all of the time.
“But we love it,” he adds. “And we’re patient and our customers are happy and thrilled and it has to be that way. A man and his car can be a volatile mix.”