NEAL P. GOSWAMI
Senior Staff Writer
BENNINGTON -- The local Subaru dealership, now under a new ownership team, plans to greatly expand its inventory and lengthen service hours.
Abel Toll said he and business partner Ronney Lyster closed on the franchise last week. The duo own 10 dealerships in Vermont and New Hampshire, including ones in St. Johnsbury, Newport, Montpelier and springfield.
The strong brand and Vermont's penchant for driving Subarus, with the maker's all-wheel drive system, was attractive as a business venture, Toll said.
"Part of it was Subaru. Subaru is one of the best-selling cars in the state of Vermont. The Subaru Legacy may be the best-selling car in the state of Vermont. Bennington is a bit out of our circle, but we were attracted by the product," he said. "And, we were also intrigued by being in the corner, with New York and Massachusetts right there and quite a good population in the surrounding area."
The dealership was sold by Thomas Lyons, who continues to lease the property to Toll and Lyster with a purchase option.
"We did this fairly quickly. It was a quick transition. Once it became available, we, in a matter of about six weeks, closed the deal," Toll said.
Bennington is now the largest town Toll owns a dealership in. He said boosting the inventory will be a main focus because the area attracts buyers from so many surrounding communities.
"We like to pull people in from other areas. We want more than our slice of pie, basically," he said "The first thing we're going to do is we're going to beef up the inventory. We will triple it as soon as we can. It will take a while to get the cars."
The used car selection will also increase dramatically. "We're going to build up the used cars. We'll probably have 10 times more used cars," Toll said.
"We're going to mow the field out back. We'll park them there. We'll park them wherever we have to," he added.
The sales staff under the previous ownership remains, according to Toll. He said the sales staff is experienced and already has a relationship with the community.
"They know the market, they know the people, they know their customers and we don't," Toll said. "We've bought several dealerships and we always try to keep everyone intact. They are all small towns so we don't want to be the guys from away that come in. We want to be part of the community."
Toll is anticipating a need to hire additional sales, service and support staff in the future.
The car business has been a part of Toll's business since his youth. He began washing cars at a dealership in junior high school. "We eventually bought the dealership, so that's a story that has come around full circle," he said.
Before that, though, Toll displayed an entrepreneurial spirit.
"I used to buy cars out of the Boston Globe when I was in college and that's how I made my spending money. I'd resell them," he said. "I'd clean them up and I had a friend who was a car dealer that let me bring them to the auction."
His first dealership came after college with used cars.
After college, he purchased a small building with his father's help and began selling used cars, Toll said. "It just slowly turned into this."
Toll said Bennington Subaru will be getting a thorough cleaning in the short-term, followed by a complete overhaul in the future. "Initially it will be just cleaning up. Probably in the next couple of years we'll either do a complete remodel, or more likely, we'll build a new building," he said.
In the meantime, the dealership will focus on customer service and building relationships with the local community.
"We're not looking to sell you just one car. We're looking to sell you 10 cars over a period of time, and to sell them to your mother and your brother and your friend," he said. "Some people are intimidated when they come in thinking they are going to have a bad experience. We want to do just the opposite."
Local customers can also expected to see Toll and Lyster in the Bennington dealership quite a bit.
"We're hands on. We're not bean counters that sit in an office some place. We're in the dealerships every day," Toll said.
Contact Neal P. Goswami firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter: @nealgoswami