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VOL. 38 | NO. 21 | Friday, May 23, 2014

Murfreesboro auto dealers join migration to Gateway

By Sam Stockard

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Michael Creque is owner and executive manager of Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac of Murfreesboro.

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Two of Murfreesboro’s biggest car dealerships are moving to the Gateway area, home of The Avenue shopping complex and Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital, opting to take advantage of the city’s fastest-growing business hotspot.

Construction is well underway on a $15 million building project for Toyota of Murfreesboro, which will pull up most roots in March 2015 in a move from South Church Street and Butler Drive to Bill Smith Drive, west of I-24.

Just across the way on Fortress Boulevard at John Rice Boulevard, Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac of Murfreesboro has broken ground for a $10 million project that will completely shift its dealership from its decades-long location on Northwest Broad Street.

“We’d outgrown the building we were in. It served us well,” says Michael Creque, owner and executive manager of the Chevrolet dealership. “From a customer standpoint, when we looked at everything we do, our entire business revolves around the care of the customer, we are out of space. We needed a fresh start.”

The dealership wanted to be part of the growth in Gateway area, Creque says, and the “visibility and accessibility” from I-24, Medical Center Parkway and Fortress should spur business at the 54,000-square-foot dealership.

In addition to more showroom space, the new location will allow the dealership to add 200 to 250 vehicles to the lot, giving it a total of about 750 representing 48 models, he adds.

Set to open this December before Christmas, the Chevrolet dealership expects to add 20 to 30 employees, too, giving it a total of 110 employees and 15 to 20 part-time workers.

“Family-owned experience”

Toyota of Murfreesboro bought its dealership from the Alexander family three years ago.

It’s been there for some 25 years as Neill-Sandler and Signature, and it will remain a used-car lot and conditioning center, says owner and general manager Andy Obeissy.

Asked why he decided to move, Obeissy says simply, “Grow.” He wants a “better customer experience” and “better visibility” that the Gateway area offers.

The new Toyota dealership is designed to play on its location, featuring a three-story, 130,000-square-foot building on seven acres that will showcase new models on the second and third floors allowing people to see them as they drive by on I-24 and Fortress Boulevard as it extends from Medical Center Parkway, Obeissy explains.

It’s also a “hot area” for residential and business growth, he notes.

An Exxon Tiger Market is located nearby, and Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center sits just east of I-24, along with two hotels that are under construction and, of course, The Avenue Murfreesboro.

Just west of the new Toyota site, apartment complexes and zero-lot-line houses are also located along Fortress Boulevard and Manson Pike.

Toyota will nearly double the size of its inventory, jumping to 640 vehicles from 350, Obeissy says. At the same time, he wants to keep the atmosphere of a family-owned dealership.

“Small enough to care. Big enough to deal,” is the dealership’s motto. The new building will incorporate a café where customers can eat while they’re waiting on services, and it will add 30 to 50 jobs to Toyota’s 101-member staff, Obeissy says.

Coping with change

Amid a growing residential population, upwards of 110,000, and fast-paced business growth, Murfreesboro is no stranger to change.

“We’ve seen any number of businesses picking up and relocating to a location that’s going to be better for them,” City Manager Rob Lyons says.

For the most part, though, city government has seen other businesses move in when buildings are vacated, Lyons adds.

City Councilman Eddie Smotherman points out that Murfreesboro is seeing strong retail business growth even as businesses move, and points to the area along Memorial Boulevard where Walmart is under construction as a corridor that could see explosive business growth.

“I’m not concerned about the fact that we’re seeing new businesses open up on the west side,” Smotherman explains, adding Murfreesboro City Schools is constructing Overall Creek Elementary School off Veterans Parkway in that area and residential development will follow.

As businesses shift locations, city leaders want to make sure no part of town is left with “blight” when a business leaves, Smotherman says, adding that it will require a strategy to fill those gaps.

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