CHANHASSEN, Minn. -- Great ideas can come from the smallest of notions. Bruno Silikowski's light-bulb moment arrived when he pulled in his driveway and found one of his kids using his Porsche as a bicycle kickstand. "And I said 'that is it; we've got to do something.'"
Over the past three years that something has blossomed into not only a thriving business, but a real community -- of cars and their owners.
"The entire campus -- it's a forty acre campus -- it's designed to look like an old European village," says Silikowski during a golf cart tour of the property.
Silikowski's "village" is currently made up of 120 garages housing a Beverly Hills assortment of Bentleys, Ferraris and classic muscle cars.
"I'm an ex-corporate guy myself, and I'd been thinking about this because I couldn't find anything like it," he said.
AutoMotorPlex is in essence a condominium complex for cars. Owners buy their garages but share a wall with their neighbors. Prices start at $40,000 for a small single stall, on up to $500,000. All of them start out bare bones, but most don't stay that way for long. Many owners install lofts with entertainment centers and fancy bathrooms.
"We just call it the garage, or the condo," explained Bob Krowech who purchased a garage in the complex with his wife Kris to house their Studebaker and vintage Chevy pickup.
Duane Saunders purchased space for a much larger collection after he retired and sold his business. "I've always had a passion for cars and this is an ideal place for me," he said. "My son actually got married here, and my granddaughter had her high school party here."
The community aspect of his storage facility has succeeded beyond anything Silikowski could have hoped for.
"My wife and I call it our summer cabin," said Steve Flaten, an architect from Burnsville. "We sort of come out here and instead of fighting traffic through Rogers on a Friday afternoon, we're here in 20 minutes and we can spend the weekend."
While Flaten tinkers with his classic Mustang and his Cobra replica, his nephew can play video games, while his wife goes to the loft to quilt.
Some guys grow up with a country club membership as the ultimate symbol of status, AutoMotorPlex offers the same opportunities for motorheads. "We're not into selling space, we're selling experience," says Silikowski. "It's a place to enjoy your passion. That's our tagline and it really seems to work."
Twice a month Silikowski opens his gates to the public for car shows. It's his best advertising. He says his existing units are 97 percent sold. Silikowski has land for up to 240 garages. He'll break more ground for another building in June.
"It's really a cool Man Cave; there are no two ways about it," said Bob Mortenson, who has taken his garage beyond anything Silikowski ever imagined. "It's all Brazilian cherry," he says of the woodwork. "We have a fireplace, big screen TV."
Mortenson's latest addition will honor St. Paul's iconic Porky's drive in. "There will be Porky Pig that will be five-feet high and ten-feet tall in three-color neon."
Silikowski is already planning a second location in the metro, as well as eying up land in other cities. "It's a perfect example of a subculture of people," he reasons.
Mitch Stover was just looking for storage for his collector cars when he discovered AutoMotorPlex. Instead Stover and his wife now do most of their entertaining in their garage. "If somebody spills a glass of wine there's in-floor drain. I wipe it off," he laughs.
The spills and the spoils. Part caviar - part motor oil.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)