September 1, 2014

Elyria
Intermittent clouds
86°F
test

Two established car dealers moving to Avon

AVON — In a world that increasingly seems to dictate how we shop by the amount of time it takes to get somewhere, the new locations for two longtime area auto dealerships makes perfect sense.

The future location of Joyce Buick, on the north side of Interstate 90 along Chester Road in Avon. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

The future location of Joyce Buick GMC, on the north side of Interstate 90 along Chester Road in Avon. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

“A lot of people and businesses have migrated away from Elyria and Lorain,” Kevin Joyce, co-owner of Joyce Buick GMC said Tuesday. “We’ve loved being in Lorain and have had great relationships with lots of people in the city, but manufacturers want franchises in high-profile shopping areas. Sites are reviewed frequently. You need to look at where the marketplace is going to be effective.”

Ground was broken Monday afternoon for the new locations of Joyce Buick GMC and Joe Firment Chevrolet on the north side of Interstate 90 along Chester Road in Avon. Plans call for both dealerships to open in 2012.

Joyce Buick GMC plans to operate on a seven-acre parcel purchased in 2003. The new dealership, which will replace its existing Colorado Avenue location, will sport what Joyce described as “GM’s most current design” for dealership buildings.

“It will be attractive and consumer-friendly with all of the newest amenities,” Joyce said.

The future location of Joe Firment, on the north side of Interstate 90 along Chester Road in Avon. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

The future location of Joe Firment Chevrolet, on the north side of Interstate 90 along Chester Road in Avon. (CT photo by Bruce Bishop.)

The most significant feature of the new dealership will be its location.

“It will have very easy access,” Joyce said.

Location is a key factor in determining where auto and truck dealerships are built these days, according to Joe Firment, who owns and operates Joe Firment Chevrolet, another long-time Lorain business.

“Hopefully we will add some employees because we’ll have an increase in business,” Firment said. “That’s why we’re coming onto the freeway. There are thousands of cars that go by every day and we’d like to capture a small percentage of that.”

Joe Firment, whose career in the car business dates to the late 1950s, opened on Grove Avenue in 1981. He runs it today with sons Paul, Tom and Jim, and 42 other sales and service employees. The new site will be about 32,000 square feet, the same size as the Grove Avenue location, Firment said.

Avon Mayor Jim Smith agreed that the shift of dealerships from well-established spots inside cities to growing, more visible locations near busy highway interchanges is the wave of the future.

“I sold real estate for 15 years, and location is paramount to these people. As long as people can see it and drive by it, you’re in demand,” Smith said.

Today’s retailers tend to talk “in terms of minutes you are from someplace, not distance,” Smith said. “When we built the baseball park (the city’s minor league All Pro Freight Stadium) we looked at the demographics and found we were within 15 minutes of almost 300,000 people. If we were five to 10 minutes west of here, we’d get less people.”

An average of 80,000 vehicles pass the location for the new dealerships every day, according to market surveys, Smith said. The same area is home to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership that moved from Elyria several years ago.

Joyce Buick GMC also plans to increase employment in its new location.

“We look to add in the area of 30 to 40 percent,” Joyce said.

The dealership employs 35 people at its current location.

Neither dealer disclosed cost figures.

“We’re still working on finishing touches,” Joyce said. Asked if the venture was a multimillion-dollar project, he laughed. “I wish I could say it was only that much.”

Smith said he was aware that land in the area has sold for close to $1 million an acre.

“These guys are right at the interchange where there’s a lot of visibility,” Smith said.

Both new dealerships will be built by Schirmer Construction, a North Olmsted firm.

The existing dealerships will be closed as GM outlets, but there is a possibility that one or both could possibly become the location of a non-General Motors dealer.

Joyce Buick was opened in 1966 in downtown Lorain by Francis Joyce, father of Kevin Joyce, and his brother, Mike, who bought the business in 1988. It moved to its current location in 1983. The dealership added Pontiacs to its Buick-only line after buying Lorain’s Llewellyn Pontiac. Joyce Buick then expanded to add GMC trucks in 2005.

The dealer lost the Pontiac brand in 2010 when GM closed out the division made famous by such cars as Firebird, GTO and Trans Am. The phasing out of the Pontiac line came at the same time the automaker announced it would close about 2,600 dealerships as part of a massive reorganization designed to move GM from a financially troubled company to a profitable one.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.