MANSFIELD – When Leonard “Len” and Sandy Sabato purchased commercial land on US 150 in Mansfield, the original plan was to build a place to house Len’s vintage cars.
“Then we came up with the idea for a golf cart and built a 4,000 square foot building for a company that makes custom golf carts – or golf cars as they are called.
Central Golf Cars is featured in a five-page article in the January edition of Golf Car Options magazine.
Golf carts, often carrying four or five people, regularly buzz around Mansfield, as they do in many area communities.
“We decided to build a store focused on personal golf carts for lessons or driving around town or used for hunting or fishing,” Len said. “No one makes the super custom carts like we do. We pay great attention to detail.”
The Sabatos grew up miles apart – Len in New York and Sandy in Mansfield. Now living in Mahomet, they met while working at Horizon Hobby in Champaign. Len moved to this area in 1993.
They later started their own hobby business, but ended it when the radio-controlled hobby industry suffered a major decline.
“We weren’t comfortable reinvesting in the hobby industry, so we determined a good opportunity was to open a golf cart store,” he said.
All carts are used. They buy a fleet of carts, dismantle them and refurbish them. They do all the custom paint jobs “so it looks like it’s from the factory,” Len said.
A choice of electric or petrol types are available, with electric being the preferred choice these days as they are quieter, there is no odor and they are easier to maintain.
The Sabatos are picky about hiring – the company employs an average of five people in addition to the owners. All employees are former RC modellers. Sabato said they liked them because they had “a much lighter touch when it came to building things.”
They like their work ethic.
“They are great employees because they are generally good workers who are reliable and show up on time,” Sabato said.
Sabato is detail-oriented and does all the finishing work, whether on a $5,000 or $25,000 cart.
They only build a certain number of carts per year.
“We just decided that this is kind of a downsizing for my wife and I,” he said. ” We’re getting old. We don’t have to conquer the world. We just want to live there.
The golf cart industry is extremely seasonal due to the weather. They do many of their larger custom builds such as fiberglass bodies during the cold months.
“We’re building display models in the store, in gas or electric mode, in street-legal mode, so customers can come in and see what they’ll look like, and most customers will place their own order” — choosing from a variety of options ranging from color to stereo seats to covers and wheels.
Construction time typically ranges from two to three weeks.
The Sabatos have built carts for people from California to Florida, but the majority live within a two-hour radius. They were recently commissioned to build a Rolls Royce carriage, a miniature version of the buyer’s full-size Rolls Royce.
They built a variety of vintage models, including a ’57 Chevy, a replica Bronco, and a model fire truck.
Len said there were advantages to their location. Central is located on the main thoroughfare through Mansfield, easy to get to, and Piatt County has a lower sales tax than neighboring Champaign County.
Sandy said she enjoys working with walk-in clients the most “because they’re happy.”
“In the leisure sector, it was totally different,” she said, as they discovered in their previous experience as an online merchant that some customers were less friendly when corresponding with an email exchange. -emails or by phone.
The store has a lot of traffic.
“We prefer people to come because there are choices, many that they don’t even think about. Do you want a back seat on that? What color do you want? What steering wheel do you want? USB ports and things like that that a lot of people don’t even think about. Nine times out of 10, Len will put bigger speakers in there.