It has been 20 years since Robbie Franklin renovated his Chevrolet dealership on Northside Drive, and you can tell by the gleam in his eye that he is very proud of the dealership's new look.
"General Motors said it was time for us to update our building, and change its appearance, and that is what we have done," Franklin said. "They are paying a portion of the remodel, so that has been very helpful."
Franklin said the entire front building was taken down to the metal studs and built back out per General Motors specifications.
"They required us to do a lot of things that I would not have done necessarily," he said. "But I am glad in retrospect that we did them. For instance, I did not want to take out all of the windows in the showroom and replace them, but we did, and it looks very nice. I probably wouldn't have chosen this exact tile, but again, it is very nice, and I am glad that we did that as well."
Franklin said this is just phase one of a renovation that will include the entire property. There are plans to add additional service bays to the 28 that are already there, as well as add more space to the body shop.
"We are actually going throughout the entire property, updating, expanding and making the necessary changes to continue servicing our customers," he said. 'I think they are going to be very pleased with the new customer service area."
Customer service has been moved to the main building where a lounge area has been constructed complete with a computer area with computers installed for customer use.
"I have to laugh, because our old customer service lounge was in the same building with vehicle repair and maintenance," he said. "It was a pretty small room, and frankly not very inviting. In fact, I asked one of our customers, who was standing around the showroom waiting for her car to be repaired, if she would like to sit in our service lounge, and she just laughed and said 'she would rather not sit in the dungeon'. I told her I completely understood, and to make her self comfortable."
Franklin moved the dealership from its downtown location to Northside Drive in 1978. Franklin has been in the automotive business since 1964 when he joined his father, Lehman Franklin, at Franklin Chevrolet. He has since added Franklin Toyota in 1977, and the dealerships operate under The Franklin Automotive Group.
Franklin Chevrolet is a prolific seller of automobiles in this area, and stocks a very large inventory.
"Right now we have 250 trucks on the lot, and another 150 cars or so," he said. "We also have more than 200 used vehicles."
Franklin said phase one of the dealership renovation will be completed in 10 days.
"We have remained open the entire time, it's just we haven't been able to use the main building," he said. "I think customers will be very pleased with the changes. I know that we have been able to do some things that accommodate the staff, and I am very glad of that as well. We are planning a grand opening in June."
The Franklin Automotive Group employs 180 people.